High Road to Culture in Flanders and the Netherlands


High Road to Culture in Flanders and the Netherlands

Beautiful Images and Quintessential Objects
column Miscellaneous

Beautiful Images and Quintessential Objects

Editor-in-chief Luc Devoldere dreams of books filled with the most beautiful images of the Low Countries and of books featuring objects that evoke (memories of) the Low Countries. He lists a few favourites. Do you complete his list?

We could create a wondrous book containing the one hundred prettiest images of the Low Countries.

And for each of those “images”, the book could then zoom in on a particular detail.

The wash basin with towel in Jan van Eyck’s Ghent Altarpiece. Or perhaps the mirror hanging behind the Arnolfinis in the portrait created by the same painter?

That little patch of yellow wall (“ce petit pan de mur jaune”) in View of Delft by Vermeer, which lead Proust to call it the most beautiful painting in the world.

The grazing horse against the backdrop of Brussels in that picture taken by Stefan Vanfleteren.

Or those shabby-looking, vulnerable youths featured in photographer Rineke Dijkstra’s nineties Beach Portraits: just look at them in their bathing suits, swimming trunks, and underwear surrounded by the recurring ingredients and props of sand, sky and sea. And focus on the clothes they are wearing and how they simultaneously cover and expose their bodies.

An author would be able to dedicate an entire eulogy to every single one of those images.

Another book could contain one hundred objects that each evoke the Low Countries in one way or another. Those kinds of books may already exist out there. I once came across one such book about Italy, which featured a Pizza Margherita and a wooden Pinocchio as icons, metonymies of “Italianità”.

For the Low Countries these objects could be a chip shop, a houseboat, a coffeeshop, a mace, a pint glass, an ice skate.

Every object should be paired with an essay. That way, the book could become a history of our state of mind, a cultural study.

The coffeeshop can be linked to tolerance (and its decline?); the houseboat could be linked to the Netherlands’ relationship to the ubiquitous water. The chip shop can be connected to the South’s Burgundian way of life and its gastronomic traditions. To the ice skate, we can connect the Batavians’ sportsmanship and competitive spirit, the cold, the “Elfstedentocht” (Eleven Cities Tour).

Are you in? Send us your top ten quintessential Low Countries objects. And let’s sing the cheese slicer’s, the gents’ bike’s, the croquette from the wall’s, and the ribbon development’s praises.

Sign in

Register or sign in to read or purchase an article.


You are visiting this website through a public account.
This allows you to read all articles, but not buy any products.

Important to know

When you subscribe, you give permission for an automatic re-subscription. You can stop this at any time by contacting emma.reynaert@onserfdeel.be.