At the start of the 16C Portuguese royalty, nobility and high clergy kept up this taste, acquiring important works of art from Flanders, the north of France and Germany, and encouraging artists from those same areas to move here.The intense political and commercial relationships the country had with the merchants of Bruges and Antwerp contributed greatly.  However, it is also true that the characteristics of Flemish art – sweetness iin expressions, the spacial gradation of the rural backgrounds, the realism and the richness of the detailing – appealed at the time more to Portuguese tastes than Italian art did. The first documented work of art by Flemish masters in Portugal is the main altarpiece in Coimbra’s Old Cathedral, made in the city in 1503-1508 by carver and sculptor Olivier de Gand (Ghent) and painter and gilder Jean d’Ypres, for the bishop Dom Jorge de Almeida.

 

Olivier de Gand also carved other pieces in the museum’s collection, notably the Calvary commissioned for the church of the bishop’s palace. The incense-bearing Angels and the image of St Claire would appear to have been imported from German workshops in the Netherlands. Flemish painting is represented in this collection by two easel paintings acquired on the free market for art work and two commissioned altarpieces: the triptych of the Passion, by Quentin Metsys, for the Monastery of Santa Clara, ordered by King Dom Manuel, and the polyptych, with the life of the Virgin Mary as its subject, commissioned by the abbess of the Monastery of Celas and whose transportation from the north of France was paid for by King Dom João III.