Major works | Indignant Subjects
An important event
When all of the museum’s collections were being transferred to outside storage premises following the building’s closure in 1997 for renovation works, a roll-up canvas was found in the roof space. The panoramic view, missing from the old inventories, literally paints an invaluable picture of Cassel in the 17th century.
The town can be seen at the top of the painting. The main buildings are set more or less apart from the neighbouring houses: from left to right the castle of the counts of Flanders, the roof of the old town hall that was bombed in 1940, the Hôtel de la Noble Cour, Notre-Dame collegiate church and Jesuit College … The urban fabric is fairly dense, hemmed in within a defined area by ramparts that have followed the same outline since the Gallo-Roman era.
The landscape unfolds across the bottom of the painting, dotted with figures. In the foreground, the collegial members of the Magistrate of the Cassel castellany seem to have gathered for an important event. On the far left, a coach bears the coat of arms of the Count of Flêtre Ignace de Wignacourt. This is who everyone is waiting for – in 1693 he was to be the new bailiff of the town and castellany of Cassel.
The three priests of the parish of Cassel, the jesuits and Franciscan monks of the Mount of Récollets, the lords and magistrates all beckon us into the painting as we flit our eyes from one group to the next. A few sketches add a playful touch to this otherwise formal portrait of Cassel polite society: a pedlar on the left is preparing to cross a wood, children can be seen playing on the right and a man in the centre is being deftly robbed by a little boy.