Major works | Parody on Parade
An animated procession
A religious procession is being held on Place du Meir. At first glance, the vision of these impressive and varied floats might make you think of a carnival parade. And yet this is actually the « Ommegang », which used to take place in Antwerp every 15th August in honour of the Virgin, the city’s patron.
It was fairly common in the 17th century to see floats and giants at a Christian festival, since religion and paganism were intrinsically linked.
The giant Druon Antigone, who can be seen in the background to the left of the painting, incidentally looks a lot like Reuze Papa, the giant of Cassel: they are both legionaries with the same insignia and the same facial features.
In the middle, Neptune, the God of the Seas, is astride a whale that is squirting the crowd – perhaps evoking the many dangers to which the cargo of merchant ships are exposed: storms, pirates and marine animals.
This painting is Erasmus de Bie’s first known draft, and has been taken on and reinterpreted countless times by other artists including Alexander van Bredael, in 1697 (Palais des Beaux-Arts de Lille, inv. P.125, oil on canvas, 106.5 x 136 cm).