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De Borchgrave d’Altena, Joseph A. P. M. Ch., Comte

Date born: March 31, 1895

Place Born: Horion-Hozémont, Belgium

Date died: July 4, 1975

Place died:

Chief curator Musées royaux d’Art et d’Histoire/Koninklijke musea voor Kunst en Geschiedenis, Brussels.  De Borchgrave was the son of Frédéric de Borchgrave d’Altena (1864-1932) and Marie-Clémentine Blanckart (1869-1960). The family lived in the castle of Lexhy in Horion-Hozémont, near Liège. De Borchgrave earned his doctoral degree in archaeology and art history at the University of Liège under Marcel Laurent. In 1924 he joined in Brussels the Musées royaux d’Art et d’Histoire, directed by Jean Capart. He began his long museum career at the Service éducatif, where he did guided tours and organized lectures. He soon was assigned to the management of the Musée royal d’Armes et d’Armures, housed in the Museum Buildings. In 1926 he published Sculptures conservées du pays mosan, followed in 1930 by the catalog of the exhibition of gothic sculptures in the church Saint-Vincent in Liège, La  sculpture gothique à l’exposition d’art religieux. Both volumes appeared in the series Notes et documents pour servir à l’histoire de l’art et de l’iconographie en Belgique. By that time the acclaimed monographs by Émile Mâle on medieval art in France had aroused a broader interest in the iconography of the art of the middle ages. In 1927 De Borchgrave was elected a corresponding member of the Académie royale d’Archéologie de Belgique, and subsequently, in 1935, a titular member. Committed to the preservation of the artistic heritage of his country, he published a four-volume inventory of interiors of houses, monasteries, churches and castles in the Meuse River Valley, Décors anciens d’intérieurs mosans (1930-1932). Leo van Puyvelde praised it in the Revue belge de philology et d’histoire (1933) as an important contribution to the field of applied arts in the region. De Borchgrave’s  major work is his three-volume inventory of art works of the Belgian province of Brabant, Notes pour servir à l’inventaire des œuvres d’art du Brabant. In 1939-1940 the first part, Arrondissement de Louvain, was published in the Annales de la Société Royale d’Archéologie de Bruxelles. De Borchgrave served this association for many years as general secretary. During the Second World War De Borchgrave served as captain-commander of the Infantry. His monographs, Les retables Brabançons conservés en Belgique and Madones anciennes conservées en Belgique, 1025-1425 appeared during the war in 1942 and 1943. His album of fine metalworks and ivories, Œuvres de nos imagiers romans et gothiques. Sculpteurs, ivoiriers, orfèvres, fondeurs: 1025 à 1550, followed in 1944. In 1944-1946 the Société Royale d’Archéologie de Bruxelles published the second part of the Brabant inventory, Arrondissement de Bruxelles. In 1946 De Borchgrave obtained a teaching position of medieval art history at the Institut d’Histoire de l’Art et d’Archéologie at Liège University, succeeding Laurent. At the Brussels Musées royaux d’Art et d’Histoire he rose in 1951 from adjunct curator to chief curator, a position that he held until 1960.  At the Brussels Institut supérieur d’Histoire de l’Art et d’Archéologie he taught art history classes. In 1951 he chaired the board of the preparatory committee for the international exhibition on Mosan Art, which was held at Liège, and subsequently in Paris and Rotterdam.  He contributed to the catalogs, and in Paris he was among the participants of the 1952 conference on Mosan Art, which was organized during the Paris exhibition. Another 1951 publication, his album Art mosan, includes 72 photographs of medieval art works from the Meuse River region. Jean Lejeune (1914-1979) wrote the historical introduction. The third part of De Borchgrave’s inventory, Arrondissement de Nivelles, was published in the Bulletin de la Commission Royale des Monuments et des Sites, in 1956 and in 1960. De Borchgrave was a corresponding member of this committee. He retired from his position at Liège University in 1965.  As a member of the Association Royale des Demeures Historiques de Belgique he was the director of the 1967 publication, Châteaux de Belgique. He wrote the introductory essay on the history of the Belgian castles and he contributed most of the individual descriptions. He also was a member of the Société d’Art et d’Histoire du Diocèse de Liège and of the Institut Archéologique Liégois. He died suddenly in 1975 while he was preparing the exhibition Trésors d’art (Art Treasures) in the Brussels Cathedral of Saint Michael. MD

Home Country:  Belgium

Sources:   De Seyn, Eug. Dictionnaire biographique des Sciences, des Lettres et des Arts en Belgique. 1. Brussels: Éditions L’Avenir, 1935, p. 208; Le Livre bleu. Recueil biographique …  Brussels: Larciers, 1950, pp. 116-117 ; Koller, F., de Maeyer, T. W. and Taylor, Stephen S. (eds) Who’s who in Belgium including the Belgian Congo. Brussels: G. H. B. Universal Editors, 1959, p. 48; Houyoux, Jean and Delzenne, Yves-William, Le nouveau dictionnaire des Belges de 1830 à nos jours. 1. Brussels: Cri, 1998, p. 128; [Obituaries:] Risselin-Steenebrugen, Marie. Revue Belge d’Archéologie et d’Histoire de l’Art 46 (1977): 164; [Liège University] orbi.ulg.ac.be/bitstream/

Bibliography: Notes et documents pour servir à l’histoire de l’art et de l’iconographie en Belgique. 1.  Sculptures conservées du pays mosan. Verviers: G. Leens, 1926, 2. La  sculpture gothique à l’exposition d’art religieux. Liège: C. Peeters, 1930;  Décors anciens d’intérieurs mosans. 4 vols. Liège: Imprimerie des mutilés, 1930-1932; Notes pour servir à l’Inventaire des œuvres d’art du Brabant. 1. Arrondissement de Louvain, 2. Arrondissement de Bruxelles, 3. Arrondissement de Nivelles. Brussels: A. Ballieu, 1940-1961; Les retables Brabançons conservés en Belgique. Brussels: Éditions du Cercle d’art, 1942;  Madones anciennes conservées en Belgique, 1025-1425. Brussels: Éditions du Cercle d’art, 1943;  Œuvres de nos imagiers romans et gothiques. Sculpteurs, ivoiriers, orfèvres, fondeurs: 1025 à 1550. Brussels: Raymond Dupriez, 1944, Dutch, Het werk van onze romaansche & gotische beeldenaars. Beeldhouwers, ivoorsnijders, goudsmeden, beeldgieters. Antwerpen: Standaard boekhandel, 1944;  La passion du Christ dans la sculpture en Belgique du XI au XVI siècle. Paris-Brussels,  Éditions du Cercle d’art, 1946; Le retable de Saint Georges de Jan Borman. Brussels: R. Dupriez, 1947;  Notes pour servir à l’histoire de l’art en Hainaut. Orfèvreries du moyen âge. La Louvière, 1949;  et al. Art mosan et arts anciens du pays de Liège. Liège: éditions de l’A. S. B. L., 1951; and Lejeune, Jean Art mosan. Brussels: C. Dessart, 1951; and Lejeune, Jean, and Guérin, Jacques. Trésors d’Art de la vallée de la Meuse. Paris: Les Presses artistiques, 1952;  Quelques résultats des expositions de ‘L’art mosan’ à Liège, à Paris et à Rotterdam, 1951-1952 in Francastel, Pierre et al. L’art mosan. Journées d’Études. Paris, Février 1952.  Paris: S.E.V.P.E.N., 1953, pp. 113-117 ; et al. Châteaux de Belgique. Brussels-Liège: Desoer S.A., 1967, English: Castles of Belgium. Brussels-Liège: Desoer S.A., 1967.

Subject's name: Comte Joseph De Borchgrave d’Altena; Comte Joseph A. P. M. Ch. De Borchgrave d’Altena