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Sunday, January 29, 2023

Former mansion of Émile Bockstael will be protected as Brussels heritage

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Photo from the office of Pascal Smet.

The mansion that belonged to Émile Bockstael will become permanently protected as part of Brussels heritage, according to an announcement from Brussels Secretary of State for Town Planning and Heritage Pascal Smet.

The old mansion was built in 1870 and is located on an intersection of the avenue de la Reine, the royal road that connects the Palace of Brussels with the Royal Castle of Laeken. It was one of the street’s original residential buildings.

Émile Bockstael was a former mayor, and a close friend of the infamous King Leopold II, whose legacy includes the atrocities of Belgium’s occupation of the Congo.

“Émile Bockstael’s mansion is a previously unknown building, but its interior is truly extraordinary. I am therefore delighted that we will now preserve the building forever,” Smet said in a press release.

“The decorative furnishings have been preserved in perfect condition. It typifies the bourgeois architecture of the late 19th century.”

That architecture includes molded ceilings, granite and mosaic floors, marble fireplaces, wainscoting, stained-glass windows, wallpaper and radiators.

“The furnishings of the successive rooms on the ground and first floors are also still intact,” Smet said.

“Its richness and originality are extraordinary. The tapestries, whose scenes are inspired by paintings by David Teniers the Younger (17th century), are particularly striking. Just like the murals inspired by ancient Egypt, which are unique to Brussels.”

Photos from the office of Pascal Smet.

Smet said that many of Brussels’ residents discovered the home for the first time during the Heritage Days, which saw around 40,000 visits to cultural sites in the Belgian capital.

“I am sure they would all agree with me that we must protect this Brussels gem forever,” Smet said in regards to the mansion.

Mayor Émile Bockstael lived in the building on the avenue de la Reine from 1887 until his death in 1920.

The home is said to be a particularly interesting example of eclectic architecture (generally defined as a collage or combination of different and seemingly unrelated styles, such as the Egyptian-style murals paired with more traditional, bourgeois elements), and is largely preserved in much the same way as it was originally built.

“By preserving the ground plan, the interior decoration and an intact, complete and highly original decorative ensemble, the building constitutes an example within its typology and thus bears witness to the bourgeois way of life in Brussels at that time,” reads a press release from the office of Smet.

The mansion’s neoclassical facade is three stories high, and the interior boasts an elaborate stairwell as its focal point. Murals on the inside are inspired by ancient Egypt, a choice that was particularly unique for a Brussels bourgeois interior.

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