Renaissance Children

As of March 2022, the Museum Hof van Busleyden will be undergoing restoration. The permanent exhibition will therefore not be accessible for some time. More information .

Renaissance Children

26.03.2021 - 4.07.2021 

Book your ticket online - how to buy your ticket online

For the Burgundian and the early Habsburg princes, Mechelen was not only an important political and cultural hub but also an educational centre. Three consecutive generations of Habsburg princes and princesses, including Philip the Fair, Margaret of Austria and Charles V, spent part of their childhood here.

The exhibition Renaissance Children will gather a unique selection of children’s portraits, which were commissioned for the court at Mechelen, for the very first time, as well as tell the historical, educational and artistic story behind them. Portraits by such prominent painters as the Master of the Mechelen Guild of St. George and Jan Gossart will be exhibited alongside valuable manuscripts that were used to teach children to read and write, as well as treatises on education by Desiderius Erasmus and Juan Luis Vives, sixteenth-century children’s toys and rare jewellery that was said to protect the wearer against illness and death.

Renaissance Children highlights the instrumental role that the court at Mechelen played in the evolution of children’s portraiture and the humanistic ideas that have continued to influence the way in which we raise children today.

Five reasons to visit

  • Unique exhibition at which you can discover compelling and rarely shown children’s portraits from the Burgundian and early-Habsburg courts.
  • Combine it with a visit to the Hof van Busleyden Museum’s permanent collection and lose yourself in this 16th-century city palace (included in the museum entry price).
  • Use your museum ticket to visit, free of charge, the partner exhibition of votive paintings at the Church of Our Lady of Hanswijk in Mechelen.
  • Explore Mechelen city centre and discover several historical locations that played a part in the upbringing of the Habsburg princes.
  • Follow the kids’ route and view the exhibition through a child’s eyes.

Visit our partner exhibition too

A partner exhibition is being held at the same time at the Church of Our Lady of Hanswijk (Onze-Lieve-Vrouw Hanswijkbasiliek) in Mechelen. It features a unique series of votive children’s portraits – paintings done between the 17th and 19th centuries and donated to the church. They enabled parents to express their gratitude to the Virgin Mary for healing their child. The exhibition shows visitors how portrait art could be used as a gift to cement relations between earth and heaven.

You can visit the exhibition free of charge on presentation of a valid ticket for Children of the Renaissance.


The exhibition will be accompanied by a scholarly catalogue (29.99 euros) in Dutch and English. Available for purchase from March 2021. Published by Lannoo.

Supported by

With the support of The Raphaël De Smedt Fund, managed by the King Baudouin Foundation

The Raphaël De Smedt Fund aims to disseminate and raise awareness about the work of the painter and sculptor Jan De Smedt. It aims to do this through the website and scientific research, but also by exhibiting Jan De Smedt’s works. The Fund also supports cultural initiatives undertaken by various institutions in Mechelen.