To the left of the entrance to ‘Het Hof’, a home for the elderly, you’ll find a neoclassical statue depicting Our Lady, made of French sandstone. It dates from the late nineteenth century (1876). The statue used to stand over the main entrance gate to the Onze-Lieve-Vrouw-Presentatie School, in the Plezantstraat. When the school entrance was renovated, a new place for the statue had to be found. The nun’s congregation of the school donated it to Kunst in de Stad, who relocated it to the Hofstraat, in front of the school.

Interestingly, this statue of the Virgin is a variation of - and was designed by the same artist as - the gilded statue on the tower of  nearby Onze- Lieve-Vrouwekerk .

The crowned Virgin is seated with the child in  her lap. She looks downwards. Being the queen of heaven she wields a sceptre. The spectator looks upward. The child Jesus holds an orb  with cross in one hand and gives a blessing with the other. The Christian message is clear: she presents her child to the world.  Jesus’ mission  is to demonstrate the love of the Lord his Father  to bring salvation to humanity.

This traditional religious theme is exuberantly developed by the artist. The wide gown with deep folds is draped in  a baroque fashion. The child is dressed likewise and has a thick, curly crop of hair. The sculptor makes the most of playing with light and shadow. Virgin and child radiate tranquillity and dignity.

More work of Frans Van Havermaet is on show in the city hall of Sint-Niklaas. The four seated lions on the stairs to the city hall, the bronze statues ‘La couturière’ and ‘Le sculpteur’ as well as the large plaster image of Mercator are works by Frans Van Havermaet. In the Onze-Lieve-Vrouwekerk, at the back (left side), you’ll find a monumental pieta  by his hand.


VAN HAVERMAET Frans (1828-1899)
Frans Van Havermaet was a most productive sculptor in the neoclassical tradition. He studied at the Academies of Sint-Niklaas and Antwerpen (1859-1864). He’s the brother of Piet Van Havermaet, painter and portrait artist. He has works on display in Sint-Niklaas, Gent and Brussel. His main works are the above-mentioned statue of Our Lady, made in 1896 of hammered copper plate (6-metres-high and weighing 1,5 tonnes) on the tower of the Neo-Byzantine church of Onze-Lieve-Vrouw van Bijstand and the large statue of Gerardus Mercator in the entrance hall of the city hall. The original of Mercator’s statue, in bronze, stands in the centre of Rupelmonde, the cartographer’s  town of birth.


Kunst in de Stad - December 5th 1998