REYNAERT DE VOS (ALBERT POELS)
We cross the Parklaan via the zebra-crossing at the bus stop and continue to the right (away from the Market Square). A little further we see a lawn with a large rectangular pond. Here we face the famous red rascal: ‘Reynaert de Vos’.
Reynaert is the main character of a Middle Dutch satiric animal fable ‘Van den Vos Reynaerde’, about a fox who kills and bullies and gets away with his mischief. It holds a mirror to medieval society. Because of his criminal behaviour he is sent on a pilgrimage to Rome by king Nobel (a lion) and his court. In the Waasland area, Reynaert is extremely popular.
This statue shows him as the cunning fox in the pilgrim’s habit. Encircled by a sturdy bench, the pilgrim sits, humbly renouncing the evil world with all its temptations. Although his ears stand vitally upright, his head is bent and his eyes are closed. The fox bears a staff, carries a bag and wears a pilgrim’s hat, that looks like a halo behind his remorseful head. However, within the smooth, tense lines the new tricks and plans already hide. It is clear the fox is secretly amused. Albert Poels brilliantly depicts the tension of the moment.
Poels often visited the Zoo in Antwerpen, where he found his inspiration to sculpt a fox. The idea was then formed to portray Reynaert from the Medieval epic. (He also made a cycle of Uilenspiegel, inspired by Charles De Coster’s literary work). The statue of ‘Reynaert de Vos’ is chiselled in red sandstone from Mainz. The accompanying rounded bench is designed by the architect Jozef Willems.
On the initiative of Jozef van Overstraeten, president of the VTB (Flemish Tourist Board), the statue was unveiled in 1958, attended by the Flemish writer Stijn Streuvels in 1958 .
Albert Poels was an Antwerp sculptor, medallist and jewellery designer. He learnt the trade from his father Jan Poels, who was an ornamentalist in Berchem. He studied at the Academy of Berchem and the National Higher Institute of fine Arts in Antwerpen. He made statues of animals, portraits of artists and folkloristic figures, e.g. the statue of ‘Lange Wapper’ near Het Steen in Antwerpen. You’ll find more works of Poels in the Middelheim open-air museum in Antwerpen.