While in Antwerp a week (and a bit) ago, in between scoffing Vlaamse frites and sampling a multitude of Belgian beers :), we learnt the story of how the city got its name. According to legend there was once a giant called Antigoon who demanded a toll from those crossing the River Scheldt (Antwerp’s river). He would chop off a hand of anyone refusing to pay the toll and throw it in to the river. His tyranny continued until one day a brave young hero (named Brabo) slew him, cut off the giant’s own hand and flung it in to the river. Hence the name Antwerpen, from the Dutch ‘hand werpen’ (hand = hand, werpen = throw).

(OK, so this folk etymology is disputed by many and there are several other theories based on actual facts and historical accuracies, but none involve a giant called Antigoon – a name which could not, according to the above legend, be more deceptive – so this is the story I’m sticking with).

And so an upheld hand is the symbol of Antwerp. I wasn’t consciously gathering hands while there (best place for that would be the bottom of the River Scheldt!) but while going through the photos taken I found quite a collection:


top left to bottom right:
stencil graffiti hand  |  detail of painting by Gustave van de Woestyne, ‘Christus toont zijn wonden’ (Christ showing his wounds) 1921  |  detail of painting by Peter Paul Rubens, ‘Ongeloof van Tomas’ (The incredulity of Thomas) c.1630s?  |  De Koninck beer ‘logo’  |  doorknocker fist  |  detail of sculpture by Juliaan Dillens, ‘Gevleugelde genius’ (The winged genius) date?

On the subject of collections I did consciously gather some of the meticulously painted fabrics while visiting Antwerp’s Koninklijk Museum voor Schone Kunsten. Here are some of them, ranging from simple white cotton to elaborate embroidery and lace:

top to bottom:
detail from painting by Pieter de Ring, ‘Stilleven’ (Still Life) 1653 | detail from painting by Quinten Massijs, ‘Bewening van Christus’ (The Lamentation over the Dead Christ) date? | detail from painting by Cornelis Vos, ‘Portret van een familie’ (Portrait of a family) 1631


* ‘fabric hand’ or ‘handle’: the way that a certain fabric feels to the touch.
Apologies for the lame, and frankly misleading, title – I needed something to bring these two unrelated subjects together!

And finally, if music is more your thing, click here for an evocative review of the Mogwai gig at the Rivierenhof open air theatre (the primary reason for our visit to Antwerp).