Illuminare guards the archives of a number of authorities on art production in the Southern Netherlands, specifically concerning Miniature Art. The Study Centre first acquired the archives of Em. Prof. Dr. Antoine De Schryver (1924-2005), followed by those of Em. Prof. Dr. Jan Karel Steppe (1918 -2009), and Prof. Dr. Maurits Smeyers (1937-1999).

In 2005, Illuminare , with the assisitance of Dr. Dominique Vanwijnsberghe,  managed to acquire the archives of the late Em. Prof. Dr. Antoine De Schryver (University of Gent), whose widow donated the archives to the Study Centre. De Schryver left behind approximately 75 meters of text, including books, magazines, assorted documentation, slides, and pictures.  His library was split up in 2006 between the libraries of the KULeuven (the Central Library, the Tabularium, the art history department of the library of the Faculty of Arts, and Illuminare, to name a few). His  collection of documentation, however, along with his slides and pictures, remained in Illumanare in its entirety.

Illuminare also manages a considerable portion of the archives of the late Em. Prof. Dr. Jan Steppe (KULeuven). These archives currently consist of two parts, each having been acquired in different manners by Illuminare. On the one hand, there is the documentation left by Steppe in his office at the Erasmus House upon retiring from the Faculty of Arts. On the other hand,  there is the documentation which was donated to Illuminare in 2010. This donation consisted mainly of handwritten notes, magazines, books, articles, travel guides, and audiovisual material, (glass slides , prints, audio and video cassettes, and photo albums). Archiving of this collection commenced on 11th January 2011.

Also in 2011, the archives of the late Prof. Dr. Maurits Smeyers (KULeuven) were transferred to the University of Leuven. These archives are currently stored at the University Archives and at Illuminare. The part being stored at the latter has not yet been examined.

Access and Opening Times

The archives are accessible by appointment only from Monday to Friday between the hours of 9am and 5pm, except when the University Library is closed.

Archives Enquiries

T +32 16 324 710
F +32 16 32 48 72


Maurits Smeyers (1937-1999)





Maurits Smeyers was born on 12 June 1937, the youngest of four children in the Smeyers-Van Langendonck family.
Having completed his secondary education at Leuven’s St. Peter’s College, Maurits entered the K.U. Leuven (Catholic University of Leuven), where he received his degree in History (Modern History) in 1961. From 1962 to 1964 he taught at the College of Our Lady in Boom. In 1964 he became assistant to Professor Dr. J. K. Steppe. In 1967 he gained his Diploma in Medieval Studies; in 1970 he obtained his doctorate in Medieval Studies (K.U. Leuven) with his thesis Het Turijns-Milanees getijdenboek. Bijdrage tot de Van Eyck-studie (The Turin-Milan Book of Hours. A Contribution to the Study of Van Eyck), a work for which the Royal Flemish Academy of Sciences, Letters and Fine Arts proclaimed him laureate of the Fine Arts section.

Maurits Smeyers would develop his academic career at the Leuven university. By 1970 he already held the position of assistant; in 1974 he was appointed senior assistant, in 1975 lector, a year later associate lecturer and in 1977 he was made lecturer. He became professor in 1985 and full professor in 1989. In these positions he lectured on Iconology, Illuminated Art, the Painting of the Middle Ages, the Art of the Early Middle Ages, Art in Spain, Religious Art, and gave Introduction to Iconography and Auxiliary Sciences. From 1986 to 1992 he headed the Department of Archeology and Art History.

As his career developed the number of commissions and memberships of national and international scholarly societies and boards kept pace. He became vice-chairman of the Scientific Committee of the Royal Institute for the Study and Conservation of Belgium’s Artistic Heritage (1987-1993), member of the Scientific Committee of the Royal Museums of Fine Arts (1986-1992 and again from March 1994), member of the Board Directors of the National Centre for the Archaeology and History of the Book (from 1987), and member of the Committee of the International Centre for the Study of Medieval Painting in the Scheldt and Meuse basins (from 1993). He was member of the Catholic Documentation and Research Centre’s ‘Working Group Catholics, Art and Culture’ (from 1989), of the Historians of Netherlandish Art in New York, and of the Provincial Commission for Monuments and Landscapes (1984-1993). From 1993 he would be vice-chairman of the Royal Commission for Monuments and Landscaped. Two years earlier he was chosen as an active member of the Fine Arts section of the Royal Academy of Sciences, Letters and Fine Arts of Belgium.

Tireless in his interest in Leuven and its surroundings he was a member of the Board of Directors of the Friends of the Municipal Museums and member of Bouts Committee, which is responsible for the guardianship of the art treasures of Leuven’s St Peter’s Church. In these last capacities he not only produced a number of original articles for the Friends’ yearbook, but also actively contributed to the acquisition of new works of art.

As part of his continuous academic activity Maurits Smeyers’s collaboration in the organization of numerous exhibitions merits particular mention: ‘Erasmus and Leuven’ (Leuven, 1969); ‘Johannes Ockegem and his Time’ (Dendermonde, 1970); ‘Aspects of the Late Gothic in Brabant’ (Leuven, 1971); ‘The Splendour of Prémontré’ (Heverlee, 1973); ‘Dirk Martens’ (Aalst, 1973); ‘Dirk Bouts and his Time’ (Leuven, 1975); ‘550 Years of Leuven University’ (Leuven, 1976); ‘Manuscripts from the Churches and Monastries of Diest’ (Diest, 1983); ‘The Carthusians and their Monasteries in Zelem’ (Diest, 1984); ‘Manuscripts from the Abbey of St Truiden’ (Sint-Truiden, 1986); ‘King Arthur and the Netherlands’ (jointly with the Institute for Medieval Studies, K.U. Leuven, 1987); ‘Praised in Image. Miniatures from Mosan Manuscripts 1250-1350 (Sint-Truiden, 1989); ‘Bernard and the Cistercian Family’ (Faculty of Theology, K.U. Leuven, 1990).

In 1998 – a year before his death – this intensive exhibition-making activity reached its culmination in three exhibitions that were held in Leuven to mark the 550th anniversary of the building of the city’s Town Hall: ‘Dirk Bouts (c. 1410-1475), a Flemish Primitive in Leuven’, ‘Leuven Town Hall, a Gem of Brabantine Gothic’, and ‘Life in Leuven in the Middle Ages’.

Maurits Smeyers’s most important accomplishment was, without doubt, the founding of the Centre for the Study of Flemish Illuminators in 1983. The purpose of the Study Centre was to develop a documentation centre, establish contacts between researchers active in the same field, and elaborate a number of academic projects. One such was a written history of manuscript illumination in the Low Countries, a remarkably fruitful project that resulted in the publication of a book, the organization of a colloquium and – it could hardly by otherwise – an exhibition: ‘Medieval Magic. Flemish Miniatures Before Van Eyck’. From the Study Centre’s inception the Corpus of Illuminated Manuscripts provided an important voice. Nine volumes appeared under Maurits Smeyers’s scientific editorship. The Flemish Government-supported exhibition ‘Flemish Illuminated Manuscripts 1475-1550’, which was conceived on an extremely large scale, was hugely successful both in the Hermitage Museum in St Petersburg and the Museo Bardini in Florence in the first half of 1996 and later in the Royal Museum for Fine Arts in Antwerp. This exhibition led to the Study Centre’s designation (for the second time) as ‘Cultural Ambassador of Flanders’ by the Flemish Government. The Study Centre’s other activities included the scientific supervision of illuminated manuscripts restoration (the Breviary of the Museum Mayer van den Bergh in Antwerp), the organization of lectures, the publishing of an Information Paper (since 1983), and the advising on book illustrations and research of old paintings. Its involvement in the major exhibitions held in 1998 made the Study Centre known in circles far beyond the strictly academic world.

In the Dirk Bouts year – 1998 – in which the abovementioned Leuven exhibitions impelled him to a fever of activity, he produced not only the abundantly illustrated exhibition catalogue and his study Dirk Bouts, Painter of Silence, but the Davidsfonds also published his masterwork: Flemish Miniatures from the 8th to the mid-16th Century. The Medieval World on Parchment.

His unexpected demise on 26 april 1999 during a working trip in Lisbon, where he was to appear as guest speaker at the latest of so many congresses, brought a brilliant career to an abrupt end.


Jan Karel Steppe (1918-2009)




Professor Jan Karel Steppe werd op 16 november 1918 geboren te Ninove. In 1937 begon hij zijn studies aan het Leo XIII-Seminarie van de Katholieke Universiteit te Leuven, waar hij in 1940 de titel behaalde van baccalaureus in de Thomistische Wijsbegeerte. Ondertussen volgde hij ook colleges aan de Faculteit Wijsbegeerte en Letteren, groep Klassieke Filologie. In 1939 werd hem hier de graad van kandidaat toegekend. Vanaf 1940 studeerde hij aan het Groot-Seminarie te Gent waar hij in 1944 tot priester werd gewijd. Daarnaast verleende men hem aan de Leuvense universiteit in datzelfde jaar de titel baccalaureus in de Godgeleerdheid.

Reeds tijdens het academiejaar 1943-44 had professor Steppe te Leuven studies aangevat aan het Hoger Instituut voor Oudheidkunde en Kunstgeschiedenis, waarvan hij de graad van licentiaat verwierf in 1947 na het aanbieden van een proefschrift over Mechelse koordoksalen. Onmiddellijk na het beëindigen van zijn studies nam voor professor Steppe een loopbaan aan de Leuvense universiteit een aanvang. Vanaf het academiejaar 1947-48 werd hij aan de Faculteit Kerkelijk Recht benoemd tot assistent met leeropdracht. Hij doceerde de colleges Geschiedenis van Primitieve Christelijke kunst, Geschiedenis van de Byzantijnse kunst, Kunstgeschiedenis der Middeleeuwen en der Moderne Tijden, Oefeningen over de Oudheidkunde en de Kunstgeschiedenis, Iconografie en Geschiedenis van het kerkelijk meubilair.

Dankzij een studie over de Nederlandse koordoksalen tijdens de gotiek en renaissance, aangeboden als antwoord op een prijsvraag uitgeschreven door de Koninklijke Vlaamse Academie voor Wetenschappen, Letteren en Schone Kunsten van België, werd hij in 1949 uitgeroepen tot laureaat van deze instelling. Deze studie zag in 1952 het licht in de reeks Verhandelingen van de Academie onder de titel Het koordoksaal in de Nederlanden. Op basis van dit werk werd hem in datzelfde jaar summa cum laude het doctoraat in de Oudheidkunde en de Kunstgeschiedenis toegekend. Hierdoor verleende men hem de titel van docent en werd hij titularis van de colleges die hij gaf.

Een aanstelling tot gewoon hoogleraar volgde in 1956, waarbij enkele nieuwe colleges hem in de loop der volgende jaren werd opgedragen: Geschiedenis van het burgerlijk mobilair en Archeologia christiana. Vanaf 1971 doceerde hij aan het Centrum voor Spaanse Studiën de Geschiedenis van de kunst in Spanje.

In 1968 startte professor Steppe in het raam van het Departement Archeologie en Kunstwetenschap met het centrum Archivum artis Lovaniense. Het stelde zich tot doel het stimuleren en centraliseren van de studie van de oude Vlaamse kunst in de Zuidelijke Nederlanden en in Spanje. Daarnaast heeft hij binnen de K.U. Leuven tijdelijk deel uitgemaakt van de Adviescommissie voor de aankoop van kunstwerken. In 1974 werd hij overigens aangesteld als lid van de Koninklijke Commissie van Monumenten en Landschappen. Geruime tijd vervulde hij er de functie van voorzitter van de afdeling Roerend Kunstpatrimonium.

Als wetenschapsmens ging hij vaak naar het buitenland voor onderzoek, waaronder Spanje, Duitsland, Italië en Frankrijk. Daarnaast heeft hij een duidelijke inbreng gehad in de voorbereidingen en de uitwerking van vele tentoonstellingen in het binnen- en buitenland.

Tenslotte zijn ook een aantal eerbewijzen professor Steppe te beurt gevallen. Ten eerste werd hij in 1959 ere-kanunnik van de Sint-Baafskathedraal te Gent. Ten tweede werd hem de onderscheiding van Commandeur in de Orde van Leopold II toegekend in 1961  en die van Commandeur in de Leopoldsorde in 1970. Ten derde droeg de Academie hem in 1980 de titel van Groot-officier in de Kroonorde voor.


Antoine De Schryver (1924-2005)




Antoine de Schryver was born in Lochristi on 27th March 1924.[1] He studied Art History and Archeology at the University of Ghent and obtained his degree in 1950. From 1951, he worked as a scientific assistant at the Royal Institute for Cultural Heritage. Between 1953 and 1955,  he was a candidate for the National Fund for Scientific Research, obtaining his doctoral degree in Art history and Archeology in 1957. In addition, he was appointed as curator of the Museum of Archeology in Ghent in that same year. He would carry out this function until 1971.

Throughout the 1950’s, De Schryver managed to obtain a number of travel scholarships, amongst which The National Trust Princess Marie-José (1951), The Belgian-Dutch Cultural Treaty (1951), and a number of the « Commision mixte des échanges culturels franco-belges » scholarships (1952, 1953, 1956). In 1960, De Schryver succeeded the late Em. Dr. Prof. Frédéric Lyna as lecturer on History of Miniature Art at the Univerity of Ghent. In addition, he succeeded the late Prof. Dr. Herman Bouchéry as director of the National Centre of the History and Archeology of Books, in that same year. In 1965, he became a member of the Royal Academy of Archeology of Belgium. At this academy, he was General Secretary from 1975 till 1977, Vice-Secretary between 1979 and 1981, and Chairman from 1981 till 1983. In 1984, he became a member of the Royal Flemish Academy of Belgium for Science and the Arts.

As an Art Historian, Antoine De Schryver had a broad field of interest, publishing mainly on illuminated manuscripts in the Southern Netherlands, 15th Century painting, and artists at the Burgundian Court. In the early 1950’s, he co-authored two publications on the Ghent Altarpiece with Roger Marijnissen and Paul Coremans.[2] In 1957, he defended his doctoral dissertation concerning miniaturists at the court of Charles the Bold.[3] Furthermore, De Schryver published a study concerning the Hours of Mary of Burgundy, which he managed to connect to Lieven of Lathem and the Ghent Caligrapher NS.[4] In 1989, the J. Paul Getty Museum acquired the Prayer Book of Charles the Bold. Upon his emeritate, De Schryver cooperated with the Museum in a publication about the Prayer Book. The final version of this publication was completed in 2004, but was only published after De Schryvers death on 9th March 2005.[5]

[1] This biography is based on: “Antoine de Schryver”. In Le dessin sous-jacent dans la peinture. Colloque X, 5-7 septembre 1993. Le dessin sous-jacent dans le processus de création, ed. Hélène Verougstraete en Roger Van Schoute, 105. Louvain-la-Neuve: Université Catholique de Louvain, Collège Érasme, 1995; Châtelet, Albert, “A. de Schryver (1924-2005)”. Belgisch tijdschrift voor oudheidkunde en kunstgeschiedenis, nr. 74 (2005): 144; Thomas Kren, “Preface”. In The prayer book of Charles the Bold. A study of a Flemish masterpiece from the Burgundian court, Antoine de Schryver, 9–10. vert. Jessica Berenbeim. Los Angeles: The J. Paul Getty Museum, 2008; Universiteitsbibliotheek Gent, “Antoine de Schryver”, laatst geraadpleegd op 31 oktober 2012,; Vanwijnsberghe, Dominique, “A. de Schryver”. Gazette du livre médiéval, nr. 47 (2005): 102–103.

[2] Antoine P. de Schryver en Roger H. Marijnissen, De oorspronkelijke plaats van het Lam Gods-retabel, Les Primitifs Flamands III. Contributions à l’étude des Primitifs Flamands 1 (Antwerpen: De Sikkel, 1952); Antoine P. de Schryver en Roger H. Marijnissen, “Histoire matérielle,” in L’Agneau Mystique au laboratoire. Examen et traitement, ed. Paul Coremans, Les Primitifs Flamands III. Contributions à l’étude des Primitifs Flamands 2 (Antwerpen: De Sikkel, 1953), 21–68.

[3] Antoine de Schryver, De miniaturisten in dienst van Karel de Stoute, onuitgegeven doctoraatsproefschrift. (Gent: Rijksuniversiteit Gent, Hoger Instituut voor Kunstgeschiedenis en Oudheidkunde, 1957).

[4] Franz Unterkircher en Antoine de Schryver, Gebetbuch Karls des Kühnen vel potius Stundenbuch der Maria von Burgund. Codex Vindobonensis 1857 der Österreichischen Nationalbibliothek. Facsimile, Codices selecti phototypice impressi 24 (Graz: Akademische Druck- und Verlagsanstalt, 1969); Franz Unterkircher en Antoine de Schryver, Gebetbuch Karls des Kühnen vel potius Stundenbuch der Maria von Burgund. Codex Vindobonensis 1857 der Österreichischen Nationalbibliothek. Commentarium, Codices selecti phototypice impressi 24* (Graz: Akademische Druck- und Verlagsanstalt, 1969).

[5] Antoine de Schryver, The prayer book of Charles the Bold. A study of a Flemish masterpiece from the Burgundian court, vert. Jessica Berenbeim (Los Angeles: The J. Paul Getty Museum, 2008).





BIOGRAPHY (In progress)