The façade of Hotel Verhaegen from 1828 by night. Photos © Jan Rosseel / Hotel Verhaegen, Ghent.
Details make the difference.
I remember an excellent Santos high-speed orange juice, a selection of Mariage-Frères teas, Floris amenities in the bathroom, Roberts design radios and sharp flat TVs in all guestrooms. All rooms have their original 18th century fireplaces. My bedroom in the Paola Room gas has a red bed à la polonaise, decorative boxes, a Buddha statue and many more decorative and design objects. The interior decorators Marc Vergauwe and Jan Rosseel have created an eclectic, but tasteful mix, making you feel at home. Old and new harmoniously coexist. The house may be from the 18th century, but you can enjoy a high-speed internet connection in your room.
View of the sitting area with the “Pasta” poster by the French artist Razzia in the Paola Room. The room I stayed in is named in honor of the present day Queen of Belgium who, as a young Italian princess, slept here when visiting the Baroness Verhaegen, herself by birth a Swedish princess who lived in the Hôtel Verhaegen until 2004. Photos © Sarah van Hove / Hotel Verhaegen, Ghent.
The breakfast salon. I remember an excellent Santos high-speed orange juice. Photos © Sarah van Hove / Hotel Verhaegen, Ghent.
The bedroom in the Italian Room. Photo © Sarah van Hove / Hotel Verhaegen, Ghent.
The history and art of Hotel Verhaegen.
The main activity of Marc Vergauwe and Jan Rosseel is their interior design studio Neoo selon Neo, created in 1990. They work on new buildings and help with renovations and redecorations worldwide. Marc's working room on the ground floor dates back to the 1770s, with a mix of late Louis XVI baroque and Empire classicism style decoration, with white plaster and gold, as well as ornamental leaves with a Classicist Greek touch. The Chinese wallpapers (chinoiserie) known from old photographs were destroyed probably in the early 20th century. They depicted the daily life of the Chinese. On top of the plasterwork above the chimney one can admire a dog representing truthfulness and a lion representing courage, both standing aside a puto representing wealth and opulence. The candelabras above the chimney with motifs copied from Pompeii are a sign of the classicist influence.In the working room of Jan you can admire a chinoiserie from the 18th century pasted onto a linen frame. They are painted with insects, cranes, partridges, peacocks, pheasants, flowers and trees. In the 18th century you had to pay your goods from Asia in advance and take the risk that the ship controlled by the Ostend Company, which controlled the Flemish trade in luxury goods from 1723 onwards, could sink on its sailing trip from China to Europe.These two salons de passage are complemented by two bigger salons, which face the present day French-style interior garden with symmetric parterres of box hedges, which was only created in the early 20th century by the Verhaegen family, is now already a listed monument itself. All four salons are still equipped with the original chimneys.
The living room salon with an Yves Klein sculpture on the table. Photo © Jan Rosseel / Hotel Verhaegen, Ghent.
The grand salon on the very right of the entrance is decorated with three smaller supraportas canvases depicting the four seasons, the four elements and the four hours of the day. The commission by Antoine-Bernard Triest was painted in the style of François Boucher (1703-1770), inspired by engravings of Jacob de Wit (1698-1754) and executed by the painter from Ghent Pieter Norbert van Reijsschoot (1738-1795). A few years later, Antoine-Bernard Triest commissioned the same artist to create five impressive canvases for the adjacent dining room. They portray fishermen, peasants and shepherds in idyllic genre scenes, inspired by paintings of David Teniers the Younger (1610-1690) and other Flemish painters. According to Marc, remarkable and unusual for the time are the high skies painted by Pieter van Reijsschoot, filling two-thirds of the canvases with clouds. In this salon, Marc Vergauwe and Jan Rosseel made sure that the wall and wooden doors were restored in the original blue tone of the 18th century.
Detail of the bathroom in the Chambre des amoureux with a 19th century Afghan camel hair coat placed above the bathtub. My favorite object in this “room for lovers” is the 1993 iron sculpture representing an elk by Henri Terres, placed on the mantlepiece in the bedroom. The calm Paola Room is situated on the first floor, facing the dépendance building and offering a partial view of the interior garden. Photo © Sarah van Hove / Hotel Verhaegen, Ghent.
View from the bedroom towards the living room in the suite. Photos © Sarah van Hove / Hotel Verhaegen, Ghent.
The French-style garden - created in the first half of the 20th century - with the dépendance in the background. Photo © Jan Rosseel / Hotel Verhaegen, Ghent.The kitchen was in the side-building in order to avoid the destruction of the entire hôtel in case of a fire. The dépendance opposite the present day garden also served once as the glassworks atelier of Arthur Verhaegen (1847-1917), who lived and worked here all year long. The newer part of the building on the right was once a chapel. The owner Antoine-Bernard Triest bought the existing house in 1766 and started to remodel it in 1768 in the latest fashion of the day to create the mansion as we know it today. It served as the winter residence of the family.In 1768, Antoine-Bernard Triest, descendant of the well-known bishop, redesigned the elevations and commissioned the Rococo architect David 't Kindt (1699-1770) to modify the front and the back of the hôtel. In 1828, his widow, Eleanore Philippe de Cronbrugghe opted for a front façade in the Palladian style, known as Empire in Belgium.
The French-style garden - created in the first half of the 20th century - with the dépendance in the background. Photo © Jan Rosseel / Hotel Verhaegen, Ghent.
Among the later otable owners of the hôtel particulier was the mayor of Ghent, Minne-Barth. After a series of successions, the house was bought by Jules Clément Lammens in 1882. By a wedding, it passed to the Verhaegen family.In 1872, the engineer, architect, designer, writer and politician Baron Arthur Verhaegen married one of the two daughters of Jules Lammers; the other daughter became a nun. He was a grandson of Pierre-Théodore Verhaegen (1796-1862), a lawyer, liberal politician, free and founder of the Université Libre de Bruxelles.As an architect, the pious Arthur Verhaegen worked in the Belgian Gothic Revival style. He built schools and public housing for the poor. Among his works are the brick buildings near Hotel Verhaegen, e.g. St. Lucas, the present day artistic middle and high school.
Arthur Verhaegen religious glassworks (vitraux) were made in workshops in Bethune. In the atelier in the garden building at Hotel Verhaegen, he had his design atelier. According to Marc Vergauwe, Arthur Verhaegen made the vitraux for the Cathedral of Antwerp, Chloister Poortakere near Hotel Verhaegen, at present itself a modest hotel as well as many other places including the cities of Paris and Rome. Arthur Verhaegen stopped producing glass when his leading employee established his own atelier.As a Catholic-Conservative politician, Baron Arthur Verhaegen was one of the founders of the Belgian Christian Democratic movement. He created the Christian Labour Movement in Flanders (Association Ouvrière Anti-Socialiste), the Ligue Démocratique Belge and the Catholic daily Het Volk. In ancient times, what later became Hotel Verhaegen stood just outside the city walls. Therefore, wood for the construction in the city was stored here. The Wellinck Strad (Citadel Street), one of the three streets surrounding Hotel Verhaegen, has some Medieval houses of former craftsmen.In short, instead of a dead museum, Hotel Verhaegen is a showroom inhabited by the owners as well as a handful of privileged guests, who sometimes become clients of the designers.
Literature and sources for this article
Fredericq-Lilar, Marie: Gent in de 18de EEUW. De schilders van Reijsschoot. 1992, 271 p. Maeyer, Jan De: Arthur Verhaegen 1847-1917. De rode baron. KADOC-Studies 18, Leuven, 1994, 696 p.Swimberghe, Piet and Jan Verlinde: Flanders: The Art of Living, 1994, 231 p.Verhaegen, Arthur: Verdediging van het paternalisme, 1871.Verhaegen, Arthur: Vingt-cinq années d'action sociale. Préface d'Albert de Mun, Bruxelles, Albert Dewit, “Bibliothèque de la revue sociale catholique”, ca. 1911, 369 p.