Marvellous museum with superb audio-guide included with admission price.
Basically features artists who worked in Bruges from 14th century to present, but the glories are to be found in the religious but humanly realistic works of the Flemish primitives.
My favorite was Jan van Eyck's "Madonna with Canon Joris van der Paele," an early 15th century triptych that shows the comissioner of the work, Van der Paele, complete with furrows and wrinkles, his spectacles at the ready over his book. As he gazes at the Madonna, flanked by St. George, his patron saint, and St. Donation, he is realized in his somewhat abundant flesh. Here, the two phase guide really helped; after listening to the general description, I pressed for a more in-depth coverage and found out a cathedral dedicated to St. Donation , which had been in Bruges since the 9th century, was destroyed by the French in 1799. The presence of an African parrot, gorgeously colorful,elaborate vestments and equally resplendent carpets in the scene attested to the cosmopolitan aura of trade-wealthy Bruges during the Canon's time.
Van Eyck's portrait of his wife, as well as other portraits , notably by Peter Pourbos, an artist new to me, demonstrated technical ability and interest in depicting real people with exquisite felicity to telling details. Though most of the works here are religious in theme, the details convey human faces so very vivid they seem alive. No one who sees David's "The Judgment of Cambyses" will ever forget the contrast between the horrible flaying while alive of the judge, surrounded by nonchalant witnesses going about their everyday business scarcely noticing what's going on. What impact on the viewer this contrast has!
This is the "must see" museum in Bruges.The treasures here are worth far more than the treasures one can pick up in the chic shops where most tourists seemed to be when we were visiting a sparsely attended museum. All the better for us - just 2 hours of unhurried perusing.