The ghost of Tommaso Portinari
Hotel Portinari was named after a historic figure, a man who had great influence on our city in his time. But who is the man behind the face? And why does the hotel bear his name?
The Italian citizen of Bruges
Tommaso Portinari lived in the fifteenth century (from 1432 to 1501, to be exact) and grew up in the household of the prominent Italian de’ Medici family in Florence. It came to be that Tommaso was employed as a bank clerk in Bruges and later became managing director of the de’ Medici bank. But that is not why he keeps inspiring us. On the contrary.
Bad banker, phenomenal patron
His career as a bank manager started promising. Portinari climbed the social ladder and became the confidant of Charles the Bold. However, his career soon went downhill after a series of loans to Charles the Bold that were not paid back, and partly as a result of this the Bruges branch of the de’ Medici bank went bankrupt.
So Portinari did not make his name with his talents in the banking business, but did with his love for Flemish art. He may not have been very good in handling business loans, but he did focus the spending of his own fortune on the right things. His position as a creditor of the Burgundian dukes gave him great influence as a patron of Bruges’ art and culture.
From small Bruges artists to big European names
During his short life he supported various Flemish primitives, including Hugo van der Goes and Hans Memling. The latter, Hans Memling, was commissioned by Portinari to paint the portrait of himself and his wife. In the 21stcentury that same portrait hangs in the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art. Quite a feat, if you ask us.
In turn, Hugo van der Goes was commissioned to paint ‘The Adoration of the Shepherds’. This triptych, made as an altar piece for the hospital chapel in Florence, caused a lot of sensation upon arrival in the Italian city. Van der Goes’ painting techniques and talent inspired a lot of Florence artists. The Portinari triptych is the most important and best-known work by Hugo van der Goes and made his name as an important Flemish primitive. And all this thanks to patron Tommaso Portinari.
Thanks to Portinari’s financial support, both artists were given the chance to develop into the talented Flemish primitives who are now famous all over the world. In turn, they inspired the art movement that followed and all Bruges artists who came after them.
Tommaso Portinari died young, but not without having made his mark on the world. He helped create the image of Bruges as a successful city of the arts, where artists from all over Europe came together for inspiration. We recognise ourselves in his love for Bruges art and the support he offered local artists. For this reason, you will find art of Bruges and Belgian artists everywhere in our hotel. Just like Tommaso Portinari we love everything that is refined in Bruges. With Hotel Portinari, we tell this story in a contemporary way.
Bruges is a city with an ancient face, but with the heart of a young twenty-something. The centuries-old city of art keeps reinventing itself non-stop, even though it looks like a place where time has stood still. We will gladly prove to you that modern Bruges is more than the sum of its historic parts.