Leuven, December 1516. On the corner of the current Naamsestraat and Standonckstraat, the first copy of Utopia roles off the press of printer Dirk Martens. 'A truly golden little book, no less beneficial than entertaining, of a republic’s best state and of the new island Utopia', as the subtitle proclaimed. Thomas More wrote the work out of frustration for the fetid corruption and misrule in English government and society. His response was Utopia: an imaginary island where happiness and justice reigned supreme. Utopia was a makeable society, which landed in Thomas More’s Church-dominated world like a bomb.
Utopia is a milestone that heralded a new age in European thought. A good friend of Thomas More, Desiderius Erasmus, was another innovator. You will undoubtedly know his Praise of Folly – another celebrated work of that period. More and Erasmus’ manifestos gave an enormous impulse to society. In the 15th and 16th century, painters, weavers and sculptors were inspired by the dream of an ideal world, while the urge to discover new horizons led to previously unseen levels of creative production.
The exhibition exudes the creative energy of that period. The innovation, the search for the unknown and the attachment to ideals and dream worlds produces a magnificent collection of works.