The year 1830 was marked by revolutionary fervour. Paris went through the July revolution, which marked the end of the rule of Charles X. Delacroix painted Liberty leading the People. Brussels, for its part, had its September Days, which ended Dutch rule over the Southern provinces, imposed at the 1815 Congress of Vienna. Wappers created his Episode of the September Days 1830… in 1835. Commissioned by the new government of Belgium, this work was a monumental and jubilatory manifesto, exalting the recent revolution and the newly found independence of the young nation. During his stay in Paris in 1828, the artist had frequented revolutionaries. At the 1830 Brussels Salon, his painting The Commitment by Pierre Van der Werff, Mayor of Leiden marked an artistic revival, amidst the agitation of the political revolution, and was given a triumphant reception. On the evening of 25 August 1830, the Théâtre de la Monnaie in Brussels performed one of Auber’s operas, entitled The mute girl of Portici. During the fourth Act, the song Sacred love of the fatherland… set off an insurrection that would spread throughout the country. On 23 September, the Dutch army entered Brussels, evacuating it on the 27th, at dawn, after four days of strife. In a pyramidal composition, the Episode…, provides a synthesis of events of the revolution and its actors, stressing the promulgation of the proclamation Aux citoyens de Bruxelles… (‘To the Citizens of Brussels’), signed on 24 September by the Administrative Commission, which represented the Belgian authorities at the heart of the unrest. A former student of the Antwerp Academy, which he later headed and reorganized, Wappers triggered the Belgian Romantic movement, which wanted to break with Neoclassicism and pick up with the pictorial eloquence of a Rubens. Wappers revived history painting and stamped it with a national character. In 1835, King Leopold I, to whom Wappers was the appointed painter, expressed the wish to see the the Episode… exhibited at the Brussels Museum. As the painter wished to cover up the adjacent paintings, which in this case turned out to be those of Rubens, the Episode… was placed in the old Temple of the Augustinans with a view to arousing the patriotic feelings of passing schoolchildren. After being exhibited in Brussels for many years, the painting went on display in other Belgian towns and some European capitals. In 1877, the Episode… entered the Brussels Museum.
Text: Brita Velghe, Museum of Modern Art. A Selection of Works, Brussels, 2001, p. 28 © Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium, Brussels