The biggest collection of souvenirs bearing the image of Leopold II has been exposed to the public for the first time at Arenberg Auctions in Brussels. The unique collection, which includes hundreds of rare caricatures, posters, original paintings, authentic photos, insignia and other objects, will be auctioned on 14 December.
The souvenirs belong to Eric Van den Abeele, great-grandson of Jules Thiriar, who was Leopold II’s personal physician and confidant. He collected the objects for four decades.
“I inherited a series of satirical postcards from my great-grandmother; they formed the start of my collection,” Van den Abeele explained. “For 40 years, I then went to many auctions, stock exchanges, markets, both in Belgium and abroad, to build up my collection. Naturally, it’s hard to give it all up, but it’s also an opportunity to present another image of Leopold II to the outside world.”
The estimated value of the collection is 30,000 euros. The most significant exhibits include advertising posters showing Leopold II and his father, Leopold I, promoting cigarettes and liqueurs, something that would be unthinkable today.
“Even if it was a different era, his image within the population and among politicians was already not irreproachable, as evidenced by various caricatures and satirical images,” notes Henri Godts, an expert at Arenberg Auctions.