May 2017
Sept 2017

Held at the Cinquantenaire Museum, a historic building in Brussels and one of the largest museums in the country built by King Leopold II, the exhibition Once Upon a Time pays homage to the grand tradition of enamelled pocket watches between 1650 and 1850.

Inspired by the tastes and customs of their time, but also by reproductions of great paintings, these miniature timekeepers give us a delightful insight into the prevailing fashions of the day. The 175 watches on display are thematically arranged in sections dedicated to romantic pastoral scenes and gardens, travel, the influence of the East, the Enlightenment and the Revolution.

Beautifully executed by French and Swiss enamellers, the mechanical pocket watch was transformed into a form of transportable art allowing its wearer to admire the artwork and display his social status. Although miniature enamel painters were outstanding artists, they did not enjoy the status of watchmakers and rarely signed their artwork.

In addition to the magnificent miniature works of art on display, twenty life-size paper dresses by Belgian designer Isabelle de Borchgrave - faithful copies of period outfits - accompany the exhibition and give the visitor a fascinating insight into the elaborate dresses of the period. 

Not to be missed Not to be missed

The two enamelled watches painted with historical scenes - the Continence of Scipio and Judith and Holofernes-  originally painted by Italian masters and Isabelle de Borchgrave’s beautiful paper dresses, faithful reproductions of 18th-century women’s fashion. 


  • Brussels
  • address: Cinquantenaire Park 10, 1000 Brussels
  • tube: Merode station or you can get off at Schuman (European district) and then stroll through the park

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