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Tribute to Nicolas Gilbert, royal imperial purveyor


The full name of the school in Belgium is Ecole des Malletiers Nicolas Gilbert, in honour of the Brussels' malletier who supplied the King and Holy Roman Emperor Charles V, who had other Belgian purveyors still: Roberts, Lampsens, Van Nevele, Van Rossem, De Hofstadt, to name the leading ones.


The blazon of Charles V, 

with the Order of the Golden Fleece


For example, in 1529-1530 the Nicolas Gilbert and Augustin De Hofstadt ateliers together produced some 70 luggage items for the emperor, of which 50 leather leather trunks for the casing of the monarch's tapestries. On travel the carpets were put unto the greens where the entire imperial party would have what we nowadays call a pick-nick, by all means a luxury one.


                 The 21st century, and the new école des malletiers


For Jean-Pierre Bal, the founder of the present-day malletier school, the 1530s decade is remarkably interesting, and with amazing coincidences. For example, during that time-span there also was a medieval iron furnace and steel mill located precisely where the Ecole's main atelier now stands. "At the EdM campus the soil in the garden of the atelier house still contains lots of smelting slag and dross pellets. One day I will use them in a malletier artwork".


In the 2000s Monsieur Bal revived the malletier profession in Belgium where the trade had disappeared some sixty years ago. He invested thousands of leisure hours in bibliographical research and in mastering trunk-making techniques. He also rebuilt the 19th century evolution of the major trunkmakers in Brussels, and, created the country's sole and most unique collection of Belgian trunks, while garnering precious documentation about the malletier profession in Europe and around the world. The Ecole des Malletiers project is entirely his. In 2017 he transformed the small Belmal Conservatory into the fully fledged school that hoisted its sails in the 2018 European Year of Cultural Heritage.


In 2019 he continues to work on the sister-school project in France: the Ecole des Malletiers Jean-Paré, the Parisian malletier who was a contemporary of Nicolas Gilbert. Paré had his atelier at rue de la Huchette, near the Notre Dame cathedral. The ongoing historical research is coordinated through units based in Laval (Bourg Hersent, birthplace of the Paré family) and Paris, while under the aegis of OGISPES, the bi-national non-profit organisation based in Charleville-Mézières, France and Liège, Belgium. 



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© copyright 2019, OGISPES o.b.o. Ecole des Malletiers Nicolas Gilbert of Belgium and Jean Paré project France, formerly Belmal Conservatory. All rights reserved.  Reproduction of this website is not allowed | Update: 2019-03-19