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Tribute to Nicolas Gilbert, royal imperial purveyor


The Ecole des Malletiers Nicolas Gilbert, based in Belgium, pays homage to the 16th malletier who was an official supplier to the King and Holy Roman Emperor Charles V in Brussels. The city was home to  yet other luggage purveyors of the monarch: Roberts, Lampsens, Van Nevele, Van Rossem, De Hofstadt Boel, Van Grimbergen,...


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 emperor's tapestries. During travels the carpets were put unto the greens where the entire imperial party and court would have what we nowadays call pick-nicks, by all means luxury ones.


                 The 21st century, and the new Ecole des Malletiers


Jean-Pierre Bal, the founder of the present-day malletier school, finds the 1530s decade remarkably interesting, and full of amazing coincidences. To name just one, 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 park the soil still holds countless number 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. As years went by he invested thousands of leisure hours in bibliographical research and in mastering trunk-making techniques. He also uncovered the 19th and early 20th centuries' evolution of the major trunkmakers in Brussels, while creating the world's most unique museum-collection of Belgian antique travel trunks.


The Ecole des Malletiers, a genuine living heritage, became a reality in 2018, the European Year for Cultural Heritage. In sum, when M. Bal had gathered in Europe and around the world his precious documentation about the profession, the Conservatoire Belmal started ten years earlier emerged from his hard work by becoming the contemporary Ecole: an international institution of higher education located in the Durbuy - Manhay area of Belgium.


And a malletier school in France...


That the school's name contains the plural "des" is simply due to the fact that there is another malletier homage to be paid still: a French one. While building further on his initial bi-national concept, M. Bal foresees the opening in 2021 of the sister-school in France: the Ecole des Malletiers Jean-Paré. A contemporary of Nicolas Gilbert, Jean Paré was the brother of Ambroise (the King's surgeon), and had an atelier in Paris, at the Rue de la Huchette (near the Notre Dame cathedral). A historical research phase took place from 2017 to 2019, focusing on Laval (re. Bourg Hersent, birthplace of most Paré family members) and Paris; under the aegis of OGISPES, the non-profit and joint-organisation based in Charleville-Mezieres, France and in Liege, Belgium. >> More: France site



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formerly Belmal Conservatory. All rights reserved.  Reproduction of this website is not allowed | Update: 2021-04-11