11563 A FINE STUCCO ART DECO PERIOD ARCHITECTURAL MODEL FOR THE HEADQUARTERS OF THE INSTITUT DE RÉESCOMPTE ET DE GARANTIE—HERDISCONTERINGSEN WAARBORGINSTITUTE, HANDELSTRAAT 78, BRUSSELS Circa 1935. Measurements: Width: 24 1/4″ (61.5 cm); Height: 13 3/4″ (34.9 cm); Depth: 10″ (25.4 cm).
Of stucco and frosted glass. The three-story building set with two banks of nine windows each above a ground floor with six windows, a central double door, and side door to the right, all with frosted glass panels. The central door inscribed IRG HWI.
From the estate of American art dealer and collector Eugene V. Thaw
The present architectural model represents the design for the Belgian government building that housed house the Institut de Réescompte et de Garantie—Herdisconteringsen Waarborginstitute (the Rediscount and Guarantee Institute), abbreviated to the IRG-HWI, as its central glass door bears an inscription with those initials. The building is located at 78 Rue du Commerce (Handelstraat 78) in Brussels (figure 1). Interestingly the windows of the present model are fitted with frosted glass panels, and a small aperture to the underside indicates that the piece could be illuminated.
In 1935, Belgium’s National Unity Government, under Prime Minister Paul van Zeeland (who was formerly the vice governor of the National Bank of Belgium), founded the IRG-HWI. Its purpose was to assist the movement of the market by discounting debt instruments such as bonds, leases and promissory notes. “The initial objective of the HWI was to lend its cooperation to the Belgian banks and Belgian industrial, commercial and agricultural enterprises [by extending loans] in order to provide ‘for the public benefit’ the mobilization of their claims and to meet their special credit needs.”1
The strict understated geometry of the façade, with perfectly studied proportions, is in line with superior institutional buildings of the 1930’s that are manifestly rooted in classical architecture. These ideas were much in evidence in Italy at this time, where fusion of the modern and ancient were a keynote of Italian architects, who sought to meld the contemporary with Italy’s Imperial past. A good example of this movement was the village of EUR, whose architecture is often referred to as “simplified classicism,” with the most prominent building being the Square Coliseum.
The present model’s façade is adorned by a single high-relief plaque featuring a recumbent nude figure beside a river with a pyramid and temple with obelisks in the background. Egyptiennerie was just one of the historical and archaeological styles to make a resurgence in the motifs of Art Deco. It is unknown at present whether this decoration was ever incorporated into the existing structure, as the plaque is missing from the building as it stands today. An additional story is also added to the extant edifice.
Further research into the building’s architect and history is ongoing.
1. Les archives de l’État en Belgique, Institut de Réescompte et de Garantie. https://search.arch.be/eac/eac-BE-A0500_009759_DUT