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Maison Hannon: Saint-Gilles’ art nouveau masterpiece reopens to public as museum

Maison Hannon - Saint Gilles, Brussels
19:23 02/06/2023

One of Brussels’ architectural treasures, Maison Hannon, has finally reopened its elegant arched doors to the public following major restoration.

A temple to beauty, harmony and eternal love, the building is now a museum that honours its unique blend of early 20th-century Belgian and French art and design, as well as the twin movements of art nouveau and symbolism.

Gregory de Leeuw

Although further renovation work will continue until 2030, Maison Hannon is staging temporary year-long exhibitions dedicated to multidisciplinary arts from this period. The first honours national artists who pursued differing styles: Art(s) nouveau(x) belge(s). Van de Velde, Serrurier-Bovy, Hankar...& Co, arranged in the rooms on the first floor (pictured).

Displaying a variety of works – many on loan from Ghent Design Museum – they reveal the full range of quality craftmanship that was intrinsic to the movement.


This sublime artistry is evident in the main entrance that’s dominated by a golden spiral staircase resplendent with floral motifs leading to the upper floor (pictured). It is accompanied by a stunning allegorical fresco that fills the wall behind.

Signed by French symbolist painter Paul Baudouin, the painting features a pair of shepherds – a depiction of the owners of the house, Marie and Edouard Hannon, as they watch the setting of the sun. This harmonious composition around a contemplation of the joys of life in the couple’s latter years was the leitmotif for their commissioning of their home’s interior and exterior decoration.

A bas-relief of time suspended at sunset – the golden hour – by sculptor Victor Rousseau adorns the upper corner façade of the property, which lies at the intersection of Avenue Brugmann and Avenue de la Jonction.

Sarah Crew

The smoking room and winter garden are other magnificent spaces, each deliberately separated by stairs to create the illusion of entering another world. The interior greenhouse with its curved bay window and floral stained glass was once filled with Japanese inspired plants and foliage, as was fashionable at the time.

Marie Hannon, originally from France, adored botany and literature and was responsible for most of the furnishings. Meanwhile, her husband, a senior engineer for Solvay, was a keen amateur photographer. A series of his images is on display, revealing his love for travel and his ever-present social conscience.

Gregory de Leeuw

It’s these personal touches that remind visitors that this outstanding architectural property was first and foremost a family home. The couple commissioned their long-time friend, Jules Brunfaut, to design the house in the art nouveau style that was flourishing at the turn of the 20th-century. Completed in 1904, it was to be the architect’s only work in this style, and he deliberately sought out design features that distinguished it from the movement’s leading designer in Belgium, Victor Horta.

This explains the building’s singularity, from the winter garden that gloriously arches out into the street, and in the placing of the centrepiece staircase. Unlike the Belgian master, Brunfaut did not top it with a skylight, but allowed each light-infused room to gently illuminate it, according to the time of the day. Nevertheless, the balustrade bears the distinctive art nouveau whiplash curves so beloved by Horta.

Sarah Crew

But this epitome of art and beauty was to experience mixed fortunes. After the couple’s daughter died in 1965, the property was abandoned, some of its treasures stolen and its interior damaged by water. In 1976, the facades and roof were listed to protect it from redevelopment. By now, the art nouveau style that had fallen out of fashion at the outbreak of world war one was enjoying something of a revival. The municipality of Saint-Gilles acquired the heritage building with the clear intention of preserving it.

Successive renovation projects ensued and the space was occupied by the Contretype photography gallery until 2014. The non-profit organisation Maison Hannon was launched by Saint-Gilles and the Brussels Region in 2019 with a view to opening the building as a museum.


Today, it is twinned with the nearby Museum Horta, dedicated to the pioneering architect and designer. The two sites are complementary: one devoted to art nouveau’s Belgian school, while Maison Hannon shows the influence of the French school of Nancy.

Its restoration has been financed by public and private investment and will continue as a ‘work in progress’ with the help of entrance ticket sales. The property’s garden, interior greenhouse, glass windows and roof are to benefit from this second renovation phase.


The public opening is a flagship event for Brussels’ year of Art Nouveau. The city’s architectural heritage from this period is now proving a major draw to residents and tourists alike.

While the intriguing facades of this striking building have long drawn the eye of passers-by, its interior riches - and those of a panoply of art nouveau artists - can now finally be appreciated by everyone.

Maison Hannon is open to visitors on Monday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday. From Tuesday to Thursday, it is reserved for private visits booked via Arkadia and KoreiThe entrance price for adults is €12 (€14 online).

Photos: (main image) Maison Hannon (c) Sarah Crew; upper room (c) Gregory de Leuuw; staircase (c) Gregory de Leuuw; winter garden (c) Sarah Crew; salon (c) Gregory de Leuuw; entrance hall (c) Sarah Crew; mosaic (c) Gregory de Leuuw; facade (c) Gregory de Leuuw

Written by Sarah Crew