"In the early 17th century, Antwerp was a kind of Hollywood," said Paul Huvenne, director general of Antwerp's Royal Museum of Fine Arts. "There were more painters in the city than bakers!"

Huvenne was speaking at the opening of "Masterpieces of Flanders' Golden Age" at the Isetan Museum of Art in Shinjuku. The first major exhibition of Flemish art to visit Japan, it comprises more than 70 paintings from the Bruegel family, Rubens, Van Dyck and other leading artists, drawn from Antwerp's leading collection of art. Touring the country until December, it offers the chance to see the kind of early landscapes, still lifes and floral paintings that influenced the Dutch school.

Stressing the need for timely conservation, Huvenne said two works had been specially restored for the exhibition. They are a fine portrait of Margareta of Austria, dated c. 1518-1530, in the first gallery, and a limpid "Landscape With Dancing Shepherds" (1631) by Jan Wildens in the last.