The Royal Institute for Cultural Heritage  (KIK-IRPA) has made every possible effort to respect legislation concerning authors’ rights. If, however, it has not been possible to identify the holder of the author’s rights in question, the work will be reproduced on the understanding that the rights holder will contact the KIK-IRPA in order to regularize the situation.
General search principles
In the database, information is structured into information units known as ‘fields’.
For your searches, you should bear in mind that the database is bilingual French-Dutch (the two main official languages of Belgium). This means that objects are recorded in the language of the Region in which they are located. If your search relates to objects in the Walloon Region, introduce your request in French. For the Flemish Region, introduce the search terms in Dutch. 
This situation is provisional: the thesaurus is gradually being made trilingual For example, if your search covers the whole of Belgium and you key in the word ‘‘chalice‘’, you will also find the data sheets listed under ‘‘kelk’’, the Dutch word, and ‘calice’, the French word.
If you are uncertain of the search terms, in some fields you can key in the first letters of a word and then click on ‘thesaurus’ (book icon). You will obtain a list of terms beginning with the letters that you have keyed in. All you then need to do is to click on the arrow next to the term that fits your search best. 
Where several search terms have the same meaning, one of the terms will be preferred to the other and the list will mention the search term used in place of the one you have chosen.
The order in which you fill in the fields is not relevant.
There are no differences between upper case (capital) and lower case (small) letters. 
Right truncation
A search gives all the terms beginning with the letters that you have keyed in (right truncation). You can use this feature to carry out a generic search.
Example: you type in armoire (cupboard) and then click on ‘thesaurus’: different types of cupboards will be proposed to you: armoire à linge (linen cupboard), armoire à provisions (food cupboard), armoire de sacristie (sacristy cupboard) etc. If you do not make a selection and remain with armoire, you will obtain all the different types of cupboard.
The thesaurus is a hierarchical list of terms that gives access to the tens of thousands of terms used by the KIK-IRPA to describe objects.
Example: the term ‘armoire’ (cupboard) is connected to a broader term (higher in the hierarchy), the term ‘meuble’ (furniture). ‘Armoire’ also has narrower terms (lower in the hierarchy) like ‘armoire à linge’ (linen cupboard).
In a thesaurus you can jump from one term to another by clicking on the term itself. The small upward arrow shows a broader (higher) term, the small downward arrow shows a narrower (lower) term.
Launching the search
Once you have keyed in your criteria, click on ‘’search’’ at the bottom of the screen, and the system will select the entries corresponding to these criteria.
New search
Click the ‘‘previous page’ button on the standard bar to return to the empty search screen.
Searching in one or in several databases?
You can choose between a general search in three interconnected databases – Photo library, Library and People and Institutions –, or a search in one of the databases. If you are looking for works of art, publications or a person or institution, you can pre-select the appropriate database.
1.     All KIK-IRPA databases
This search is recommended for a first approach, to get acquainted with the resources of the KIK-IRPA in a certain field of research. It will show both the results in the photo library and in the library and give access to the identity record if you searched for a person or institute. For a simultaneous search in all databases you can perform a general search. This allows you to quickly search several fields by keying in one or more terms.
Possible search keys are:
Who: Artist, artisan, author of publication, person depicted in a work or on photo, person cited in a publication, collector, editor, etc.
Who = Rubens: selects the works painted by Rubens as well as a portrait of Rubens by Van Dyck, or a book on Rubens.
What: Object name (object is a generic term that is also used for buildings), object depicted in a work, event, institute’);
            What = ‘caraf’: selects a jug in Vonêche crystal as well as a jug depicted on a 17th-century painting or a catalogue of Val-Saint-Lambert with jugs.
Where: Place of conservation, of production, of origin or of exhibition of an object, location of a landscape, element of nature or event.
Where = Ciergnon: selects buildings and objects in Ciergnon as well as views of
Ciergnon kept in Brussels or an article about Leopold I in Ciergnon.
When: Date of manufacture of a  work of art or date of publication of a book. A search by date in both the photo library and the library is not useful for recent dates unless it is combined with a term in another field.
            When = 1850
Christian iconography: as this field selects persons as well as events, it should be combined with a term in another field
            The term ‘Martin’ leads to a statue of ‘saint Martin’ as well as to a scene: ‘saint Martin partageant son manteau avec un pauvre’
Free text: search in the non-structured fields (title of an artwork in the photo library, or key word of a publication summary in the library catalogue). This search is less rigorous, but still gives good results if you know the customary name of an artwork or if an object stands in relation with a certain hamlet or estate, places that do not correspond (anymore) to the current places.
            The term ‘Tancrémont’ selects the famous ‘Christ de Tancrémont’ without having to key in the place of conservation (Pepinster).
The term ‘Maredret’ not only selects the abbey but also devotional images produced there.
2.     The photo library of the KIK-IRPA
The term ‘object’ is a generic term for the photographed works and documents. As such, a building is also considered an ‘object’ in the photo library. Each object has its own number, which can be compared to the number in the national register of persons.
General search
Just like the search in all databases, the general search uses narrower search keys. The general search is a more intuitive method which can subsequently be refined (see below).
Search per field
Experienced users may find this type of research to be more efficient. It presupposes a better knowledge of the fields of the databases, but gives more precise results from the start.
Refine results
To the right of the results you can see a menu which allows filtering of the results. For each field a scrolling list indicates the possibilities to refine the search.
Refining results is mainly useful for a general search. Whatever your choice, if you only key in one term for which there are hundreds of results, these will be difficult to analyze.
            Where = Brussels
            This selects works of art located in Brussels, works that were produced there, depictions of Brussels etc. You can refine your search in order to narrow down the results and remove non-pertinent entries.
Refining of results is very useful when searching for objects in an institution for which you do not know the exact name. You can search on municipality and the institutes in this municipality will appear.
Example: If you know that a statue is in an Antwerp church, but you don’t know its exact name, you can first search by keying in ‘Antwerpen’ in the field ‘Municipality’ and ‘beeld’ (Dutch for statue) in the field ‘Object name’. In the list with institutes you will find the churches, but also the cathedral.
Refining selects several possibilities of which you can choose. On top of the page the filters that were subsequently applied are shown. You can always remove one or several and continue your search through trial and error without having to start from scratch.
Example: You want to find an artist and then a museum, but you don’t find the work you are looking for. You can then remove the filter ‘Institute’ and filter on ‘Object name’ instead.
Number of criteria
If you are new to BALaT it is best to limit the number of search criteria since a single criterion without results can lead to failure for the whole search. First try simple searches, which can already be very efficient.
Search with one criterion
A search on a single criterion only takes a few seconds. This allows you to get an idea of the number of results, and to refine the search by performing a new search with an additional criterion. Another option is to refine the search using the menu on the right.

For example, search only a locality or name of an artist or object name, and take a look at the results to see how the information appears in order to get accustomed to the database.
For an artist, only key in his surname. Only a few great artists (especially if they were copied many times, such as Rubens or Murillo)  will yield hundreds of results. Don’t forget to key in the name as follows: first name + comma + space + first name. Make use of the thesaurus: key in the first letters of the name and click the book icon.
If the search gives too many results, you can sort them (see below) in order to organize them.
Search with two criteria
For most of the municipalities, objects or creators two criteria give a manageable number of results:
            creator = Jordaens AND municipality = Antwerpen
            iconography = Apollo AND object name = schilderij
            municipality = Aarlen AND material = gietijzer
            object name = doopvont AND municipality = Hermeton-sur-Meuse
Among the results you can easily find your object of choice.
Once you are certain about the pertinence of the terms you use, you can combine them and search more efficiently.
Sort results
If you are performing a search for a large number of objects, it is best to use the sort button. If you are for example a curator of a museum, key in the name of your museum here. The results will contain all photographed works. The result will however be much more interesting if you sort the results by object name and then by artist, or by artist and then by date. If you are a churchwarden, first sort by object name and then by date. These types of searches can serve to make an inventory or to verify the presence of all the objects in your institution.
If you are a student writing a dissertation on art nouveau facades, different ways of sorting will yield different results: sort by author and then by date; by city and then by author; start again and change the sequence of sorting in order to diversify your approach.

Sorting the results will help you to track evolutions (materials, styles, shapes, techniques). We use the example of bridges (object name = bridge, sort by date): this will first reveal the use of stone, followed by steel and then concrete. This also works for the career of an artist: keying in the name and sorting on date can reveal whether he used a particular technique, followed by others. For example,  Jean-Baptiste Madou started his career as a lithographer but become a painter later on.
Search on date
You can search within a certain period, or on a more precise date (only fill out the first field). The results, which are best sorted by date, also contain the objects of which the period in the database included the date you keyed in.
Example: If you key in 1853, this will also select all objects of the second half of the 19th century (1851-1900).It includes all objects that might date from 1853, but could not be dated with precision.
Search by type, technique or style
By not keying in a municipality you can perform a broader search. This is suitable for the study of a certain type of object or to date an object using comparative study.
Example: you cannot read the date on an old burial cross, but it has a particular shape. You can search by object name = ‘grafkruis’ (burial cross in Dutch), and sort by date.
Search by iconography
All the objects photographed by the KIK-IRPA are indexed according to what is depicted (person, role of person, animal, object, plant, ornament, event…). The online search module however does not require knowledge of all these fields of iconographic indexing as they are all searchable with a search on iconography.
Given the number of objects in the photo library, almost every search term gives results. Hence you can see that the use of the photo library is not limited to art historians.
Each internet user will find documents in his preferred field: someone who is interested in insects for example can search on ‘mouche’ or ‘vlieg’ (the Dutch and French word for fly, respectively)  and by sorting on date he will discover how flies were depicted in the course of history, for example in 17th-century still life painting or in 19th-century ceramics. A psychiatrist will find depictions of madness in the Middle Ages or in the Renaissance Period. A student doing an assignment on Charles V can illustrate it with works of art of his choice (portraits, events).

The field iconography can be used to find depictions of persons according to several characteristics (child, greybeard…), skin colour or nationality (black, Chinese), a noble title (prince, king), a religious function (pope, abbess), some diseases (leprosy), types (smoker, drunk) or professions (street vendor, lacemaker).
An iconographic search  is the obvious choice for Christian iconography, but can also be useful for searches concerning profane subjects. If you are interested in depictions of towers, you will find them in illustrations of Saint Barbara, whose attribute is a tower. A deer lover can study illustrations of Saint Hubert and a dog lover those of Saint Roch of Montpellier. A botanist will discover that a lily is the attribute of Saint Joseph. Many concepts, allegories and personifications can be searched as well (Dove of the Holy Spirit, cautiousness, caritas, etc.).
Don’t forget that if you are looking for the object itself and its depictions, you can use the general search of the photo library.
Finally the thousands of KIK-IRPA documentary photos of cultural life in Belgium can be searched as well. They are divided into twelve themes: animals, astronomy, ceremonies, the royal family, flora, folklore, war, portraits, spectacles, sports, vehicles.
Geographic representation
By clicking on the map you can see all the places where the objects from the results of your search are located (in a first phase restricted to those in Belgium).
This can be very convenient for researchers who wish to visualize, for example, the area of activity of an architect and the location of tombstones of a particular family – making it a great asset for genealogists. Patterns will emerge, for example, the fact that there are more panoramic wall papers in Wallonia than in Flanders, and more windmills north of the Sambre and Meuse rivers. This localization is of course most suited for heritage buildings: Roman chapels, Art Deco houses, constructions and monuments (bridges, fountains…). But it can also be useful for works of art, for example to help organizers of guided tours to prepare thematic visits: institutes with neoclassic furniture, contemporary art, etc., or for a researcher who is planning a study trip around a particular artist.
Number of results
By default the results appear per 24. You can change this number to 50, 100 or 200.
Should your search prove unsuccessful, there are three possible reasons:
- The KIK-IRPA has not yet photographed any document corresponding to the criteria that you have introduced.
- The data sheets of documents corresponding to these criteria have not yet been entered into the electronic system (see documentation). The digitization is ongoing.
- You have not used the criteria correctly. We invite you to re-read carefully the above text.
Have you selected the appropriate field for keying in your criterion? Have you keyed in the appropriate terms? (Don’t forget that the lists are there to help you). Have you remembered the bilingualism of the database?
If you are still having difficulties, don’t hesitate to e-mail us letting us know which search has proved fruitless. We would be glad to advise you on the use of the website.
Where the documents exist but no electronic data sheet yet exists, we will let you know by e-mail. You are also welcome to our photo library reading room, where full ‘paper’ files are accessible to the general public and where staff are available to help you.
3.     The library of the KIK-IRPA
The search engine for the library is only a temporary version (the standard search engine of the ADLIB software).
4.     People and Institutions
This thesaurus centralizes all information on persons and institutions from the different databases of the KIK-IRPA. As they are interconnected, these databases all share the same consultation lists. Nevertheless much work needs to be done in order to remove all duplicated information. We thank you in advance for all suggestions to improve this thesaurus.
Help us help you!
If during a search you find an ‘odd duck’, this is probably due to a mistake while entering information in the database (in the date, description, attribution, etc.). Don’t hesitate to point this out to us. In a database with a million and a half data sheets it is inevitable that here and there a mistake slips in: your help is very valuable to trace these. We thank you in advance. This tool is first and foremost intended for you, and we should work together to improve it.
If you are in doubt about which search term to use, you can send us an email with the subject of your search. We can then explain how to get the best results. One address:
The future of BALaT: a participative tool, validated and structured by experts in art history!
The great size of the databases of the KIK-IRPA – more than one million negatives, more than 50,000 items in the library, 200,000 persons and institutions –, structured into one powerful interconnected database and searchable with a user friendly interface, forms a solid foundation for research.
Other tools, developed by the KIK-IRPA and its partners, will shortly be added to this database.

Digitization of the part of the library catalogue relating to publications acquired before 1998 will follow shortly as well: no less than 100,000 entries!

Frequently asked questions

1. Have all the negatives of the Photo library been entered into the database?

Three quarters of the collection has been entered. New photos are uploaded daily. All photos (mounted prints) can be consulted in the reading room of the Information centre.

2. Can I download and use a photograph?

Yes. All photos from our online Photo library can be downloaded free of charge. Before publication, however, you must submit a copyright request .

3. How do I find the oeuvre of an artist?

Enter the first letters of the family name of the artist in the field ‘Creator’. You can then choose the full name in the drop-down menu. You don’t have to fill in the other fields.

4. How do I find museum object?

For the maximum number of results, enter the type of object and the municipality of the museum. You don’t have to key in the name of the museum. Example:

Municipality: Lovenjoel
Type of object: painting

Use the menu to the right of the images to refine the results according to various criteria: institution, technique, creator, etc.

5. How do I find an object from a church?

Enter the type of object and the municipality of the church. You don’t have to key in the name of the church. Example:

Municipality: Boutersem
Type of object: chalice

Use the menu to the right of the images to refine the results according to various criteria: institution, technique, creator, etc.

6. How can I search on iconography?

Use ‘Search by fields’ to specify the type of iconography:

  • Iconography person: useful for finding portraits, cabinets, etc. Enter the family name of the person and choose the right person in the drop-down menu, for example, Magritte, René.
  • Christian iconography: useful for finding biblical figures and scenes, for example: Virgin and Child, Adoration of the Magi, Judith.
  • Iconography: general term unrelated to persons and Christian iconography, for example, animal, object, landscape, type of craft.

7. Why does my search gives no results?

There are four possible reasons:

  • You mistyped. Use the thesaurus.
  • You filled in too many fields. If one of the fields gives no results, this also applies for all
  • The KIK-IRPA doesn’t yet have photos of this object.
  • The photos of the object have not yet been entered into the database.

If you need help for your search, don’t hesitate to contact us: 02/739.67.54

8. Do you have additional photos of an object in the database?

No. When an object is entered into the database, all the photos are included.

9. Are the X-radiographs, infrared reflectographs and any other technical images entered into the database?

No. These documents are archived in the KIK-IRPA intervention files and not in the database of the Photo library. They can only be consulted by appointment. Send an email to:

10. How do I know if there are intervention files (art historical and technical research, condition and conservation reports, preliminary studies) of a certain object?

If there is a file, the number appears in the record of the object. These files can only be consulted by appointment. Send an email to:

11. Can I order a colour reproduction of a black and white photograph?

No. If the database only contains black and white photos of an object, we can not provide colour reproductions.

12. What is the difference between object number and negative number?

The object number is the identification number of an object. The negative number is the identification number of a photo. For one object number there can be several negative numbers.

13. What should I do if a negative is not yet scanned or if the scan does not display correctly?

Send an email with the negative number to: