Jan Vaes

Five Wise and Five Foolish Virgins (1963, wall relief)
Cobbenhagen Building

Jan Vaes – Vijf wijze en vijf dwaze maagden (1963, muur reliëf)

Alumni have played an important role for Tilburg University from the very beginning. Founding father Cobbenhagen was at the cradle of TAEK, the first association of graduates, in 1934. This association—probably encouraged by Cobbenhagen to add luster to the new building—donated the wall relief by artist Jan Vaes (1927-1994) to the university. The artwork was installed in the natural stone wall above the inner garden in Cobbenhagen Building. It depicts the parable of the five wise and five foolish virgins

That parable is from the New Testament (Gospel of Matthew 25: 1-13). The story tells how ten virgins, equipped with oil lamps, await their bridegroom. Five ladies brought oil, five did not. It takes quite a while before the bridegroom arrives: night has already fallen when he suddenly appears. The five wise virgins—depicted life-size on the relief—are prepared, with oil for their lamps. In contrast, the lamps of the five foolish virgins—depicted small, bottom right—are empty, and they must search for oil. Meanwhile, the bridegroom has arrived, taking the five wise virgins inside. For the others, the door remains closed. Moral of the story: be thrifty and be vigilant, for one knows neither the day nor the hour of salvation (judgment day). A modern version of the motto—well suited to economists—arose at the end of the last century, when women were encouraged to study engineering: "een slimme meid is op haar toekomst voorbereid” (a smart girl is prepared for her future).

The wall relief is an example of the "wall art" (also murals and mosaics) that became popular during the period of reconstruction in the Netherlands. This relationship between art and architecture in public spaces was seen as a metaphor for connection: between humankind and his environment, but also between the earthly and the heavenly.

More about history and academic heritage

The Tilburg University academic heritage is a very diverse set of archives, visual materials, collections, devices, recorded stories, et cetera that relate to the history of the university.