Curator Brussels Royal Museums of Art and History; archaeologist. Destrée attended high school at the Collège de Bellevue in Dinant. He received a BA in philosophy and letters at the Facultés Universitaires Notre-Dame de la Paix in Namur, Belgium, and he studied law at the Catholic University of Louvain. After a break of several years he returned to Louvain where he enrolled in the Faculty of philosophy and letters. One of his professors, Canon Edmond Reusens (1831-1903) encouraged him to participate in a seminar of archaeology at the University of Bonn in Germany. In 1886 he was appointed deputy curator of the Brussels Musée royal d'antiquités et d'armures, housed in the Porte de Hal. After the transfer of an important part of the collection to the Palais du Cinquantenaire in 1889, Destrée was appointed a curator at this museum, which was named, in 1906, Musées royaux des Arts décoratifs et industriels, and renamed, in 1912, Musées royaux du Cinquantenaire. Destrée was a frequent contributor to the Bulletin des Musées royaux and other periodicals. He was particularly interested in wood sculpture, miniatures, tapestry, ivory, and metal arts. He wrote a study on mediaeval sculpture in the province of Brabant in 1894, Étude sur la sculpture brabançonne au moyen-âge. In 1895, he published his first study on an illuminated Book of Hours, Les heures de Notre-Dame dites de Hennessy, the illumination of which he attributed to Simon Bening (1483-1561) and his assistants, who worked in Bruges in the early sixteenth century. Destrée was actively involved in the exhibition on metal work known as "Dinanderies," which was held in Dinant in 1903. The production of brass, copper, and bronze art works, to which he dedicated several articles, flourished along the Meuse-river during the middle ages. In 1914 Destrée published an important monograph on the Flemish painter Hugo van der Goes. He dedicated it to his wife, Marie Deharveng, who had died in 1912. This study was only superseded by the monograph of Friedrich Winkler in 1964. Destrée retired in 1920. As curator of the tapestry collection he was succeeded by Marthe Crick-Kuntziger A new edition of his study, Les Heures de Notre-Dame dites de Hennesy, appeared in 1923, with facsimile illustrations of the miniatures. It was the first publication of L'Oeuvre nationale pour la reproduction de manuscrits à miniatures de Belgique, founded to promote the study of illuminated manuscripts by using reproductions, in order to protect and preserve the originals. With Pierre Bautier (1881-1962) he co-authored, in 1924, a study on Les Heures dites da Costa, another manuscript of the Ghent-Bruges School. He is not to be confused with the other "J.Destrée," the art critic and van der Weyden scholar, Jules Destrée, who is no relation.
- Destrée, Joseph, Archives de l'Université catholique de Louvain. https://archives.uclouvain.be/atom/index.php/destree-joseph, BE A4006 NA 000873.