Today, the Rubenshuis collection comprises 13 masterpieces. All of them works that have been included in the Flemish Masterpiece List because they are "rare and indispensable". The 2003 Masterpiece Decree ensures that masterpieces cannot simply leave Flanders and that they are protected and preserved as well as possible. Nine masterpieces from our museum are given a place in the 'Rare & Indispensable' exhibition. What makes these works so special?
Masterpiece of masterpieces
A masterpiece full of masterpieces is how this particular painting can be described. This ambitious depiction is the painted representation of the art collection of Cornelis van der Geest. In the early 17th century, an exclusive genre in painting emerged in Antwerp: 'constkamers'. In such an art room, the painter captures an art collector's collection so that he can show it off. Master of the genre is Antwerper Willem van Haecht. Only three of his paintings are known: three rare Art Rooms by Cornelis van der Geest, an important Antwerp art collector and patron of Rubens.
The painting is packed with precisely executed copies of Van der Geest's collection. With as many as 42 paintings depicted, 21 of which are still known today, this work is a museum in itself. In addition, it is also a unique group portrait. A kind of 'who's who' of the cultural elite of the time, including Rubens and Anthony van Dyck.
Rubens himself provides no fewer than 41 works on the Flemish Masterpiece List. 6 of them are from our museum. And all of them were also made in his studio on the Wapper.
You can see the other works by Rubens today at the Cathedral, the Royal Museum of Fine Arts in Antwerp, the Museum Plantin-Moretus, among others. They are not only paintings, but also drawings and a tapestry.
Rare & Indispensable
The temporary exhibition 'Rare and indispensable. Masterpieces from Flemish collections' runs from 31 October 2023 to 25 February 2024 at the MAS.
We gave these nine masterpieces from the Rubens House collection on loan:
- Peter Paul Rubens, Self-portrait, oil on panel, 1623-1630
- Peter Paul Rubens, Henry IV at the Battle of Ivry, oil on canvas, 1630
- Willem Van Haecht, The Art Room of Cornelis van der Geest, oil on panel, 1628
- Theodore Rogiers, Silver ornamental set, King Baudouin Foundation permanent loan, 1635
- Bust of 'Seneca', Roman, 1st century AD, marble
- Trapezophoros, Greece or Asia Minor, 2nd century, marble
- Liber Amicorum of Nicolaas Rockox, manuscript, 1579-1636
- Georg Petel, Adam and Eve, ivory, 1627
- Art cabinet, Antwerp, c. 1640, oak veneered with ebony, decorated with paintings on copper by Victor Wolfvoet