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Rooms full of art in seventeenth-century Antwerp

28.11.09 - 28.02.10

In seventeenth-century Antwerp wealthy citizens tended to amass large art collections. But Rubens's collection was probably the largest in the city, with a large number of valuable collector's items and exclusive pieces.

Nowadays you can still admire part of Rubens's collection in the art room of the Rubens House.


A new painting genre

The artist Willem van Haecht (1593-1637) specialised in painting "art rooms" or paintings of rooms filled with paintings and other art objects. In the early seventeenth century, in Rubens's time, this was a fascinating new painting genre. It was extremely successful because art collectors liked to show off their prized possessions. The artist managed to showcase their entire collection in one painting. Some of these private art galleries even resembled museums. They are an inexhaustible feast for the eyes and the soul. But in a sense they are also a catalogue of artworks of the era.


Three splendid "art rooms"

We only have three works by Willem van Haecht, three magnificent private art galleries. All three paintings depict the stunning collection of Cornelis Van der Geest (1555-1638), an eminent Antwerp art collector. Van Haecht was the curator of Van der Geest's collection. The three art rooms are the central pieces in this exclusive collection, where these three masterpieces are shown together for the first time ever.

The National Gallery in London, the Prado in Madrid, the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna, the British Royal Collection and several private collectors loaned other masterpieces, by Anthony van Dyck, David Teniers and Quentin Massys among others, to the Rubens House for this exhibition.