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De Kunstkamer_Afbeelding

Unravelling the gallery of Cornelis van der Geest

A tribute to Antwerp painters

The early seventeenth century saw the emergence of an exclusive genre in Antwerp painting, namely ‘Constkamers’ or painted art galleries. The painter captures the collection of a proud art collector in a gallery picture so that the latter can show it off. The Flemish painter Willem van Haecht was best known for his paintings of art galleries and collections. Only a few of his works have been preserved: three rare Galleries of Cornelis van der Geest, a prominent Antwerp art collector and patron of Rubens. One of these paintings, dated 1628, belongs to the Rubens House and is included in the Flemish List of Masterpieces. The work was recently subjected to a thorough restoration by the experts of the Royal Institute for Cultural Heritage (KIK-IRPA).

Only a handful of painters produced such gallery pictures. As far as can be ascertained, no more than a hundred paintings were preserved. These were produced for the free market and, in some instances, commissioned by kings. It is difficult to determine why this fascinating genre was only practiced in Antwerp.

De kunstkamer van Cornelis van der Geest

How should we read this painting?

Unravelling the gallery

The walls of Cornelis van der Geest’s gallery are hung with 43 (!) paintings, 24 of which are still known to us today. Art lovers, artists and other distinguished guests meet and converse in this imaginary world. They are surrounded by fabulous collections of paintings, sculptures, prints, antique coins, globes, porcelain and so much more. There is a lot to see in this work and a lot to say about it too. Here we present some highlights.

Onderzoek kunstkamer

A closer look at the restoration

Unravelling the gallery

After a lengthy and complex restoration, that took two years, the Gallery of Cornelis van der Geest is back on display at the Rubens House. The (inter)national masterpiece from the museum’s own collection was subjected to a comprehensive conservation and restoration at the Royal Institute for Art Heritage (KIK-IRPA). Thanks to a thorough restoration of the panel, the addition of a pioneering support, and tailor-made protection, this masterpiece can be durably preserved for future generations.