The gallery with terracottas from the 17th and 18th century contains over 50 sculptures from the collection of the Antwerp connoisseur and art dealer Charles Van Herck (1884 – 1955). The art-lover’s keen eye allowed him to put together a considerable collection of masters like Artus Quellinus, Hiëronymus Duquesnoy and Michael Rysbrack. Many of the terracottas were never meant to be a works of art in itself, but rather preparatory studies for sculptures in marble, wood or iron. The collection holds bozzetti, or quick sketches in clay, alongside so called modelli; more sophisticated and detailed studies. From the workshop of Walter Pompe however, several independent artworks in terracotta are on display.
Besides aesthetically enjoying his drawings and terracottas, Van Herck also studied them in depth, focusing mainly on the life and work of Antwerp sculptors from the 17th and 18th century. In doing so, he compiled a wealth of documentation about Antwerp sculpture. He knew his subject and was a respected authority on it. As a diligent board member of the association Antwerpen’s Oudheidkundige Kring, which was co-founded by his father, he published many of his findings in the association’s yearbooks.
Charles Van Herck died in 1955, leaving his collections to his children, who in turn handed them over to the King Baudouin Foundation. In doing so they prevented this Antwerp heritage from becoming dispersed or disappearing abroad. The terracottas were placed in the custody of the Royal Museum of Fine Arts in Antwerp, who in turn generously lends them to the Bonnefantenmuseum until 2015.