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Een huis vol kunst: Rubens als verzamelaar

A house of art: Rubens as collector Exhibition: 6 March - 13 June 2004


Kristin Belkin* and Fiona Healy

Part of multi-museum program Rubens 2004.

From the museum website

For the very first time this exhibition wishes to assemble a large part of Rubens’ valuable art collection in his own splendid house at the Wapper. A collection which consisted of paintings, including masterpieces from Titian, Brueghel and Van Dyck; many precious prints and drawings; exquisite classical sculptures; ivory works; cameos and coins; vases in agate and chrystal. The painter-diplomat collected for his own status, but the collection became at the same time a magnificent source of knowledge and inspiration, both for him and his collaborators.

From the Rubens 2004 website

In the days when collecting art was a popular pastime amongst wealthy burghers, Rubens’s collection grew into one of the largest and most attractive in Antwerp. The variety of genres was incomparable and the range of subjects breathtaking. The painter had a sharp eye for collectible quality. His stately residence with its collection worthy of a prince was visited, among others, by the Infanta Isabella, Maria de Medici, Spinola and King Sigismund of Poland.

As an artist he was very interested by the works by his great models and sources of inspiration, Titian, Tintoretto and Vernonese. But his collection also included his Flemish predecessors and Germans such as Holbein and Elsheimer. He admired – and copied – Brueghel the Elder. Possibly no one owned as many works of the impoverished Adriaan Brouwer as the wealthy Rubens. Sculptures of every kind were also on display.

But Rubens was more than just an artist. His collection also reflected his broad interest in everyday articles from antiquity, coins, medals and cameos. All this was stored in the art room that he had built onto his house, inspired by the Pantheon in ancient Rome, and intended to provide the necessary status and glory. Rubens’s rich collection served at the same time to flaunt his status of wealthy burgher and esteemed public figure. But the collection was also an immediately available catalogue of ideas and motifs for Rubens himself, and for his employees. It also had an economic purpose, as Rubens both bought and sold works of art.


Kristin Lohse Belkin* and Fiona Healy, with an introductory essay by Jeffrey M. Muller, A house of art: Rubens as collector, Antwerp (Rubenshuis and Rubenianum) 2004. 342 pp. Distributed by Exhibitions International Leuven.
ISBN 90-76704-69-4 (hardbound)
ISBN 90-76704-70-8 (softbound)

Dutch edition: Een huis vol kunst: Rubens als verzamelaar
ISBN 90-76704-68-6 (hardbound)
ISBN 90-76704-71-6 (softbound)