Visitors to Antwerps Rockox House
get an impression of the opulence of the 17th century town houses of the city.
Top pieces from Antwerps Royal Museum of Fine Arts (KMSKA), currently closed for restoration, and the most important works from the Rockox House Museum transform this former burgomasters patrician residence into a luxurious art cabinet.
During the 16th and 17th centuries, a number of the worlds most renowned art collections were in Antwerp, but sadly few remain intact today, having since been dispersed.
The exhibition The Golden Cabinet. Royal Museum at the Rockox House takes the visitor into the world of wealthy 17th century citizens. What the home of the former burgomaster and patrician looked like, we know from his inventory and the painting The art cabinet of Nicolaas Rockox by Frans Francken II (now in the Alte Pinakothek in Munich). More than 100 top works from Antwerps Royal Museum of Fine Arts (KMSKA), and the most important works from the Rockox House Museum collection transform Rockoxs Keizerstraat residence into an example of what a rich Antwerp art collection of the Golden Century must have resembled: The Golden Cabinet. Paintings on display include those by Jan van Eyck, Rogier van der Weyden, Hans Memling, Peter Paul Rubens and Anthony van Dyck.
The Golden Cabinet occupies five rooms in the patricians residence, the first two of which are devoted to late mediaeval painting, with a great deal of attention and space being given to the works of art as such. To decorate the other rooms or saletten, the curators Hildegard Van de Velde (Rockox House Museum) and Nico Van Hout (KMSKA) have been inspired by baroque art rooms, with their traditional gold leather wall covering, bedecked floor to ceiling with paintings as was then the fashion. Mantelpieces reveal the original functions of the rooms one by one: the kitchen, the reception room, and the study. Precious furniture, marble busts, bound books with engravings, shells and rare items illustrate the fact that Antwerp was the production and trading centre for luxury items of the time.
Closed yet close by
After having exhibited its top pieces for the last 18 months at the brand new MAS (Museum Aan de Stroom), the Royal Museum - currently closed for renovation - is now presenting another part of the collection via a new concept at Antwerps Rockox House Museum. In this way, its collection remains close by and accessible to the public. The modern pieces from the KMSKA collection can be seen at the Koningin Fabiolazaal whilst the old altar pieces are back on display in their place of origin, the Cathedral of Our Lady.