Frans Francken II, A Collection, KMSKA, Antwerp.

PART OF THE WHOLE: Art Chambers

The painted art chamber or "constcamer" is a genre that originates in Antwerp after about 1610. It is connected with the rise of collectors and art connoisseurs who profile themselves by means of this exclusive genre. There are only about 100 examples surviving.

Under the impulse of Jan Brueghel I (1568-1625) and Frans Francken II (1581-1642) the art chamber takes on form. In the first case, Francken paints walls with all types of objects that exude an encyclopaedic character: paintings, sculptures and ecofacts. In a following stage the wall is expanded into a chamber that is fully stuffed with paintings and other works of art, jewelry and naturalia. People are also depicted in the art chamber. It is not seldom that it deals with an allegory in which the Pictura or the art of painting is central. The patrons portrayed were connected to an art collection that indeed contains a representation of intellectual and financial prestige.

Willem van Haecht (1593-1637) and David Teniers II (1610-1690) bring the genre to a high point. In The Gallery of Cornelis van der Geest is the cream of the Antwerp painting, amongst whom are Rubens and van Dyck, coming together in the presence of the Archduke and Duchess Albrecht and Isabella. The proud collector Van der Geest receives his guests in a staggering art chamber. It is unclear as to how far all of the works of art belong to his collection. Realistic presentations of existing collections are rather rare.

Teniers is the first painter who takes the genre outside the walls of Antwerp. His series of art chambers accommodate the collected paintings from the collection of Governor Leopold Wilhelm (1614-1662). Especially worthy of noting is his publication Theatrum Pictorium in which Leopold Wilhem's Italian paintings are duplicated. It is the first painting catalog in history.

Matthias Depoorter