The Rubens House
After being purchased by the city and a thorough restoration in 1937, the Rubenshuis opened its doors in 1946. In addition to a few objects that were collected in previous years, or which were gifted to the new museum, the Rubenshuis initially had little domain of a collection of its own. The empty rooms were filled with loaned objects from the Vleeshuis, the Belgian State and the Royal Museum of Fine Arts in Antwerp. In 1947, the vzw ‘Friends of the Rubenshuis' was established, which up to the present day has provided for an important contribution to the collection by way of purchases and mediation of gifts and loans. Conservator Frans Baudouin (1920-2005) formulated the first acquisitions policy. The emphasis lay upon the dressing up of the rooms with furniture and appliances. Art objects and paintings were a second priority.
Regarding the room furnishings from the house in Rubens' time, we are in the dark for the most part. No inventory of household items has been preserved. His painting collection is partially known from the sales inventory that was made after his death. Works that were intended for the family, such as portraits and drawings, were not listed in it. In the surviving correspondences, we rarely find much with regards to the objects from Rubens' collection.
The collection policy of the museum was recently evaluated and made more definite. The collection contains work from the Master himself, with chronological and typological variations within his oeuvre and in the phases of the production process. In addition to this, the collection contains work from Rubens' studio, from students and colleagues-whether or not from Rubens design-and from contemporaries and master teachers. A few paintings are known for certain to belong to Rubens' own collection; others coincide with his collection practice that was directed at antique art and Italian Masters, primarily from the 15th Century. The collection also contains antique sculptures and coins. Objects and document regarding Rubens' private life and his activities as humanist and diplomat are likewise part of the collection. For the furniture and household effects, it is the goal to evoke an interior by means of pieces, that with respect to dating, provenance and refinement are in accord with Rubens' lifestyle. Finally, the rich collection of Rubens' graphic art offers an image of the Master's oeuvre and informs something about Rubens as a businessman.
The collection of the Rubenshuis grew over the years through gifts, purchases and loans from public and private collections from Belgium and abroad. Via the King Boudewijn Institute, a variety of interesting works were added to the collection on permanent loan. The enormous inflation of the art market and the lack of structural purchasing budgets have led to the fact that a calculated expansion of the collection, has become difficult to impossible. However, the collection still has been enriched with directed purchases and long-term loans. The existing collection of the Rubenshuis is small in comparison to the other museums, but contains veritable masterpieces in the field of the 17th-century painting and sculpture art, as well as applied art.
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