Artists’ Collections in the Netherlands

Artists’ Collections in the Early Modern Netherlands

Marlise Rijks

Other involved Scholars: 

Sven Dupré, Koenraad Jonckheere


Jan I Brueghel and Peter Paul Rubens, Allegory of Sight (1618)

While Early Modern Netherlandish painters were often avid collectors, systematic research on artists' collecting is missing. Which networks did they use while collecting? What did they collect? Did their collections differ from other collections? How did these collections function within the workshop? Did collections affect or represent the artists’ view on art theory and art production itself? This project maintained that Early Modern artists’ collections, ranging from naturalia over books to fine arts, were vital to artistic inventio. It aimed at describing and defining how the artists’ collections shaped artists' concepts of art theory and art itself. As such, the research opened new perspectives on art history as a discipline, introducing concepts and methodologies current in the history of science and the history of collecting into art history.

Focusing on artists’ collections provided an opportunity to look at collections in relation to artistic and scholarly practices. Unlike most collectors, artists have left us products that are revealing sources to investigate the actual use of material objects. Artists operated in networks of other collectors and producers. The functioning of their formal and informal network also provided important clues to artistic production. Who were the producers, the traders, and the collectors? How was relevant knowledge translated from one group of people to another and what kind of material objects were involved? How did the economic value of objects impact artistic practice?


  • Dupré, Sven & Lüthy, Christoph (eds.): Silent Messengers: The Circulation of Material Objects of Knowledge in the Early Modern Low Countries, Berlin, LIT Verlag, 2011.
  • Dupré, Sven: “Trading luxury glass, picturing collections and consuming objects of knowledge in early seventeenth-century Antwerp”, Intellectual History Review, vol. 20, 53-78.

Funding Institutions

Research Foundation - Flanders (FWO)