Collected with steady confidence: The painted Kunstkammers of Willem Van Haecht

Ben Van Beneden, 26 September 2010

Willem van Haecht (1593-1637) painted a number of Kunstkammers – pictures of art collections – that are among the best produced in 17th-century Antwerp. The great appeal and importance of his works derive in part from the extraordinary abundance of images they display and their ingenious mix of narrative elements, but above all from the complex and inventive qualities of their composition and iconography. Furthermore, Van Haecht’s paintings contain extensive allusions to Rubens’s erudite world.

In his lecture, Ben Van Beneden explored these works’ multiple layers of meaning and showed how they reflected contemporary ideas about art and collecting. These ideas were rooted to a large extent in the ancient and contemporary writings of authors such as Seneca and Lipsius. Van Haecht was also a keen observer of everyday details of the surrounding world.