A location with a history

The baroque building in which the Rubenianum has its premises has a history that goes back several centuries. Once a jewel in the city scene, it later lapsed into oblivion. Then in 1942 it was rediscovered, and almost forty years later it was given a brand new lease of life.

Rubens’ neighbors

Since 1981 the Rubenianum has occupied premises in the restored Kolveniershof. This adjoins the Rubenshuis, where the painter lived with his family and where he had his studio. In Rubens’s day, the guild of the Antwerp kolveniers or kloveniers, one of the city’s civic militias, met here, on what was then the outskirts of the city, for shooting practice and festive gatherings. It was the Kolveniers, whose weapon was the arquebus, who commissioned from Rubens the renowned triptych with the Descent from the Cross for their altar in Antwerp Cathedral. Rubens was made an honorary member of the guild, and his contemporary and friend Nicolaas Rockox, burgomaster of Antwerp, was the guild’s headman for many years.


A place for culture

Ever since the Middle Ages, civic militias had maintained order in the city. Later they evolved into prestigious social clubs. The kolveniers’ richly decorated guild hall, which was built in 1630-1636, was used for the guild’s meetings, receptions and banquets, besides which concerts, plays, masked balls, and even tightrope-walking spectacles took place there. In the 18th century it was Antwerp’s primary location for auctions of paintings. After 1950, the Kolveniershof was used temporarily as a rehearsal space for the municipal ballet school of Jeanne Brabants and for the drama school Studio Herman Teirlinck. After it reopened as the Rubenianum, it was the venue for Antwerp’s  afternoon concerts for over twenty years.


The changing fortunes of the Kolveniershof

After a fire raged through the building in 1737, the renowned architect Jan Pieter van Baurscheit oversaw its restoration. In 1798 the state sold the building, after which it underwent numerous renovations and passed into oblivion, until its eventual ‘rediscovery’ in 1942. Finally, in 1971 it was designated a protected historic building. The building’s restoration (1975-1980) uncovered numerous original features. The architect Jos Gabriëls supervised the work and also designed an annexe for the collections, the offices, and the reading room. The garden was designed by René Latinne.