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Depictions of rooms full of art, or konstkamer images, constitute a distinct genre that arose and flourished in Antwerp in early decades of the seventeenth century. They have been seen in relation to the rapid growth of art collecting in Antwerp, and the new forms of status associated with it, and to the rise of global as well as local art marketplaces.
Yet, even as these pictures idealize art collecting as an interlocking structure of social, political, and spiritual ideals—qualities that inform the ideal male citizen—they also mobilize sexual and economic discourses that intimate the difficulties of controlling potentially destructive desires. Focusing on works produced by the studio of Frans Francken the Younger, this essay investigates the gendered force of these discourses and proposes that the masculine virtue constructed in gallery pictures relies upon the mastery of dangers coded as feminine.
Most prominent among these are the threats of sensory pleasures and appetites.
Paintings crowd the walls. Works of sculpture, antiquities, and musical instruments share the space with a globe, maps, and exotic warm-water shells. The table by the windows at left displays an early version of the barometer, a device renowned in the seventeenth century as a perpetual motion machine. This fictional assemblage conveys a set of themes and allegorical motifs promoting the virtues of the arts and the legitimacy of knowledge gained through the sensory apprehension of the world. In konstkamer pictures, art lovers execute the forms of civility that were becoming increasingly important across the Netherlands as greater wealth necessitated finer representations of social distinction.
These figures enact the humanistic values of the pan-European Republic of Letters, while also displaying a specifically local civic identity: many of the gallery pictures produced in Antwerp feature locally produced artwork.
In the Walters painting, this civic theme is conveyed with special force. The sculpted figures over the doorway represent Mercury and Minerva, who were often invoked together in the seventeenth-century defense of painting as a liberal art that can persuade and instruct its viewers. The works of art filling the space recall the styles and genres practiced by a broad range of local artists.
The largest of the depicted paintings, centrally placed above the back sideboard, is an allegory in the style of Otto van Veen, the Antwerp humanist painter and publisher of learned emblems, praised in his own time as pictor doctus fig. Pictura, recognizable by the mask of imitatio on her right shoulder, is gently supported by the winged Fame on the right.
Propped diagonally against a chair, this painting commands our special attention as the only one that interrupts the otherwise strict rectilinearity of the composition fig. Here, an ass-eared figure and his animal-headed companions destroy paintings and musical instruments. But even as the virtues of art and art lovers can be rendered as mutually supportive, paintings of art collections also betray anxieties about art as a desirable object of commerce and a source of sensory delight, against which its virtues must be continually asserted.
In the Walters picture, these dangers are alluded to in the three paintings at the left of the back wall, noteworthy as the only works representing historiaor narrative pictures fig. Their inclusion here ascribes to konstkamer pictures the elevating intellectual functions associated with historia in Renaissance academic art theory. This group begins on the far left with a night scene depicting Judith and Holoferenes. In the seventeenth century Judith was a multivalent figure, well represented in literary and visual traditions. Her image could incline toward that of a masculine virago who abandoned her femininity when she wielded a sword and murdered a man, or she could be portrayed as a beautiful seductress who vanquished Holofernes not so much with her strength and cunning, as with her womanly wiles.
Here both father and son are exemplars of male adherence to divine and paternal law and the requirements of duty: the son who obeys his father, and the father who obeys the command of God. If the Judith and Diana pictures denote the dangers to men of sensory indulgence, then the Abraham and Isaac image asserts that overcoming the emotions has enduring necessity as a condition of masculine authority. Taken together, as the composition encourages the viewer to do, these three subjects elaborate upon the specific conditions under which the rescue of Pictura can be secured.
The love of art must not be fed by an unfettered lust for beauty. Instead, the desirable body of Picturamust remain allied with the armored body of Wisdom, as depicted in the painting above the sideboard. In rendering Pictura as a partially undraped figure, these artists mobilize the well-established Renaissance trope of female beauty as a for Art, while also implicitly positing the ideal liefhebber as a desirous male. Over the course of the seventeenth century the allure of Pictura was increasingly understood to include not only the dangers of beauty as a spur to destructive sensory appetites but also the morally fraught enticements of the marketplace.
The view through the doorway on the left offers a glimpse of the Doubting Thomas triptych ca. The largest, centrally placed image is another Rubens picture that Rockox owned, the Samson and Delilah ca. The Virgin and Christ diptych directly below represents a Metsys that was in the Rockox collection. This diachronic scheme coexists with the allegory of the senses that is enacted by the fashionable couples as they drink, dine, and make music and is further developed by the paintings arrayed behind them. Antithesis, like that exemplified by the liefhebbers who view the depiction of iconoclasm, is one organizing rhetorical structure in this image.
The Sense of Sight in this series depicts a richly appointed art cabinet in which vision is celebrated as the instrument of knowledge, faith, and learned forms of delight. This rhetorically fluid representation of the senses effectively assisted the construction of masculinity among the Antwerp elite. Men whose wealth had allowed them to retire from commercial enterprise Copper Center masculine lover sought patents of nobility, and those still in the marketplace sought the trappings of an aristocratic way of life. Conspicuous consumption was an instrument of social distinction: living like a noble could be a first step toward obtaining the patent Rockox, who came from an affluent, though not noble family, was knighted one year after he married Adriana Perez, the daughter of a wealthy merchant.
Second, it could function as an index of credit-worthiness. In a society in which status was founded increasingly upon mercantile wealth, living well could serve as an indication of fiscal solvency and acumen. Flemish painting had functioned to promote both Copper Center masculine lover standing and entrepreneurial trustworthiness in a tradition extending back to the fifteenth century.
The ideal of masculinity that it proposes is of an upright man who will not be laid low by his lust and who will balance his pursuit of profit with the aims of faith. His position within a world of sociability demonstrates the trust accorded him by others—a quality essential to conducting trade—while his sensory enjoyment of fine food, drink, and music, as well as works of art emulates the forms of noble, Copper Center masculine lover living.
The Rockox picture, in this reading, proposes that masculine virtue is not a state of absolute difference from veniality and vice but is achieved as a matter of degree, requiring balance and discernment in acts of cultural and sensory consumption. Balance is also at stake in another Francken konstkamer picture, one that stresses both the production and consumption of works of art.
The artist who masters Fortuna by transforming her into an image performs constancy, a key Neostoic virtue, described by Lipsius as the capacity to resist base desires and appetites so as to be ruled instead by reason and faith. The mantel picture on the left depicts Croesus and Solon, a story drawn from Herodotus and Plutarch, in which the wise man Solon rebuked King Croesus for mistaking his wealth for Copper Center masculine lover. At the center of the back wall, flanked by images of the Crucifixion and the Adoration of the Magi, a large painting of the Death of Seneca invokes the guiding philosopher of Neostoicism.
Taken together these depicted pictures contrast the value of wealth with spiritual and philosophical insight. More specifically, they invite us to see the artist positioned directly below them as guided in his labors not by greed but by faith and reason. However, s of wealth reappear in the pile of gold and jewels displayed upon the table.
With the inclusion of the aristocratic couple who appear to be patrons or clients, Francken depicts the multiple productive activities of the studio: not only is it a workshop that trains the next generation of artists indicated by the pupil studiously at work in the foreground thus perpetuating the fertile system, it is also a site where laudable goods of value are made and sold. In an engraving attributed to the studio of Marcantonio Raimondi, Fortuna, again balancing upon balls and holding a rudder, another one of her attributes, is seized by a man who flogs her into submission fig.
Fortuna in this context resonates not only with Neostoic morals but also with mercantile desires to overcome the unpredictable elements of risky ventures. The rise of a capital economy of surplus in the early modern Southern and Northern Netherlands necessitated new attitudes: expenditure on goods, even, or perhaps especially on luxury goods, kept the economy running. But all of this was fueled by the troublesome and difficult to control passion of desire. In konstkamer paintings it is not only the sensory appetites that must be mastered, guarded against and brought into a careful and judicious balance but also the enticements of risky, heedless behaviors in the marketplace, itself conceived of in this period as a seductress.
Threatened by the lure of excess expenditure, or the sterility of miserly withholding, masculine virtue emerges in the works discussed here as a dynamic and unstable quality expressed through overlapping motifs of sexual and economic expenditure or restraint. While konstkamer pictures aim to smoothly match representation, possession, knowledge, and virtue, they do so not as a settled and triumphant claim but as a difficult and fraught ideal toward which the exemplary man—the Catholic, citizen, merchant, and lover of painting—must strive.
I wish to thank Dawn Odell and Kathleen Ryor for conceiving of and editing this festschrift. Alison Kettering first introduced me to the enduring pleasures of studying Netherlandish art. I am grateful for all of her kindness and her exceedingly generous and inspiring work as a teacher, scholar, and colleague. I also wish to acknowledge Copper Center masculine lover attentive and helpful work of the anonymous reviewer of this essay.
Figure 1. Baltimore, Walters Art Museum, inv. Figure 2. Detail of fig. Figure 3. Figure 4. Figure 5. Figure 6. Minneapolis Institute of Arts, inv. Figure 7. Private collection, Getxo, Spain artwork in the public domain. Figure 8.
Acknowledgments I wish to thank Dawn Odell and Kathleen Ryor for conceiving of and editing this festschrift. List of Illustrations Figure 1. Private collection, Getxo, Spain artwork in the public domain Figure 8. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, The Sword of Judith. Cambridge: Open Book Publishers, Available online: www. Rubens: Samson and Delilah. London: National Gallery, Carroll, Margaret. Ciletti, Elena.
Ithaca: Cornell University Press, Madrid: Museo del Prado, Filipczak, Zirka. Picturing Art in Antwerp, — Princeton: Princeton University Press, Gage, Frances. Georgievska-Shine, Aneta. Haeger, Barbara. Freren: Luca Verlag,Copper Center masculine lover
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