The story

Portraits with a glance and a blush

The Phoebus Foundation has teamed up with the Snyders&Rockox House in Antwerp to organize a unique exhibition devoted to the history of portrait art. The Foundation has selected the finest portraits from its collection, from the late Middle Ages through to the early modern era, to tell the fascinating story of this genre.  The panels and canvases are accompanied by a rich portfolio of accessories and attributes, including rattles, jewellery and much more besides. In this way, history becomes tangible and the portraits come to life.

The historical character of these patrician homes makes the Snyders&Rockox House a perfect setting for the exhibition. The portraits are being shown in their natural habitat, but with Walter Van Beirendonck’s original scenography adding a surprising look. The host will be Nicolaas Rockox himself, the subject of many a portrait in his day. Here are just some of the many portrait artists included in the show: Quinten Massys, Frans Floris, Jan van Hemessen, Peter Paul Rubens, Anthony van Dyck, Jan Cossiers and Jan Boeckhorst.

The Emperor’s Chapel located a short distance away is the perfect setting, meanwhile, for the medieval, religiously inspired portraits and triptychs featuring the likeness of their donor. From divine to individual, realistic to embellished, selfie to group portrait: you’ll be hard put to take in so much beauty at the Keizerstraat exhibition.

And as if that weren’t enough, the celebrated Antwerp Church of St Charles Borromeo on Hendrik Conscienceplein provides the setting for a group of moving children’s portraits. And at the Vleeshuis Museum, lastly, paintings by Frans Snyders from the Phoebus Foundation collection show that early modern people not only loved fashion but gastronomy too.

Are you ready for a dialogue with richly dressed ladies, a woolly kitchen maid, a bishop or a patrician? Don’t worry: they won’t answer back. But one way or another they will divulge their secrets, allowing themselves to be slowly read.

Tickets are on sale via the website and at reception (with a surcharge). At the beginning of your visit, you will be given a booklet at the Snyders&Rockox House Museum to guide you round the various historical locations.