In 2010, the museum building in Antwerp's trendy South quarter celebrates its 120th anniversary. However, the origins of the KMSKA's impressive collection date back a lot further. Here is a brief overview.
1382: The Guild of St Luke
The foundation of today's museum collection was laid towards the end of the 14th century, when the Antwerp guild of painters was established. The guild was named after St Luke, the patron saint of artists and the first to create an image of the Virgin Mary. The Guild of St Luke had a meeting and banqueting hall, known as the 'painters' chamber', which was adorned with paintings by its members. In 1614, for example, Peter Paul Rubens donated Holy Family with Parrot, a painting that can now be admired in the Rubens room of the museum.
1663: The guild becomes an academy
Under the impulse of painter David Teniers the Younger, a member of the Guild of St Luke, an Antwerp Academy was established. The new institution found accommodation for teaching and a new painters' chamber at the Antwerp Bourse. As previously in the guildhall, the rooms were decorated by member artists. The ceiling paintings, for example, were by Jacob Jordaens and Theodoor Boeyermans. The art displayed in the painters' chamber served as study material for artists in the making. The Guild of St Luke was abolished altogether in 1773, and the works from the painters' chamber were transferred to the Academy. In addition to work by Rubens, the guild's collection included paintings by Abraham Grapheus, Cornelius de Vos and Jacob Jordaens.
1794: The French art heist
During the French occupation (1794 - 1796), numerous works of art where transferred from various locations in Antwerp - including the painters' chamber, the city hall, and various churches and monasteries - to Musée Central in Paris, which was housed in the buildings of the Louvre. After the return of these pieces in 1815, twenty-six paintings, mostly by Rubens, were incorporated into the collection of the Academy's museum. Both the museum and the Academy had, meanwhile, moved to the former monastery of the Friars Minor in Mutsaertstraat. Slowly but surely, the collection of 16th and 17th-century art was beginning to take shape.