Rockoxhuis (The Rockox House) is a former residence of the Rockox family and Belgian private museum of KBC Bank in the city of Antwerp, Belgium.
Nicolaas Rockox (Antwerp, 1560–1640) occupied this house during the first half of the seventeenth century. He played a highly important part in the political, artistic and social life of his city, occupying several positions of responsibility, among them as alderman and burgomaster.
The memory of this important, seventeenth-century patrician is kept alive today in the evocation of his burgomaster’s residence in Antwerp.
The house is a typical example of the Architecture that was popular with the bourgeosie the early 17th century in Antwerpen. It has an inner garden with fine herbs, and has features of an Italian pallazo.
The courtyard is an evocation of the early 17th century city garden, which Rockox probably had. He ordered plants, shrubs and trees in Aix-en-Provence, with the botanist and humanist Nicolas Claude Fabri de Peiresc (1580-1637). The shipment has been documented through accompanying correspondence that was kept. Some of these plants form part of the interior garden like olive trees, oleanders, styrax, a velvet tree and many others. During the spring there are tulips, and in the summer lilies adorn the garden.
The garden evolved into a place where science, art and philosophy found each other. Rockox had a number of garden treaties and philosophical works by Justus Lipsius, whom he knew personally. Abraham Ortelius, Christoffel Plantijn and Jan Moretus also belonged to his circle of knowledge. Peter Paul Rubens called him his “friendly end pattern”.
The four doors of the garden are painted by students of the Artesis Hogeschool Antwerpen with trompe-l’oeils that were present in 17th century city gardens, especially to invoke the illusion of a large garden and to strengthen the perspective.
The KBC Group bought the property in 1970 and under the auspices of the bank, the foundation Nicolaas Rockox was founded, responsible for the restoration and management of the property. Between 1972 and 1977, the building was transformed into a museum and polyvalent spaces. The house witnesses the 17th century cultural wealth and appearance of Antwerp.
The Rockox House houses special furniture (including art cabinets, crates and beautifully sculpted closets), ceramics, sculptures, tapestries and a large collection of paintings from Rubens, Antoon van Dyck, Jacob Jordaens, Joachim Patinir, David Teniers de Jonge, Joos de Momper, Frans Snyders, Jan Brueghel de Oude and Pieter Breugel de Jonge.
The current rooms are ornated with the art collection of KBC Bank. This collection is put permanently on display, like the paintings would be presented in the 16th Century. Famous is the collection of old masters.
However, this collection is not the historic collection as owned by the Rockox family. Besides paintings the current KBC collection includes important engravings, sculptures and textiles.