Skip to main content

The centrepiece of this room is an idealised view of a 17th-century Flemish collector’s cabinet, depicting connoisseurs inspecting and admiring works of art. In our display, the painting is surrounded by small paintings similar to those included in this imaginary scene.

From the late 16th century, specialist artists in the Northern Netherlands and in Flanders, including Joachim Wtewael and Jan Brueghel the Elder, catered for the demand for small-scale paintings painted with a level of detail that encouraged close looking.

Popular subjects included religious, mythological and historical themes; allegories; church interiors; and scenes of everyday life. Detailed studies of perspective and a lively interest in natural phenomena – including atmospheric effects and all manner of flora and fauna – reflect artists’ fascination with the enormous advancements in science and technology that took place during the period.