David Teniers and the Cabinet of Archduke Leopold William

David Teniers the Younger was the court painter in Archduke Leopold William's court in Brussels. At the time, Brussels was part of the Spanish Netherlands and under the rule of the Hapsburg family. The Archduke had been adding to his predecessor Rudolph II's substantial collection of paintings. By the time the Archduke moved it to Vienna in 1655, it contained over 1400 paintings, concentrated in the Italian painters of the previous century. Teniers made quite a number of paintings like the one discussed in Berger--views, as it were, selections and arrangements--of groups of about 50 of the paintings. These paintings are the precursors of the modern museum exhibit catalogs, though the works in such collections were never exhibited to the public at the time. This collection remained largely intact and forms the basis of the Art History Museum's collection in Vienna. The collection was, according to its modern curator, the first large collection to open its doors to the public (in 1781).

Frontispiece of the Theatrum Pictorium, 1660The "views" furnished by the other paintings show how a very large collection could be tuned to different emphases and tonalities. If you compare Berger's version (reproduced below) with this view in the Prado Museum you see much reduced suffering and violence in the Prado take and much more lush mythological flesh, beginning with the three "secular" Titians that overhang the room.

While these numerous takes did provide limited ways of epitomizing and also publicizing the collection, Teniers went well beyond them to catalog the prominent Italian works of the collection (243) in a book (Theatrum Pictorium) which supplied information along with an engraving of each picture. This was a very large undertaking, published at first at his own expense, and was in some ways the beginning of art history and art appreciation. To make these engravings, Teniers made small scale copies of each work (thumbnails, as it were) which were then rendered as engravings by other hands. (He had of course been making small copies of the works in these "cabinet" paintings for years). So, honoring the ambition and intention of Teniers the Younger, I have made his painting (the version cited by Berger) into an imagemap linking to available digital copies of the still existing works. One cannot even begin to imagine how a scanner would have excited him!

[Note:This imagemap pops windows which autosize to the dimensions of their contents in most browsers except Chrome. With Chrome, some dragging of corners will be necessary.]


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