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With a little help from his friends

Rubens and the acquisition of Caravaggio’s Rosary Madonna for the Dominican church in Antwerp

In: Netherlands Yearbook for History of Art / Nederlands Kunsthistorisch Jaarboek Online
Author: Adam Sammut
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Around 1617, Caravaggio’s Rosary Madonna (Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna) was gifted to the Dominican church in Antwerp by a quadrumvirate of art-lovers – Rubens, Jan Brueghel I, Hendrick van Balen and the merchant Jan Cooymans – who were joined together by the love that is friendship (amor amicitiæ). By enacting the virtues of friendship within Antwerp’s elite circles, the art-lovers could persuade wealthy burghers to sponsor the Rosary Madonna as a civic investment. This process is examined through Rubens’ relationship with Brueghel, the election of Cooymans as ‘prince of the Violieren’ chamber of rhetoric, the artists’ deanships of the Romanists’ guild and their personal acquaintance with Hendrick Goltzius. In the Dominican church, the Rosary Madonna became part of the early modern political economy like few other artworks. As the author demonstrates, the altarpiece indexed the cultural capital of the quadrumvirate, but also their amor amicitiæ, to which it stood as an enduring testament.

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