Mission & profile
The Rockox House is a museum of art history, a contribution from KBC to preserving the Flemish cultural heritage and a witness to one of the most important periods in the history of Antwerp, from the Fall of Antwerp in 1585, with the subsequent closure of the Scheldt, to the Peace of Munster in 1648, which marked the final separation of Northern and Southern Netherlands.
It was the home of Nicolaas Rockox (1560-1640), a key figure in the politics, society and culture of the first half of the 17th century. The furnishing of the house demonstrates the interest Rockox had in archaeology, and Roman history in particular, as well as in humanism and his patronage. Several artists enjoyed his patronage and today still serve as references to the prosperous baroque period the city enjoyed. The museum opens up its collection and its garden for the enjoyment of a broad and diverse, local, regional and indeed international public.
The Rockox House was purchased on 1 December 1970 by Kredietbank (now KBC Bank NV) which, at the same time, established the Nicolaas Rockox Foundation, a non-profit organisation. Within the framework of changing charity law in Belgium, the foundation’s articles of association were amended by the General Meeting on 31 March 2004, and the name changed to Nicolaas Rockox Museum vzw (non-profit organisation). Under Article 1 of the articles of association amendment, the vision of the organisation to run the Rockox House as a museum was brought in line with the terms and conditions of ICOM (International Council of Museums): “The organisation has as its mission – free from any profit motive and as a permanent institution in the service of society and its development – to manage the Rockox House Museum. A key element in this strategy is, through the Rockox House, to evoke the eminent figure of Nicolaas Rockox as burgomaster, patron and art collector. As his historical home, the Rockox House is, at the same time, the physical proof of both the historical zenith and the present rebirth of Flanders. The organisation opens the Rockox House to the public, acquires, conserves and researches the tangible and intangible heritage of Nicolaas Rockox and his environment, and then communicates and exhibits that heritage for the purposes of education, study and enjoyment.”
The purpose of the museum is to let visitors acquaint themselves with the rich culture of 17th century Flanders (in this case especially Antwerp) by evoking as much as possible the home and life of a contemporary patrician. To achieve this we adopt a thoroughly researched educational approach. By creating the museum, we are also attempting to enhance the standing of Antwerp as one of the foremost baroque cities in Western Europe. We try to captivate our visitors – in the positive meaning of the verb – by giving them a real sense of what it was like living in one of the most turbulent times in the history of Antwerp. Since 1997, we have been organising regular temporary exhibitions featuring either the contents of the house or aspects in the life of its owner, Nicolaas Rockox, taking advantage – where possible – of annual events or periodical themes being promoted regionally or nationally. The museum thus contributes actively to the development and attraction not only of the city and the region, but also of Flanders and Belgium.