This spot was the heart of the house and is where you can discover the very best of the art collection. Rockox’s picture gallery is proof positive that collecting is a passion that can fill entire rooms! Peter Paul Rubens, Jacques Jordaens and Anthony van Dyck: three of our very finest painters all in a row. And terracotta, silverware, marble, coins and books – you name it, Rockox had it in this shrine to art. There are two art cabinets here as well, built to store precious items. With their little compartments, drawers, doors and well-kept secrets they are veritable symbols of the art of collecting.

Jan van Hemessen mainly painted religious and genre scenes, but also produced satirical portraits. St Jerome was born in 347 in Stridon, in what is now Croatia, and died in Bethlehem in 420. At the age of about 37, he was appointed secretary to Pope Damasus in Rome. The pontiff was full of praise for his knowledge of languages, which also made him a model for the 16th-century humanists. The pope commissioned Jerome to translate the Old Testament from Hebrew to Latin. This is the only artwork we still have today that belonged to the original Rockox collection.

Van Dyck is one of the figureheads of the Baroque. But just because he was an experienced painter, this did not mean he could conjure up a masterpiece from nowhere. For every master, it was a question of constant practice and reinvention. Sketches and experiments were all part of the job. Van Dyck sketched a study for a man’s head that acted as a model for various depictions of St Jerome, using white highlights to subtly suggest the greying of the man’s hair. He was particularly skilled in capturing the character of his sitters.