Rijks, Catalysts of Knowledge
This dissertation tells the story of the collections of artists and artisans in early seventeenth-century Antwerp. Based on archival research of probate inventories, it turns out that many artists and artisans had rich collections containing diverse objects (of art, artifice, naturalia, exotica, scientific instruments) and, as such, belonged to a community of knowledgeable liefhebbers (or, at the very least, aspired to be part of this community). The methodological innovation of close reading and analyzing probate inventories of otherwise unknown people, demonstrates that the critical mass of knowledgeable burgers in an early modern city such as Antwerp was much larger than was hitherto known. They operated in a (often tight) network, in which erudition, hands-on experience, and visual knowledge were the standard. This is yet another argument in favor of the thesis of cities as ‘hubs of knowledge’ in early modern knowledge societies, but it also uncovers new specificities about how the material world was understood in Antwerp’s collectors’ rooms.