Jacopo Tintoretto

David Bowie’s art collection was auctioned at Sotheby’s in London on 10 November 2016. Although the rock icon collected almost exclusively modern and contemporary art, he also owned a monumental altarpiece by Jacopo Tintoretto (1518–1594). The Italian master’s work was purchased by a private collector, who announced within minutes of the sale that it would be loaned long term to the Rubens House. Tintoretto’s St Catherine will go on display in Antwerp from 27 June 2017.

The Rubens House’s loan policy continues to spring surprises. Following ‘The “New” Van Dyck’ (head of a Brussels magistrate) and a rediscovered Self-Portrait of Anthony van Dyck, the museum will present a work from David Bowie’s former collection, now on long-term loan, beginning on 27 June 2017.


‘The Rubens House, a museum Bowie loved’

St Catherine, by the Venetian painter Tintoretto, was one of the first works of art that the British rock icon purchased. Rubens and Van Dyck also had works by Tintoretto in their private collections, which is why the new owner wants the painting to be displayed where it belongs, in the Rubens House, ‘a museum Bowie loved’.


Tintoretto, Rubens and Van Dyck

Tintoretto painted this monumental altarpiece of St Catherine between 1560 and 1570 for the church of San Geminiano on the Piazza di San Marco in Venice, where it remained until the church was demolished in 1807. Interestingly, Anthony van Dyck sketched the altarpiece during his time in Italy (1621–27) in his ‘Italian Sketchbook’, now in the British Museum, London.

Rubens and Van Dyck were both admirers of Jacopo Tintoretto. The loan enables the Rubens House to present a work by one of the most important Italian masters for the first time. Great Italian artists like Tintoretto and Titian had an important place in Rubens’s own collection and so the painting fills a significant gap in the museum’s presentation.


Rubens House receives one masterpiece after another

It is striking how the list of long-term loans to the Rubens House is growing longer and more impressive year by year. Think of the Self-Portrait of Anthony van Dyck, the Portrait of Clara Serena and now also David Bowie’s Tintoretto.

In some cases, works have even been donated, such as the Portrait of a Young Man by the Antwerp master Jan Cossiers, whose owner gave it to the Rubens House last year.

Is all this just coincidence, or is there more to it?


Pioneer in loan policy

The Rubens House has been pursuing a highly active and carefully targeted loan policy since 2007. We keep in contact with collectors throughout the world, and share our expertise with them.


The Rubens House organizes several viewings a year, at which experts closely examine and analyse works brought in by collectors. Every detail is scrutinized, often under a magnifying glass. Opinions are exchanged, arguments put forward and hypotheses suggested.

Viewings have already led to further research on several occasions, resulting in new discoveries, such as overpainting or the attribution of a work to a different artist.


The Rubens House is also active internationally. We keep track of major art sales and try to identify the purchasers of relevant works. We consolidate our links with established buyers and seek to make contact with new collectors, though always discreetly and with appropriate patience and empathy.


After ten years intensively pursuing this loan policy, the strategy is starting to bear fruit, as witnessed by two works that the Rubens House has acquired recently. But the times are also changing and art donations are on the rise.


The patron makes a comeback

Exit subsidies

For many years, municipally run museums like the Rubens House could make acquisitions out of their existing budgets. Those days, however, are now largely gone. High prices on the art market have put interesting works out of museums’ reach. Which of them today can afford the millions of euros needed to purchase an important Rubens?

It has become a major challenge for a museum to keep renewing its collection. The task now is to persuade collectors to lend the works they own to the Rubens House. But why would they want to loan, let alone donate, their masterpieces to a museum?

Passion for art

The answer is simple: lending an artwork is often a win-win for collectors. Not only can they draw on the museum’s expertise and advice when it comes to research and possible restoration, the artwork is also kept and insured in ideal conditions. What’s more, loaning a work to a museum confirms its art-historical value and offers additional prestige to the collector.

Social aspect

The most important reason of all, though, is the social aspect. Most collectors are socially engaged people with a passion for art, who are keen to share their enthusiasm with others. Just as the Rubens House wants to share its passion for the Antwerp master with its visitors.


Practical details

From 27 June 2017 at the Rubens House