The history of art in early modern Europe would be unthinkable without Antwerp. And yet until quite recently, Antwerp was a place that nobody talked much about. Scholarship on the southern Netherlandish city (now part of Belgium) long remained the province of local historians, the indefatigable Floris Prims notable among them. And while first Pieter Paul Rubens and then Pieter Bruegel the Elder met with increasing art-historical interest following Belgium’s assertion of independence in 1830, a dogged nationalistic approach to their oeuvres meant that the city in which they lived and worked did not generate much attention in its own right. It was the artist as Flemish genius, and not the city as stimulus, that mattered.
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