RE-VIEWING THE CONSTCAMER
A digital approach
In seventeenth-century Antwerp a new type of painting emerged: the ‘Pictures of Collections’ genre, also known as the constcamer. Such paintings depict interiors filled with objects of art and culture, science and nature, and were created almost exclusively in Antwerp and Brussels between 1600 and 1700. It has been suggested that about one hundred constcamer paintings survive, but a total of 150 to 200 seems more likely after a first survey. All of them were painted by about sixty different artists who often collaborated. The complexity of the collections on display has resulted in several publications that are either aimed at creating a general overview of the genre or zoom in on only one aspect, such as a specific painting or a particular artist. Yet it is still unclear what constitutes a constcamer.
For my PhD project Visualizing Visions I am collecting all known constcamer paintings. I use digital tools to identify the corpus of artworks and to draw connections between the numerous objects that appear on them. These objects provide material to work with for specialists in many fields, ranging from archaeology to musicology, history of science and technology, botany and conchology (the study of shells), to name just a few. It is therefore almost impossible for one single expert to make sense of the whole. In addition to collaborations, the Web can be of great help. I explore the use of methods such as Linked Open Data and various database systems to find and link knowledge. The ultimate goal is to study how paintings can be converted into data in a way that allows in-depth art historical research.