Cognoscenti in a Room hung with Pictures at the National Gallery in London

Cognoscenti in a Room hung with Pictures at the National Gallery in London

In this episode, we’ll be taking a closer look at a painting by an unknown Flemish painter called ‘Cognoscenti in a Room hung with Pictures’ at the National Gallery in London. Welcome to Art, Culture & Books with me, Anthony King.

As always, I take all the photos and videos myself on location, ensuring you get an up-close and personal view of the fascinating world of art and culture.

The word Cognoscenti means “people who are especially well informed about a particular subject”. Are these a selection of finely dressed collectors and art dealers? We don’t know for sure…

This oil on oak was made about 1620. During the seventeenth century in Flanders, paintings depicting collectors and visitors within both real and predominantly imaginary settings gained popularity. This particular artwork, previously credited to Hans Jordaens the Younger, exemplifies this trend.

In this elaborate composition, eleven finely attired gentlemen engage in the examination and discussion of an extensive chamber filled with artworks, astronomical instruments, and antiques. The distinct features of these individuals suggest that they may represent known artists, connoisseurs, collectors, or art dealers – collectively referred to as the ‘cognoscenti’ in the painting’s title. However, none of them have been definitively identified.

The paintings, sculptures, and prints meticulously portrayed in the artwork are apparently scaled-down replicas of genuine works created by sixteenth- and seventeenth-century artists, predominantly from the local Antwerp scene. The artist’s imaginative touch lies in amalgamating these pieces within an exaggeratedly vast room. The primary purpose of this painting likely served as a display, presenting a curated selection of the city’s finest artistry, functioning as an aspirational ‘wish list’ for art enthusiasts.

From the early 15th century to the 17th century, Flemish painting thrived, evolving into a style distinct from the artistic traditions of the broader Low Countries. Flemish Baroque painting emerged as a distinctive artistic movement in the Southern Netherlands during the 16th and 17th centuries, a period marked by Spanish dominion. The influence of Flemish Baroque painting persisted until approximately 1700, coinciding with the conclusion of Spanish Habsburg authority following the death of King Charles II.