Cognoscenti in a Room hung with Pictures

Image credit: The National Gallery, London

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Eleven finely dressed men inspect and discuss the contents of a large room packed with works of art, astronomical instruments and antiques. Their distinctive features suggest that these might be portraits of known artists, connoisseurs, collectors and art dealers – the ‘cognoscenti’ of the painting’s title – though none have been securely identified. The paintings, sculptures and prints are apparently meticulous miniature copies of real examples by sixteenth- and seventeenth-century artists, mostly local to Antwerp, but the collection of them together in an exaggeratedly large room is the fancy of the artist. It’s most likely that the function of this picture was to showcase a range of the best in the city as a kind of aspirational ‘wish list’ for art lovers.

The National Gallery, London



Cognoscenti in a Room hung with Pictures


about 1620


Oil on oak


H 95.9 x W 123.5 cm

Accession number


Acquisition method

Bequeathed by John Staniforth Beckett, 1889

Work type



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The National Gallery, London

Trafalgar Square, London, Greater London WC2N 5DN England

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