Skip to main content

The Print Cabinet

The Print Room has a rich collection of old drawings and prints from Antwerp masters from the 16th to the 18th century. In addition, Antwerp’s most important artists are represented in the modern and contemporary collections of prints and drawings.

The Print Cabinet: a truly world-class collection

The Print Cabinet of the Museum Plantin-Moretus has more than 20,000 drawings. This rich collection is among the finest in the world, and focuses on Antwerp artists from 1500 to the present. Since 1991, the Print Cabinet has been a member of the International Advisory Committee of Keepers of Public Collections of Graphic Art, bringing together the fifty most important print rooms worldwide.

The collection of prints and drawings originated from the collection of the Museum Plantin-Moretus and the private collection of its first curator, Max Rooses. Book illustrations are an area of specialisation shared by the Museum Plantin-Moretus and the Print Cabinet. The history of the two institutions is therefore closely linked.

The superb collection of Max Rooses

Max Rooses (1839-1914) was a passionate collector of old prints and drawings that bore witness to the achievements of Antwerp’s graphic artists in the 16th and 17th centuries. He also collected prints that illustrated the editions of Christophe Plantin and the Moretus family, as well as modern prints and drawings from after 1800. 

Rooses formed his print collection step by step. In 1875 he persuaded Antwerp’s city council to purchase the print collection of Edward Ter Bruggen. In 1898, the Antwerp engraver and print dealer Jozef Linnig bequeathed his estate to Rooses. As a curator, Rooses mapped out the course that his successors would take.

A new building for a growing Print Cabinet

Over the years, the Print Cabinet added several art collections to its original collection, through donations or purchases. In 1936, Antwerp’s city council decided to demolish the dilapidated municipal housing on the corner of Vrijdagmarkt and Heilig Geeststraat. It made room for a new building that matched the architecture of the adjoining Museum Plantin-Moretus. On 11 March 1939, Mayor Camille Huysmans officially opened the Antwerp Municipal Print Cabinet.

Museum and Print Cabinet officially united

In 2004, the Ministry of the Flemish Community granted the Museum Plantin-Moretus – together with the Print Cabinet – recognition as an institution of national importance. This represented a formal confirmation of the unity of the two institutions. The adjective ‘municipal’ was subsequently also dropped, and the institution’s name officially became  Museum Plantin-Moretus/Print Cabinet.

Museum Plantin-Moretus: source of inspiration

The museum plans to expand the Print Cabinet further. The Print Cabinet is a platform for artists and graphic designers in Antwerp today. Its collection is also a source of inspiration for these artists. The integration of high-quality contemporary art and close collaboration with contemporary artists closely reflects the Museum Plantin-Moretus' overall policy.


Collection online

Digitisation is central to the management of the Museum Plantin-Moretus’ extensive collection. Using the online search modules, you can search our digital databases. In this way, you can reserve books, documents, drawings or prints that you wish to consult in the reading room.

Reading room

In our reading room you can consult numerous authentic documents. You will find a precious archive of printed works, manuscripts and drawings.

Hercules and the Nemean lion

Rubens had a soft spot for the ancient hero Hercules. In this drawing, he bends forward slightly as he crushes the head of the Nemean Lion. In his attempt to find the ideal posture, Rubens gave Hercules three right and two left legs.

Christ carrying the cross

Anthony Van Dyck’s work is also represented in the Print Cabinet’s collection. This drawing of Christ Carrying the Cross is a preparatory study for his painting of the same name that is kept in St Paul’s Church, Antwerp. In it, Van Dyck demonstrates his mastery of dynamism.

Odysseus' ship stocked with provisions by Calypso

Jacob Jordaens was a gifted draughtsman and painter. Here he shows seven servants carrying supplies aboard Odysseus’ ship, under the gaze of the lovelorn nymph Calypso.

Allegory for Abraham Ortelius

This superb little drawing on parchment was done by Joris Hoefnagel in 1593 to commemorate his friendship with the cartographer and geographer Abraham Ortelius, as the inscriptions below inform us.

View of the city with poultry market

Filips Galle was one of the most important Antwerp print publishers of the 16th century. This print shows an everyday scene with a number of market stalls at which citizens are inspecting and buying poultry.


Intelligentia or ‘Wisdom’ is a print from a series of eight works by engraver Cornelis Cort. Each picture presents a female personification of a virtue, with a creature at her side.

The knight, Death and the Devil

Jan Wierix was barely 15 years old when he made this engraving. It is an extremely detailed copy of The Knight, Death and the Devil, a work by Dürer. It was common practice to copy masters in the 16th and 17th centuries.

Portrait, Sam Dillemans

Sam Dillemans is an enormously versatile artist. Between 1993 and 2000, he perfected the art of the female portrait.

Studies for Beekeepers, Jan Fabre

Work by Jan Fabre can also be found in the Print Cabinet. This drawing is part of a series from 1994, four of which are owned by the Print Cabinet. The theme of the beekeeper often appears in Fabre’s work.

Breakfast, Rik Wouters

His wife Nel was a lifelong muse to Rik Wouters. Here, he draws her at the breakfast table.

Submarine, Panamarenko

As well as creating poetical installations, Panamarenko also makes prints of his structures. This print is a study of the submarine Panama, in which Panamarenko planned to sail to Nova Zembla.

Christ's entry into Brussels

This etching is inspired by the famous painting by James Ensor (1860-1949) with the same title from 1888.

Me voilà

Adriaan Raemdonck of Antwerp’s Gallerie De Zwarte Panter donated 23 copperplate engravings to the Print Cabinet in 2003. They were all by artist Jan Cox, and included 'Me voilà'. The etching 'Me voilà, Boston' was printed from this engraving in 1963.

Antverpia, Joris Hoefnagel

Joris Hoefnagel drew a beautifully detailed map of the city of Antwerp and the citadel, showing the city from a bird’s eye perspective. The cityscape and the main landmarks can be spotted on it. The print was published in the book Civitates Orbis Terrarum, published in the period from 1572 to 1616.

Théâtre d’Anvers, Antoine Dewasme-Plettinckx

Antoine Dewasme-Plettinckx was a well-known Brussels lithographer from the first half of the 19th century. Here he shows the Bourla Theatre in its early years, when it was still called the ‘Théâtre Royal Français’.

Antwerp's annual procession: the Jaerelycksen Ommoeganck van Antwerpen

In the 16th and 17th centuries, the streets of Antwerp thronged with parades and processions. On the occasion of the Ommegang pageant in 1685, the Antwerp printer Hieronymus Verdussen the Younger published this print by Gaspar Bouttats together with an accompanying text.

From the Print Cabinet's depot

Rubens and Tuymans lie side by side in the Print Cabinet’s storage depot. The Print Cabinet has a rich collection of drawings and prints by Antwerp’s old masters. In addition, it collects modern and contemporary work from Antwerp. Every quarter, the Print Cabinet shows a different selection, based on a theme relevant to the season.

Museum Plantin-Moretus

Unesco werelderfgoed

Slogan icons

Subscribe to our newsletter