The ‘NEIGHBOURS’ sculpture garden offers a fascinating insight into the work of twenty contemporary visual artists, both domestic and foreign. These artists enter into dialogue with the gardens, Rubens and the castle’s rich cultural history.

Willem Boel


Centuries ago, the semaphore was used as a means of communication. It consisted of moving beams that, based on their position, could display signs, such as a letter. Messages were passed on to the next semaphore. Although little is known about the colour usage of this communication tool, Willem Boel's work almost seems like a reference to Mayerne's recipe book, in which Rubens also contributed.

In the seventeenth century, the Swiss scholar Théodore de Mayerne wrote a recipe book for Baroque painting. In the middle of this manuscript, he drew colourful circles to test various pigments for their colourfastness and cracking during drying. Mayerne acquired his knowledge from books and conversations with numerous pharmacists, craftsmen, and artists, including famous names like Rubens, Antoon van Dyck, and Artemisia Gentileschi. With Rubens, he discussed the use of turpentine oil, blue pigments, and varnish, among other things. These conversations likely took place while Rubens was painting a portrait of Mayerne in London.
Willem Boel

Théodore de Mayerne, Pictoria, sculptoria et quae subalternarum artium, 1620-1646, watercolor and ink on paper, London, British Library, MS Sloane 2052, fol. 80v.

Mathieu Verhaeghe

Rack III

Mathieu Verhaeghe's Rack III appears to be in striking contrast with Rubens' works. Yet, his installation with finished ‘paint sausages’ is a contemporary art factory. It reminds us of Rubens' flourishing art enterprise at the time.

While Rubens stayed in Elewijt with his family, his workshop in Antwerp was in full swing. Between 1636 and 1640, he worked on one of his largest assignments ever: more than eighty paintings for the decoration of King Philip IV of Spain's hunting lodge. Acting as a true manager, he gave instructions to the staff in Antwerp from his country residence in Elewijt. In the summer of 1638, he put the young sculptor Faydherbe in charge of the workshop and asked him to send a panel with three study heads to the castle, so he could make preparatory sketches for the large order.

But it wasn't all about work. In Elewijt, Rubens enjoyed time with his family and found relaxation. In the same note to Faydherbe, he asked for some bottles of vin d’Ay - the best red wine available at that time - to be sent to the castle since the stock they brought was already depleted.
He also asked if Faydherbe could inquire with his gardener Willem if the pears and figs were ripe or if there was anything else delicious from his garden. While Rubens enjoyed the fruits from his city garden in Elewijt, the paintings for the Spanish king were completed at record speed in the workshop in Antwerp.
Mathieu Verhaeghe

Peter Paul Rubens, An Autumn Landscape with a View of Het Steen, in the Early Morning, ca. 1636, panel, 136.5 x 231 cm, London, National Gallery, inv. NG66.

Alice Vanderschoot

The Secret to Making Dark Roots Look Intentional

Johanna Von Monkiewitsch


Loup Sarion


Aaron Bobrow

Little Bear

Katleen Vinck

On the Origins

Charlotte Posenenske

Serie D Sculptuur

Bram Vanderbeke

Casted Object

Maxime Brigou

Who needs action when you got words? 1.5

Although Maxime Brigou has a background as a painter, the artist now primarily focuses on installations and sculptures. However, her painter's past remains close.

Similarly, Rubens cherished a great love for sculpture, not only as an admirer and collector. In the seventeenth century, hundreds of artists were trained as painters in Rubens' workshop. Remarkably, Rubens, exceptionally for our region, also allowed sculptors to work in his workshop. One of these sculptors was Lucas Faydherbe, a young sculptor from Mechelen. In Antwerp, he created sculptures based on Rubens' designs.

Rubens and Faydherbe shared a warm friendship. On May 9, 1640, Rubens wished his friend Lucas all the happiness in his marriage. He asked him not to rush in carving a small ivory child because he needed to prioritize having real children.
Maxime Brigou

Lucas Faydherbe, Drunken Silenus, terracotta, wood, paint, 29 x 33 cm, Antwerp, Rubenshuis, inv. RH.B.069.

Filip Vervaet

In Moonland

Leyla Aydoslu


Luca Monterastelli

A Streak of Blue Rose in the East

So ask the man himself, the free man if he dares to approach me?

Tom Volkaert

Steering Wheels & Horfeeceries

Tom Volkaert's work systematically brings circles to life on leg-like structures, fittingly named 'steering wheels'. These totems represent his personal life and memories, serving as reflections that help him navigate through the winding paths of his journey.

In Elewijt, Rubens found an abundance of inspiration in the diverse facets of nature. He sketched pollard willows, wild blackberries, and detailed fragments of the marshy landscape with streams and bridges. On one of his drawings, he wrote evocatively: Thee Shadow of a Tree is greatter in ye watter / and more parfect then ye trees themselves and / darker.*” This observation speaks to the powerful and moving impression this place made on him at twilight, which is still palpable to this day.

*The trees reflect in the water browner and much more perfectly than the trees themselves

Peter Paul Rubens, Trees reflected in water at sunset, black, red and orange chalks, heightened with white, on buff paper, 276 x 454 mm, London, The British Museum, inv. Gg,2.229. © The Trustees of the British Museum. Shared under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International (CC BY-NC-SA 4.0) license.


Xavier Mary

Highway star

Samuel François


Eva Robarts


The work of Eva Robarts resembles a still life that could easily refer to the former 'play' garden around Het Steen. Rubens drew inspiration from the natural surroundings of the castle, where his children and wife Helena also delighted in.

In Elewijt, the children of Rubens and his wife Helena could fully enjoy nature and play. Around 1638-1639, the Antwerp painter Philip Fruytiers portrayed the four children of Rubens and Helena, likely in the castle garden. Clara Johanna, Fransje, Isabella Helena, and Peter Paul Jr. are followed by two maids, possibly Anneken and Adriaenken. Constantia Albertina, the youngest daughter of the Rubens-Fourment family, is not present in this portrait. She was born eight months after Rubens' death.
Eva Robarts

Philip Fruytiers, Four Children of Peter Paul Rubens and Helena Fourment with Two Maids, ca. 1638-39, watercolor and gouache on parchment, marouflé on oak panel, 246 x 336 mm, inv. rcin 452433. Royal Collection Trust / © His Majesty King Charles III 2023.

Theo De Meyer


Joep van Liefland

Information 20

Przemek Pyszczek

Playground Structure (Grid)

Przemek Pyszczek creates sculptures and installations inspired by architecture. His unexpected installation brings colour to this Sculpture Garden.

The natural surroundings and rural life around the castle served as an endless source of inspiration for Rubens. He painted The Rainbow Landscape from the - now almost disappeared - lock tower over the Zenne River, just a ten-minute walk from Het Steen. As a surveyor, he observed the landscape and depicted every detail meticulously. We see the vast lands that were part of his estate. In the background, we recognise the churches of Weerde and Elewijt, and beneath the rainbow, we see the Rubens castle and the windmill of Perk. However, the painting is not a mere snapshot. Rubens refined and perfected the image, describing the masterful play with the landscape as 'un poco aiutato' (a little helped).

Peter Paul Rubens, The Rainbow Landscape, ca. 1636-1638, panel, 135.6 x 235 cm, London, The Wallace Collection, inv. P63.