Nicolaas Rockox and Frans Snijders are hosting Gaspar Duarte and his family – a celebrated Antwerp jewellery with Portuguese roots, with a passion for music. Gaspar had a fine singing voice and played several instruments, including the violin and harpsichord. His children shared his musicality, and as soon as they were old enough, Gaspar organised concerts at his house with his daughters Leonora, Catharina and Francisca. Their instruments are ready to play on the stage: a violin, a viola da gamba, a lute, a theorbo and a guitar. The magnificent virginal was made by the Ruckers-Couchet family – the finest builders of keyboard instruments of their generation. Feast not only your eyes, but your ears too!
Although Gonzales Coques learned his trade under the genre painter Pieter Brueghel III and the still-life painter David Rijckaert II, it was primarily as a portraitist that he himself made his name. Anyone who doubts the Duarte family’s love of music only has to look at this painting. Coques’s portrait introduces the family to us. On the left, we see Gaspar, the father (c. 1584–1653), between his sons Gaspar II (1616–1685), playing a viola da gamba (bass viol), and Diego (1612–1691). The mother of the family, Catharina (1584–1644) stands on the right, holding a musical score in one hand and taking hold with the other of the guitar held out by her daughter Leonora (1610–1678).
Andreas Ruckers the Elder was one of the sons of Hans Ruckers, the founder of the family business. Hans moved from Mechelen to Antwerp around 1575 and set up a workshop in Jodenstraat around 1584. His sons Joannes and Andreas, as well as his grandson Joannes Couchet, also built harpsichords there. Every well-to-do Antwerp burgher had at least one harpsichord or virginal in their home, preferably one built by the famous Ruckers clan. This instrument is a typical example of a harpsichord by this family: the painted marbling on the outside, the dolphin motif above the keyboard, and the ‘A R’ rosette and motto on the lid. But it was, of course, first and foremost the powerful, clear sound that led music-lovers from all across Europe to order a Ruckers harpsichord.