In 1603, Nicolaas Rockox purchased his house in the Keizerstraat. It was a double-fronted property and there was a small town garden to the rear. Rockox had it rebuilt in Flemish Renaissance style and added an art gallery and a study. The art gallery runs parallel to the covered colonnade and completely closes in the Renaissance inner courtyard.
In 1608, Peter Paul Rubens returned from Italy, where he had stayed for nearly eight years. His art was influenced by the sculpture of Classical Antiquity and by Michelangelo and Caravaggio. It was in this way that Rubens gave shape to Baroque art in Northern Europe. With Jacques Jordaens and Anthony van Dyck in his wake, he ensured that the Baroque became a quality label for Antwerp. Following Rubens' return from Italy, one of his major patrons was Nicolaas Rockox, who gave him important commissions for the Antwerp town hall, the cathedral, the Church of St. Charles Borromeo, the Church of the Recollects and for his own house in the Keizerstraat.