This study presents a data driven comparative analysis of the painting industries in sixteenth and seventeenth century Antwerp and Amsterdam. The popular view of the development of these two artistic centers still holds that Antwerp flourished in the sixteenth century and was succeeded by Amsterdam after the former’s recapturing by the Spanish in 1585. However, a demographic analysis of the number of painters active in Antwerp and Amsterdam shows that Antwerp recovered relatively quickly after 1585 and that it remained the leading artistic center in the Low Countries, only to be surpassed by Amsterdam in the 1650’s. An analysis of migration patterns and social networks shows that painters in Antwerp formed a more cohesive group than painters in Amsterdam. As a result, the two cities responded quite differently to internal and external market shocks. Data for this study are taken from ECARTICO, a database and a linked data web resource containing structured biographical data on over 9100 painters working in the Low Countries until circa 1725.