Monday, October 3, 2011

The Cabinet of Curiosities

Ludolf Backhuizen I
Dutch, 1630–1708
Personification of Amsterdam Riding in Neptune's Chariot, from the Set of Seascapes, 1701
Gift of Gail A. Donson, Class of 1963

Last Saturday Don and I headed out to Cornell for a birthday visit with our son, Harry. It's a beautiful campus to explore and we always make sure to see what the current exhibits are in the Johnson Museum of Art. We were lucky enough to catch the last day of the exhibit titled "The New and Unknown World: Art, Exploration, and Trade in the Dutch Golden Age"
"During the seventeenth century, the young Dutch Republic rose to maritime and mercantile predominance, sending ships to trade around the globe. This exhibition brings together many material signs of the famous Dutch East India Company’s international success, including trade goods from China, Japan, and India, as well as documenting the appearance and significance of these items in art produced back in the Netherlands. The exhibition also presents the thirst for knowledge about the peoples, flora, and fauna of these far-flung areas as reflected in illustrated books and maps created by artists and scientists who sailed on Dutch voyages of trade and colonization. The exhibition’s centerpiece is a re-created cabinet of curiosities, which arranges European artworks and antiquities side by side with natural rarities (including seashells, mounted bird specimens, and even a narwhal horn) to acknowledge the way in which natural marvels of all descriptions were integrated with human accomplishments into the early modern system of understanding the world."

I was especially taken with the recreation of the Cabinet of Curiosities, and what having a "Room of Rarities" signified.

Shells, sketch books, pottery, and an armadillo

Shell sketch book

Shells, bones, pottery from other cultures, butterflies

Bird drawings and feathers
I have my own Cabinet of Curiosities that I'll share with you sometime soon!

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