Prof Joanna Woodall and Dr Eric Jorink
The Southern Netherlands and later the Dutch Republic were not only famous for their art production, but at the centre of the fundamental reconfigurations of knowledge that took place in Europe during the early modern period. Cities such as Antwerp, Leiden and later Amsterdam were ‘hubs’ attracting merchants, printers, artists and scholars from all over Europe. Old as well as new models for knowledge were not only debated but also made visible and even made tactile. Moreover, it was in the Dutch Republic that the revolutionary philosophy of René Descartes was conceived and first published. This course will be particularly concerned with the role of visuality and visual materials in these exciting developments.
We shall explore, throughout the course, the fascinating questions of what knowledge was in the early modern period, and how its foundations were shifting. While some artists were engaged in representing the Garden of Eden, the Ark or the Temple on paper and canvas or in wood as a model of knowledge, others became fascinated by the influx of unknown information for the East and West Indies and other parts of the world. Illustrations – schemes, abstractions, or images done after life – played an increasing role in the debate about the New Philosophy. Rembrandt’s Anatomy lesson of Dr Tulp was one of the many paintings in which knowledge was questioned and constructed, as were Vermeer’s Cartographer and Astronomer. Cabinets of curiosities – by far the richest in Europe – were productive sites of knowledge, where words and things were connected, often displaying previously unknown naturalia and artificialia. Another major theme will be the changing relationship between visual materials and the authority with which they were invested. Rather than separating ‘works of art’ from ‘scientific’ illustrations and materials, the course will encompass paintings, drawings and prints by canonical artists alongside, for example, the illustrations to Descartes’ Discours, original drawings by Maria Sibylla Merian and even anatomical preparations.
The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation MAs are Options in which a visiting scholar from another discipline enters into dialogue with a member of the faculty at the Courtauld Institute. They are offered for only one year. Dr. Eric Jorink is an expert on Dutch scientific culture of the early modern era. He is Researcher at the Huygens Institute for Netherlands History (Royal Dutch Academy of Arts and Sciences) in The Hague and the author of Reading the Book of Nature in the Dutch Golden Age, 1575-1715 (Brill 2010).
Students with a background in art history, history and/or the history of science and ideas are particularly encouraged to apply for this Option.
language and other requirements
Standard entry requirements. Knowledge of Dutch or a Germanic language, whilst not essential, would be an advantage.