2019 Annual Meeting of the Renaissance Society of America, Toronto
IAS-Sponsored Session

Patterns of Knowledge Production in Early Modern Graphic Collections I

Sheraton Centre Toronto, Sheraton Hall C
Sunday March 17, 2020, 9am-10:30am

Organizer and Chair: Prof. Dr. Elisabeth Oy-Marra, Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz

Organizer and Chair: Dr. Irina Schmiedel, Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz

The two linked panels will explore the practices of collecting and assembling drawings and prints in albums, portfolios as well as other forms of display. We will focus on early modern Italy (Vasari, Baldinucci, Resta, Bonola, et al.), taking into account the different interests and habits to handle the artworks themselves, developed by connoisseurs and collectors, theoreticians (writers) and practitioners (artists). Varying preconditions and aims led towards diverse ways of organizing the material, unveiling different types of image-text-relations both within the collections and beyond.

When considering the evidence, questions arise regarding the importance of graphic collections for the development of the disciplines of connoisseurship and art history. Do they reflect a changing attitude towards circulating biographical information on the relevant artists? This leads on to considering trends and traditions in other fields of knowledge, like natural history or antiquarian studies. Information was gathered and displayed by means of visual, textual and diagrammatic structures that can give us clues regarding the formation, conception and reception of such erudite collections as (possible) predecessors of the relevant disciplines.


Genevieve Warwick, University of Edinburgh
“Housing the Early Modern Drawing Album: Between the Studio, the Library, and the Museum”

The ontological status of the early modern drawing album is historically complex, being both a book of visual knowledge and an assemblage of art works; an artist’s preparatory instrument and a collectible in its own right. As Catherine Loisel has recently noted, terms describing such objects – sketchbook, taccuino, livre de dessins – illustrate the conceptual range of its historical perception and the difficulties of classification: some were placed in libraries as books; others in museums as works of art. This paper will analyse the changing functions of the early modern drawing album from artist’s studios to libraries, drawing cabinets, and museums. It will then draw on this history of institutional classification to interpret the forms of visual knowledge these albums were understood to represent.

Irina Schmiedel, Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz
“Organizing the History of Art and Nature. On the Compilation and Reception of Early Modern Graphic Collections”

This paper aims at a parallel consideration of connoisseurship – or ‘expert cultures’ – and collecting practices in the arts and natural history in the long 17th century. Starting from Father Resta’s drawing albums and some contemporary (mainly) graphic collections of different naturalists, I will scrutinize the underlying structures of order and patterns of knowledge production and transfer. By doing so the original purpose and further use of the relevant collections will be highlighted and analyzed as well as practices of systematization and epistemic values or meanings. On the basis of the presented material, I intend to showcase how collecting preceded (scientific) knowledge in different nascent disciplines and how these fields of knowledge possibly influenced each other at such an early stage of ‘scientification’.

Katherine Reinhart, CRASSH, University of Cambridge
“Collecting Art Producing Science: Graphic Collections in Early Modern Scientific Societies”

Early scientific societies created and collected large quantities of prints and drawings in the course of their natural philosophical work. They collected and displayed these images in a variety of ways, sometimes hung in meeting rooms or bound in albums. How did these collections shape the knowledge produced by these institutions? And what does it mean for a scientific society to have an art collection?

This paper considers these questions by investigating not only the collecting practices of early scientific institutions, but also how images circulated between them. I will focus on three of the first and most influential scientific societies: the Accademia del Cimento in Florence, the Royal Society of London, and the Académie Royale des Sciences in Paris. By comparing the graphic and collecting practices of these institutions, this paper aims to understand how image collecting aided the development of organized science in the early modern period.

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