The Harvard Art Museums
present Prints and the Pursuit of Knowledge in Early Modern Europe, an exhibition that examines how celebrated Northern Renaissance artists contributed to the scientific discoveries of the 16th century. This exhibition and the accompanying catalogue offer a new perspective on the collaboration between artists and scientists: the project challenges the perception of artists as illustrators in the service of scientists, and examines how their printmaking skills were useful to scientists in their investigations. Artists early printed images served as effective research tools, not only functioning as descriptive illustrations, but also operating as active agents in the creation and dissemination of knowledge. Taking into consideration prints, books, maps, and such scientific instruments as sundials, globes, astrolabes, and armillary spheres, this project looks at relationships between their producers and their production, as well as between the objects themselves.
Prints and the Pursuit of Knowledge in Early Modern Europe will be on display at the Harvard Art Museums/Arthur M. Sackler Museum from September 6 to December 10, 2011, and then travel to the Mary and Leigh Block Museum of Art (at Northwestern University), where it will be on view from January 17 to April 8, 2012. The exhibition is curated by Susan Dackerman, Carl A. Weyerhaeuser Curator of Prints, Division of European and American Art, Harvard Art Museums. Dackerman is also Head of Student Affairs at the Art Museums.
This exhibition crosses the wires of the history of art and the history of science, said Dackerman. It examines the role that artists played in the scientific investigations of the 16th century by exploring printed images that have, by and large, been neglected by art history and relegated to other fields because of their scientific content.
Prints and the Pursuit of Knowledge was assembled using the extensive resources of Harvard University. The planning for the exhibition and the writing of the catalogue resulted from collaboration among participants in a monthly interdisciplinary seminar at Harvards Mahindra Humanities Center. Dackerman and Katharine Park (Samuel Zemurray, Jr. and Doris Zemurray Stone Radcliffe Professor of the History of Science at Harvard University) jointly co-chaired the seminar, and taught a graduate class in the spring of 2010. For the exhibition and its catalogue, faculty members and collection curators provided expertise, and campus collections were mined for their riches. Interns and graduate students from various disciplines conducted research and wrote entries for the catalogue. In the fall, Harvard undergraduates who participate in the Art Museums Student Guide program will offer tours to both their peers and the public, and the exhibition will be featured in a range of classes across departments at the university.
Exhibitions such as Prints and the Pursuit of Knowledge embody the best of what we envision for the Harvard Art Museums when they reopen following the renovation now under way. The new building will be a teaching platform for training students and emerging scholars in art history, visual thinking, curatorial practice, and conservation science, said Thomas W. Lentz, Elizabeth and John Moors Cabot Director of the Art Museums. Through outreach to faculty, staff, and students, weve worked to integrate this projecta consummate embodiment of our teaching and research missionas deeply as possible into the fabric of the Harvard community.
Objects on View
The exhibition shows close links between 16th-century artists and scientists through a wide variety of materials, emphasizing that exchanges of influence could work both ways. Artists and scientists each respected the authority of the other, and each desired to gain legitimacy by association with established, well-known practitioners. Over 200 objects, including prints, books, instruments, reproductions, and facsimiles will be on view throughout the fourth floor of the Sackler Museum. Galleries will be roughly divided into eight sections, and works will represent such themes as astronomy, cartography, anatomy, allegory, zoology, and botany.
*Prints of the constellations of the northern and southern hemispheres by Albrecht Dürer, which were made in collaboration with astronomers Johannes Stabius and Conrad Heinfogel in 1515. These were the first of their kind and widely appropriated by artists and astronomers for generations. Also by Dürer is a woodcut of a Rhinoceros (1515), which was the authoritative representation of the animal for centuries, although he never saw one.
*Astronomer Johann Schöners Brixen Celestial Globe (1522), a beautifully painted globe based on Dürers printed celestial maps.
*Jacques de Gheyn IIs engraving Great Lion (c. 1590), which demonstrates the breadth of his knowledge of nature, and his Portrait of Carolus Clusius (1601), which was made for Clusiuss monumental book of botanical and zoological specimens from around the world, the Rariorum plantarum historia.
*Hendrick Goltziuss depiction of the muscle-bound hero in The Great Hercules (1589), which became a study aid for anatomy students.
*Two inventions by frequent collaborators Hans Holbein the younger and Sebastian Münster: the Sun and Moon Instrument (1534), one of the largest and most complex surviving astronomical wall charts, and the Universal cosmographic map (1532), which, with its flattened and elongated spherical form encompassing all the known continents in both hemispheres, was an innovative depiction of the earth for its time.
*Heinrich Vogtherr the elders 1544 anatomical flap prints, showing female and male torsos made of layered and hinged paper flaps that were lifted to reveal internal workings of the body.
Visitors will be encouraged to handle 12 facsimiles of prints that were designed to be assembled, including sundials by George Brentel the younger, an astrolabe by Georg Hartmann, and flap prints of female and male anatomy by Vogtherr.
Loans on display include items from the following Harvard collections: the Harvard Art Museums; the Collection of Historical Scientific Instruments; Houghton Library; Countway Library of Medicine; Botany Libraries; Map Collection, Harvard College Library; and the Ernst Mayr Library of the Museum of Comparative Zoology. Works have also been borrowed from major American and European collections and institutions.
In preparation for this exhibition, the Art Museums print collection acquired a number of objects, including two sundial pamphlets by Georg Brentel (1615), portraits of botanist Carolus Clusius by Jacques de Gheyn II (1601) and scholar Wenzel Jamnitzer by Jost Amman (c. 1572-75), an etching of The Ptolemaic System by Jost Amman (1579), and the engraved Great Lion by Jacques de Gheyn (c. 1590).