Mark A. Meadow will present in the Seminar in Renaissance and Early Modern Material Culture on Wednesday, November 8, at 6 pm. His talk is entitled “Prudently Abandoning Wonder: On Changing the Governing Concept of the Kunstkammer.”

In the sixteenth century, a new kind of pragmatic, knowledge-oriented collection emerged in southern Germany. Called Kunst- and Wunderkammern, these new museums were intimately linked to the emergence of the modern nation state and the associated requirements of economic, political, and social management. Requiring enormous expenditures of intellectual, technical, and financial capital to assemble, these museums necessarily served useful purposes. Understood in this way, the modern scholarly preoccupation with “wonder” as the core concept at play in these collections becomes problematic. In this lecture, Mark Meadow will consider the neo-Aristotelian concept of phronesis—practical wisdom or prudence—as an alternative way of conceptualizing the work of these early museums.


Mark Meadow is a specialist in Northern Renaissance Art and the History and Theory of Museums. His research interests include the relationship of art and rhetoric, early-modern ritual and spectacle, print culture, social networks, and, most recently, the origins of Kunst- and Wunderkammern and mutable concepts of value in collections and museums. He is the author of Pieter Bruegel the Elder’s Netherlandish Proverbs and the Practice of Rhetoric (2002) and the editor of volumes on Pieter Bruegel, civic spectacles, and print culture. He has also produced translations and critical editions of two important sixteenth-century sources: Symon Andriessoon’s 1550 Duytsche Adagia ofte spreeckwoorden (2003) and, with Bruce Robertson, Samuel Quiccheberg’s 1565 Inscriptiones vel tituli Theatri Amplissimi (2013). He is a co-founder and editorial board member of the book series Proteus: Studies in Identity Formation in Early-Modern Image-Text-Ritual-Habitat, with Brepols Publishers in Belgium.

Meadow is the recipient of the Berlin Prize from the American Academy in Berlin, Germany. His other awards include fellowships and grants from the Kress Foundation, the Mellon Foundation, the Belgian-American Education Foundation, the J. Paul Getty Grant Program, the Delmas Foundation, and the Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research. He has held research residencies at the Getty Research Institute (pre-doctoral and senior), the University of California Humanities Research Institute, and the Alfried-Krupp-Wissenschaftskolleg in Greifswald, Germany. Between 2006 and 2011, he was Professor (Hoogleraar) for History and Theory of Collections at Leiden University, in addition to his position at UCSB.


This event will be livestreamed. Please check back the day of the event for a link to the video. To watch videos of past events please visit our YouTube page.