The Renaissance Discovery of the World: Collecting and Collections in the Early Modern Era


Fall 2012


5th Floor Classroom


Andrew Morrall

This course explores habits of collecting in Europe from about 1500 to 1650, tracing the development of the Kunstkammer and the cabinet of curiosities in the age of discovery and the opening up of new worlds to European experience. It and examines how the collecting of natural and artificial objects fortified princely power, transformed the nature of both aesthetic and scientific experience, and shaped the sensibility of intellectuals. Emphasis is placed on the great courtly collectors of central Europe, including the Wittelsbach Dukes of Bavaria, the Dukes of Saxony, and the various Habsburg rulers. Particular attention is given to the collection of Emperor Rudolf II in Prague, whose amassing of objects, both natural and manmade, coincided with his patronage of natural philosophers, alchemists, astronomers, and other seekers of knowledge. The changing relationship between art, nature, and science, embodied in early modern collections, is used to chart the shift from a medieval to a recognizably modern understanding of the processes of nature and of man’s place in the world. Knowledge of French and German is an advantage but not essential. 3 credits.  (satisfies pre-1800 requirement)