Chamber of Art and Wonders

The most commonly evoked categories of collecting were:
Wonders of Human Ingenuity (artificialia), Wonders of Nature (naturalia), and Reflections of the Collector's own World and Viewpoint

The Collector's World and Viewpoint

Whatever else collections might encompass they reflected the collector's own viewpoint. The implications of this would obviously vary immensely depending on his or her wealth, status, occupations etc. In the present case, the collector's person, family and loyalties are here represented first of all by the painting The Archdukes Albert and Isabella Visiting the Collection of Pierre Roose (det. left) and an arrangement of Habsburg memorabilia. The space chosen for such display and its furniture would be purposefully chosen. The collector's perception of his wider societal environment is suggested by the representation of contemporary Flemish Society
. With the absence of a strong tradition of representing the middle classes (versus in the Northern Netherlands in the 1600s) the peasantry are viewed almost as exotica, as "the other." This relationship can be compared with the depiction of actually distant lands and peoples.
    Most Europeans in the 1600s considered their faith to be essential to their self-identity. In the Spanish Netherlands Catholicism was dominant and therefore reflected  (whether sincerely or simply expediently) not just in the context of devotion but also within the collecting sphere. Additionally contemporary Catholic art reaffirms the role of Miracles in an Age of Wonder.

 
Artificialia, Wonders of Human Ingenuity
One of the defining displays in establishing the respect for ingenuity is the central place of  Heemskerck's Panorama of the Ancient World with the Abduction of Helen, painted for a collector in Rome. It underlines the reverence for technical achievement in the ancient world, which served to validate the celebration of such achievement in the Early Modern period. This is complemented by another form of ancient ingenuity-- Egyptian burial practices epitomized in an A Mummy of a Young Girl.This celebration of human artifice hangs between pairs of cases with to the right, Wonders of Human Ingenuity in Europe paired with Wonders of Nature, calling attention to the role of remarkable raw materials in the creation of virtuosic pieces. Balancing these on the left are cases with Wonders of Asia and Africa and Wonders of the Americas.
Naturalia
, Wonders of Nature's Creation

Natural Wonders in the Chamber and the Case: Wonders of Nature are complemented by representations gathered on one wall of nature's potential reflected in paintings. In addition, a collection of Books, Prints, Drawings, and Maps might be kept in close proximity to consult in tandem with objects displayed, to expand the coverage of objects that could not be acquired (Dodoens), to understand distant peoples (Leo Africanus), or to expand the range context of the microcosm of the collection to the wider macrocosm (as Terrestrial and Celestial Globes, or Ortelius' famous atlas Theatrum Orbis Terrarum (Antwerp 1570 [first edition]). 




Comments