ISSUE #2 – 2020
Introduction. The Uncertainty of Epistemic Images
Tales of Transformation. Hendrick Goltzius’s Allegory of the (Alchemical) Arts in the Kunstmuseum Basel
The rhetoric of secrecy played an important role in the early modern fashioning of painting as a specialized kind of knowledge about the visible and invisible worlds. This article explores Goltzius’s use of secrecy in regard to his largest and perhaps most enigmatic composition, which is also his only painted work that includes a self-portrait. With its explicit references to the processes of alchemical transformation, the work draws attention to the enigma of artistic creation and the mutability and versatility of Goltzius’s art. The witty play with various attributes alludes to the multiple roles and guises an artist could assume, and the abundance of detail reflects on the mercurial power of painting as an art that links the worlds of knowledge and deceit.
Ryff’s Acanthus. On Field Research in Renaissance Architecture
This article proposes a new framework for examining the empirical research of early modern architects. It explores the rise of nature study in sixteenth-century architectural theory and practice through the works of physician and architecture expert Walther Hermann Ryff (c. 1500–1548). The article argues that Ryff’s 1548 Vitruvius Teutsch, the first German translation of Vitruvius’s De architectura, gave architects pathbreaking advice about performing design research in nature. Ryff’s book supported the botanical investigations of architects by aping empirically derived botanical imagery from the De historia stirpium of Leonhart Fuchs (1501–1566) and by comparing architectural nature study to the period craze for examining ancient ruins firsthand. In proposing a new mode of architectural empiricism, Vitruvius Teutsch reconciled tensions between abstract theory and hands-on practice in the formation of architectural knowledge.
Errant Images. Illustrating an Early Modern German Pliny
This article contends that woodcuts in a partial German translation of Pliny’s Naturalis historia function as what Aby Warburg called Bilderfahrzeuge (image vehicles). Translated and compiled by Johann Heyden, illustrated by Jost Amman, Virgil Solis, and others, and published by Sigmund Feyerabend in 1565, 1571, and 1584, Bücher und schrifften von der Natur art und eigentschafft der Creaturen […] features “description” and “ornament,” but rarely epistemological rigor. Specifically, its zoological images are “true” for their aesthetic, pragmatic, and theological value. That most of these images previously appeared in other books published by Feyerabend, in Thierbuch Albert Magni (1545) and Gessner’s Historia animalium (1551–57), confirms their mobility was prized more than their accuracy.
The Envious Destroyer of All Things
Time, which kills everything, obsessed early modern England’s architects as much as its playwrights. If for a distraught Macbeth, moments crept interminably, for Stuart and Tudor builders, time’s slog always threatened to end too soon. The inevitability of architectural death through slow ruin, or frenetic dismantling, took on particular verve in a polity with a history of iconoclasm. Architecture’s emphasis upon surface aligned building with (say) portraiture which, around 1600, carried its own rhetorics of time – and information – arrested. Both building and posing subsisted in the proffering of a good face, the warding off of bodily death. And in the case of this article’s focus – an ephemeral arch built in London in 1603 – this face – this façade – was threatened by unexpected epistemes of time: duration, instant, and epoch. These were temporalities in upheaval in Stuart London, a moment of unsteady power relations, of new kinds of printed publications, and of that most unpresentable of human phenomena: contagion.
Outstanding Ingenuity and Graphic Freedom. The Copernican ,Organon Astronomicon‘ of Jean I du Temps
In the late sixteenth century, the French provincial lawyer Jean I du Temps of Blois (fl. 1570s–1590s) devoted countless hours to difficult forms of scholarship that wove together the cultures of letters and mathematics. Perhaps the most astounding product of his labour is a manuscript set of instruments for calculating the locations of the heavenly bodies: Organon astronomicon ex hypothesibus Copernici extructum (Astronomical instrument constructed from the hypotheses of Copernicus). Unusually, and as its title indicates, the work is based on the calculations that underpin Nicolaus Copernicus’ proposition of a heliocentric world system, published in his De revolutionibus (1543). This, as we shall suggest, bears on the manuscript’s distinctive aesthetic, whereby the data on which Copernicus’ provocative hypotheses rest are rendered both delightful and useful. In making his Organon, du Temps deployed cunning visual tactics to engage the reader, guiding them towards an appreciation both of the heavens’ mathematically ordered beauty and of his own ingenium.