Science and Splendor at the Courts of Europe
THE METROPOLITAN MUSEUM OF ART
November 25, 2019–March 1, 2020
Between 1550 and 1750, nearly every royal family in Europe assembled
vast collections of exquisite and entertaining objects Lavish public spending
and the display of precious metals were important expressions of power,
and possessing artistic and technological innovations conveyed status
Gerhard Emmoser (German, active 1556–84). Celestial globe with clockwork, 1579. Partially gilded silver, gilded brass (case); brass, steel (movement). Overall: 10 3/4 × 8 × 7 1/2 in. (27.3 × 20.3 × 19.1 cm); Diameter of globe: 5 1/2 in. (14 cm). Gift of J. Pierpont Morgan, 1917, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York (17.190.636)
In this article we present abstracts from the catalogue of the exhibition that describe
masterfully and in an exceptionally didactic way the artistic, social and technological
movements of the time in the words of expert connoisseurs of each subject.
The exhibition will feature approximately 170 objects—including clocks, automata,
furniture, scientific instruments, jewelry, paintings, sculptures, print media,
and more—from The Met collection and more than 50 lenders
SETTING THE STANDARD:
FORGING A CULTURE OF MAGNIFICENCE
Marvels, Wonders, and Their Offspring
by Wolfram Koeppe
“The Renaissance, Baroque, and early Enlightenment together represent a transformative era in Europe between the outdated medieval order and the tumult wrought by the French Revolution and the end of the ancien régime”.
“Throughout the period, spanning from roughly the mid-sixteenth to the end of the eighteenth century, the pursuit of the marvelous was closely associated with the quest for innovation, and objects intended to express the majesty and ability of a prince’s rule often signaled significant advances in science,
technology, and the arts, as well”.
“Marvels came in myriad forms and were usually ostentatious, standing out among the many objects in a princely collection to captivate visitors with their superior craftsmanship, ingenious functionality, and frequently sparkling materials. Foremost among the latter was silver, whose fascination for humans may relate to its luster, comparable to the cool shimmer of moonlight on a clear night. It also has the highest reflectiveness and electric and thermal conductivity of any metal”. PHOTO: Wolfram Koeppe by Jackie Neale Chadwick.
Mirror, Pair of Gueridons and Judgment of Paris Table
MIRROR: Johann Betz (1588–1642) German, Augsburg, ca. 1665. Oak (stained), silver (embossed, cast, engraved, chased), mirror glass H. 67 3⁄4 in. (172 cm), W. 48 3⁄8 in. (123 cm), D. 9 in. (23 cm) Esterházy Privatstiftung, Burg Forchtenstein–Esterházy. Schatzkammer (K 210)
PAIR OF GUERIDONS: German, probably Augsburg, 1670–80. Copper (silvered, embossed, cast, engraved, chased), iron Each H. 50 in. (127 cm), Diam. of base 17 3⁄4 in. (52 cm) Esterházy Privatstiftung, Burg Forchtenstein–Esterházy. Schatzkammer (K 204/1–2)
Table from the Esterházy Treasury
David Schwestermüller I (German, 1596–1678). Judgement of Paris Table, 1659. Engraved, chiseled, chased, and cast silver; ebony. 30 7/8 × 41 1/8 × 32 1/16 in. (78.5 × 104.5 × 81.5 cm). Esterházy Privatstiftung, Forchtenstein Castle – Esterházy Treasury.
DETAIL OF JUDGEMENT OF PARIS TABLE
Fountain and Basin
Lewin Dedecke (1660–1733) German, Hanover, ca. 1710–20. Silver. Fountain: H. 29 3⁄4 in. (75.6 cm), W. 13 7⁄8 in. (35.2 cm), D. 13 7⁄8 in. (35.2 cm), Wt. 35 lb. 4 oz. (16 kg); basin: H. 11 1⁄4 in. (28.6 cm), W. 22 in. (55.9 cm), D. 17 in. (43.2 cm), Wt. 23 lb. 9 oz. (10.7 kg) The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Anonymous Loan (L.2016.38.1a, b, L.2016.38.3)Probably Johann Wilhelm Voigt I (active 1716–55)
Probably Johann Wilhelm Voigt I (active 1716–55) German, Osnabrück, ca. 1716–25. Silver. Fountain: H. 31 1⁄4 in. (79.4 cm), W. 14 in. (35.6 cm), D. 14 in. (35.6 cm), Wt. 31 lb. 15 oz. (14.5 kg); basin: H. 11 1⁄4 in. (28.6 cm), W. 22 1⁄2 in. (57.2 cm), D. 16 1⁄2 in. (41.9 cm), Wt. 22 lb. 4 oz. (10.1 kg) The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Anonymous Loan (L.2016.38.2a, b, L.2016.38.4)
A HAVEN OF SPLENDOR & STUDY
The Role of the Kunstkammer in Princely Self-Representation
by Dirk Syndram
“The princely Kunstkammer (Art chamber), which had become institutionalized as a collection type by the middle of the sixteenth century, had its roots in both secular and ecclesiastical treasuries”.
“The treasure illustrated by Albrecht Dürer in the Triumphal Arch he created for Emperor Maximilian I included the curios and precious objects that would soon find their way into the imperial Kunstkammer”.
“And in the Middle Ages the treasuries of important churches and monasteries had already contained exotic natural wonders, either unworked or mounted in precious metals, that were neither reliquaries nor intended for liturgical use”.
“Vault with Items
from the Treasury
of Maximilian I,”
detail from Albrecht Dürer’s The Triumphal Arch of Maximilian I,
Woodcut, detail 14 × 11 5⁄8 in. (35.7 × 29.5 cm).
The British Museum,
London (E, 5.1)
Courtly Marvels and the New Experimental Philosophy
by Pamela H. Smith
“The collecting practices, modes of sociability, and expression of power in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries that gave rise to the courtly marvels in this volume were central to the growth of the new science, or the “new experimental philosophy,” as its advocates in the seventeenth century called it”.
“In 1620 Francis Bacon famously titled his new philosophy an “active science,” by which he meant a system of knowledge that was as certain as that of the syllogistic logic of the universities, but that, at the same time, employed sensory, bodily engagement with nature, manipulating and observing it in order to draw out the general principles of material transformation”.
“Before this time, these two forms of knowledge had been separated by an intellectual and social gulf—certain knowledge was the realm of theologians and university-trained practitioners of the exact sciences, while sensory engagement with nature was the realm of manual artisans who mastered the ever-changing phenomena of natural materials with the uncertain (but very productive) mechanical arts. The joining of these two realms of knowledge in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries was one of the most consequential results of the centralization of wealth and power that underpinned the growth and flourishing of the noble courts of Europe”.
Wenzel Jamnitzer (German, 1507/8–1585). Writing box, 1560–1570. Silver. 2 3/8 × 4 × 8 15/16 in. (6 × 10.2 × 22.7 cm). Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna, Austria.
DETAIL OF WRITING BOX AND IMPLEMENTS
Wenzel Jamnitzer, ca. 1562–63
by Nicolas Neufchatel (active ca. 1539–73), Oil on canvas, 36 1⁄4 × 31 1⁄8 in. (92 × 79 cm).
Musée d’Art et d’Histoire, Geneva (1825-23)
Chasing Marvels, Revealing Secrets:
The Kunstkammer in the Age of Discovery by Paulus Painer
“Qanta rariora tanta meliora—the more unusual, the better.1 With these words, in 1572, Emperor Maximilian II sent his Madrid ambassador in search of precious rarities—oddities from nature as well as extraordinary works of human ingenuity”.
“It was the time of the late Renaissance, of Mannerism, a time when views began to widen beyond the boundaries of the known as curious explorers swept out in every direction. It was a time when Copernicus had toppled the traditional worldview from its pedestal, but a new one to replace it had not yet been accepted as established fact”.
“A time when new worlds were being explored and old ones questioned, when empiricism became increasingly important without wholly replacing magic and religion. It was a time when old and new stood side by side, unsure where the future path was leading; a time of simultaneity, of commingling, and uncertainty. It was also the era of the Kunstkammer, in which extraordinary objects filled cupboards and competed for table space as the viewer’s eye was forced to dart inquisitively from one astonishing and novel wonder to the next”.
Adriaen van Stalbemt (1580–1662), The Sciences and the Arts (detail), ca. 1650. Oil on panel, overall 35 3⁄8 × 46 1⁄16 in. (89.9 × 117 cm). Museo Nacional del Prado, Madrid (P001405)
Anton Schweinberger (ca. 1550–1603) and Nikolaus Pfaff (ca. 1556–1612), Seychelles, Nut Ewer, 1602. Seychelles nut (Lodoicea sechellarum), gilded silver, niello, H. 15 3⁄16 in. (38.5 cm). Kunstkammer, Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna (KK 6872
A Surviving Curiosity: The Esterházy Kunstkammer
by Florian Thaddäus Bayer
“Sitting powerfully enthroned on a rock outcropping among the gentle hills of the Rosalia Mountains, the Forchtenstein Castle complex is impressive for its location alone. Over the course of its long and checkered history, it has been a retreat and bulwark of the Esterházy family. So it is unsurprising that in the seventeenth century Prince Paul I Esterházy chose the castle as the site of his Schatzkammer (treasury)”.
“Until recently, the Esterházy Schatzkammer was the stuff of legend. It was rumored that admission to the castle’s supposedly inaccessible Kunstkammer was almost never granted and that, when it was, the visitor had to maneuver through secret passages and doors to enter it”.
“Only a few years before the turn of the millennium, however, Princess Melinda Esterházy permitted a few select persons supervised access to the rooms. Then in 2005 the doors of this unique treasury were finally opened to the interested public. Although it is no longer necessary to deal with three separate keys or to outwit the vault’s once-complicated locking mechanisms, visitors must still pass through a trapdoor and down a steep staircase into the depths to reach the historic spaces”.
“immersed in another world, they begin to have a different sense of time and space. Spellbound and deeply moved, they find themselves in the world’s only Kunstkammer to survive in its original setting, a site in which the remaining historical objects can still be seen in the original purpose-built display cabinets”.
Small gallery of the Esterházy
Schatzkammer (Treasure Chamber)
Drinking Cup in the Form of a Horse and Ride
Hans Ludwig Kienle (or Kienlin, 1591–1653) German, Ulm, 1630. Drinking Cup in the Form of a Horse and Rider. Silver (partially gilded) H. 12 3⁄8 in. (31.5 cm) The Art Institute of Chicago (2003.114)
Standing Cup. Attributed to Nikolaus Pfaff (ca. 1556–1612) Bohemian, Prague, 1603–10. Ivory (carved) H. 6 1⁄16 in. (15.5 cm), W. 3 1⁄2 in. (8.9 cm), D. 2 3⁄4 in. (7 cm) Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, John H. and Ernestine A. Payne Fund, Mary S. and Edward Jackson Holmes Fund, Beatrice Haines Fund, and Frank B. Bemis Fund (1996.31)
Stand by Johann Joachim Busch
Green turban shell mounted as cup and
cover in the form of a basilisk
Cup ca. 1600, stand 1752.
Turban snail shell (turbo mamoratus),
gilded silver and brass mounts.
14 3/16 × 6 5/8 × 5 1/2 in. (36 × 16.9 × 13.9 cm).
Gärten und Kunstsammlungen Mecklenburg-Vorpommern.
Photo credit: bpk Bildagentur /Staatliches Museum/Gabriele Bröcker / Art Resource, N
Turbo snail shell cup
Cornelis Bellekin, 1625–1711. Johann Heinrich Köhler. Turbo snail shell cup, second half 17th century. Bas
relief, darkened engraving on Turbo snail (turbo mamoratus) shell; gilt, engraved, punched, chased, cast, and wrought silver. 11 5/8 × 5 7/8 × 7 3/16 in., 3.7 lb. (29.5 × 15 × 18.3 cm, 1.7 kg). Green Vault, Staatliche Kunstsammlungen, Dresden, Germany. Photo credit: bpk Bildagentur / Gruenes Gewoelbe, Staatliche Kunstsammlungen, Dresden, Germany /Jürgen Karpinski / Art Resource, NY.
Bohemian, possibly Prague,
early 17th century.
H. 19 7⁄8 in. (50.5 cm),
W. 23 1⁄4 in. (59 cm),
D. 3 7⁄8 in. (10 cm)
Graf von Schönborn,
The Green Dresden
Franz Diespach (German, active 18th c.). Modified by Christian August Globig (German). “The Green Dresden”, 1769, modified between 1782 and 1789. Green diamond, diamonds. 5 9/16 × 1 15/16 in. (14.1 × 5 cm). Grünes Gewölbe, Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden, Dresden, Germany. Image bpk Bildagentur / Ruestkammer, Staatliche Kunstsammlungen, Dresden, Germany/Jürgen Karpinski/ Art Resource, NY
PRINCELY EDUCATION & ENTERTAINMENT
Scientific Instruments as Courtly Objects
by Peter Plassmeyer
Art history tends to ignore scientific instruments, relegating them instead to the history of science. In museums it is not uncommon to find them languishing in storerooms, for we do not even know what to call them. Yet we encounter them more often than we realize, and they are as beautifully designed, decorated, and made as are objects that are more readily categorized as decorativearts. We find them prominently placed in princely collections, depicted in paintings, and illustrated in books.
An examination of the Dresden Kunstkammer reveals that in the sixteenth century the concept of “art” was more comprehensive than it is today, extending to a broader range of objects and subjects.
Christopher Trechsler, ca. 1550–ca. 1624. Odometer, 1584. Gilt, etched, engraved, and punched brass, steel. 16 9/16 × 15 3/16 in. (42 × 38.5 cm). Mathematisch-Physikalischer Salon, Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden, Germany. Photo credit: bpk Bildagentur / Mathematisch-Physikalischer Salon, Staatliche Kunstsammlungen /Jürgen Karpinski / Art Resource, NY
DETAILS OF ODOMETER
The Ivory Turn: Of Solids, Curves, and Nests
by Noam Andrews
“The nexus between practical, or “mixed,” mathematics and the decorative arts, facilitated by the finest tools and equipment, positioned the court as a unique site for the synthesis of textual and artisanal knowledge. Beginning in the sixteenth century, artisans pioneered a method of reworking raw ivory into virtuosic forms that relied less on traditional sculpting skills and more on exploiting the untapped potential of the mechanical lathe—a machine traditionally utilized for decorative architectural elements or furniture”.
“The purview of highly specialized workshops (Drechselkammern), early modern ivory turning became associated with two primary goals: the demonstration of applied geometric principles to sovereigns, for whom turning was considered a suitable pastime; and the transformation of ivory by master artisans into intricate symbols of sovereigns’ dominance over matter and the technological capacities of their courts”.
“Whether produced by rulers or their court workshops, these objects, destined for display in royal Kunstkammern and as diplomatic gifts, differed from anything that had been created before in Europe”.
“Neither hacked into and chiseled nor cast and molded, these new assemblages, whose contours were defined by the inimitable capacities of cutting at high rotational speeds, were perhaps the first instances of machine-generated art”.
Georg Wecker (1566–1636)
Skeletal Polyhedron, 1581. Turned ivory,
H. 4 5⁄8 in. (11.6 cm)
Grünes Gewölbe, Staatliche
Kunstsammlungen Dresden (II 290)
The Noble Art: Alchemy and Innovation at Court
by Ana Matisse Donefer-Hickie
“In an account of the time he spent at the Brandenburg court of Elector Frederick William, the alchemist and glassmaker Johann Kunckel described the production of the first vessel made from his recipe for gold ruby glass: The elector of Cologne of blessed memory demanded if I could make him a red [glass] chalice”.
. . .
“I agreed, to which I was strongly encouraged by my late elector. . . . The elector of Cologne ordered the payment of 800 reichsthaler in cash, not counting what my master of blessed memory graciously donated on top”.
“When Kunckel wrote this, toward the end of the seventeenth century, 800 reichsthaler was no small sum; the cup was worth roughly one and a half years of his salary.
A translucent, luminous, and captivating red, gold ruby glass was certainly worth the price for its beauty alone. But what made Elector Frederick William most eager to possess the glass was its novelty. Gold ruby glass had never before been made on a scale large enough to produce blown pieces, and Kunckel’s success would serve as triumphant proof of innovation at the Brandenburg court”.
“During the early modern period, rulers across Europe funneled resources toward the development of new artisanal, metallurgical, and medicinal products and processes, in hopes of advancing the wealth of their lands and bolstering their reputations.
“These efforts, which resulted in notable innovations in the “arts of fire,” were all joined under the aegis of one field: alchemy”.
Probably engraved by Gottfried Spiller (1658–1728)
Covered Goblet with “Fruit Children,” before 1700.
Gold ruby glass, H. 9 1⁄8 in. (23.1 cm).
Bremer Landesmuseum für Kunst und Kulturgeschichte,
Francesco I de’ Medici’s Alchemical Laboratory, 1570
Francesco I de’ Medici’s Alchemical Laboratory, 1570, Jan van der Straet, called Stradanus (1523–1605) Oil on slate. Studiolo di Francesco I de’ Medici, Museo di Palazzo Vecchio, Florence.
Alchemical Furnace of Augustus, Elector of Saxony
Alchemical Furnace of Elector August of Saxony, ca. 1575. Cast, chased and engraved brass, steel, chamotte. 14 7/8 × 13 9/16 × 13 9/16 in. (37.8 × 34.5 × 34.5 cm). Kunstgewerbemuseum, Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden, Dresden, Germany. Photo credit: Kunstgewerbemuseum, Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden, photo by Hans-Peter Klut
DETAILS OF ALCHEMICAL FURNACE OF AUGUSTUS
Wire Drawing Bench of the Saxon Electors
Leonhard Danner, German, 1507–1585. Wire Drawing Bench of the Saxon Electors, before 1565. Wood: ebony, olive, padouk, alder, walnut, burr alder, burr yew, hornbeam, oak, barberry, maple, beech, holly, larch, fruitwood, coconut, ash, palm, burr elm, plum, pear, burr walnut, limewood, greenwood; niello on metal alloy. 31 1/8 in. × 16 9/16 in. × 14 ft. 6 in., 661.4 lb. (79 × 42 × 442 cm, 300 kg). Musée National de la Renaissance, Écouen, France. Photo credit: © RMN-Grand Palais / Art Resource, NY, photo by Stéphane Maréchalle Attributed to Juanelo Turriano, Spa
DETAILS OF WIRE DRAWING BENCH
Multifaced Sun Clock
Wolfgang Mayr (German, 1595–1605). Multifaceted Sun Clock, 1604. Gilded and silvered brass. Height: 25 cm; Weight: 17 cm; Diameter: 7 cm. Kunsthistorisches Museum-Museumsverband Hans
TECHNOLOGICAL MARVELS IN MOTION
Clocks and Automata: The Art of Technological Development
by Wolfram Koeppe
The “tick tock” sound generated by the swinging pendulum of a longcase, or grandfather, clock can have either a calming or a stimulating effect. Until the early twentieth century the pendulum clock, mounted in a great assortment of cases in various styles, was the superior method of accurate timekeeping. All such clocks worked, in principle, according to the same established mechanism, and examples were virtually everywhere to be found. Despite this ubiquity and seeming universal popularity, the reader’s subconscious may yet react negatively to the initial proposal that a ticking clock conveys a sense of calm, contending that it can just as easily prompt nervousness and discontent.
In today’s world we rarely encounter such noise of disturbing regularity—or, conversely, such soothing moments—from timekeeping devices, for key-winding clocks have been superseded by chronometric, electronic, digital, atomic, and other timekeeping marvels that have reached the apogee of precision.
Still, tempus vitam regit—time rules life—or, to follow Clare Vincent, Curator Emerita of European Sculpture and Decorative Arts at The Metropolitan Museum of Art:
“Time is all around us. It is displayed on our phones and computers, and today, almost nobody needs to own a watch or a clock to tell the time. Access to the right time is not the luxury it once was. Yet the fascination with clocks and watches persists, and the thriving market for mechanical timekeepers is deeply aware of their history. Clocks have always been about more than just telling time. They have been treasured as objects of desire and wonder: personal items imbued with value that goes beyond pure functionality. As works of art, they represent the marriage of innovation and craftsmanship”.
Astronomical Display Clock of Otto Henry, Elector Palatine
Philipp Imser, (German, 1554–1561). Astronomical Display Clock of Otto Henry, Elector Palatine, 1554–1560. Metal: Steel; copper (gilded, silvered, coloured). Wood: Spruce (picea spp); carved figures probably limewood (tilia spp). 34 5/8 × 20 1/16 × 20 1/16 in.,2892.14oz. (88 × 51 × 51 cm, 82000g). Technical Museum Vienna.
DETAILS OF ASTRONOMICAL DISPLAY CLOCK
Jost Bürgi (Swiss, 1552–1632). Hans Jacob Emck (1550–1650). Equation clock, 1591. Gilt brass, engraved silver, iron. 4 5/16 × 6 1/8 × 6 1/8 in. (11 × 15.5 × 15.5 cm). Astronomisch Physikalischer Salon, Museumslandschaft Hessen Kassel, Kassel. Photo credit: Museumslandschaft Hessen Kassel,
DETAILS OF EQUATION CLOCK
Automaton clock in the form of Diana on her chariot
Automaton clock in the form of Diana on her chariot, ca. 1610. Gilt bronze and silver; dials: enamel; case: ebony and gilt bronze; movement: iron and brass. Base: 5 1/8 × 11 5/8 × 17 1/2 in. (13 × 29.5 × 44.5 cm). 11 3/8 × 6 1/8 × 13 5/8 in. (28.9 × 15.6 × 34.6 cm). Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven, CT.
The Great Ruby Watch
Watchmaker: Nicolaus Rugendas the Younger (German, 1619–1694/5, master 1662). The Great Ruby Watch, ca. 1670. Case and dial: painted and raised enamel on gold, set with gemstones (rubies), with a single hand; Movement: gilded brass and partly blued steel. Overall: 3 1/8 × 2 1/8 × 7/8 in. (7.9 × 5.4 × 2.2 cm); Diameter (back plate): 1 3/4 in. (4.4 cm). Gift of J. Pierpont Morgan, 1917, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York (17.190.1520)
Bacchus automaton, end of the 16th century. Gilt copper, iron, brass, cold painted, opals, glass stones. 20 1/16 × 22 7/16 × 9 13/16 in. (51 × 57 × 25 cm). Esterhazy Privatstiftung, Forchtenstein Castle–Esterházy Treasury.
The Moving Monk
Attributed to Juanelo Turriano, Spanish, 1500–1585. The Moving Monk, mid–16th century. Wood, iron. Figure: 16 × 5 × 6 in. (40.6 × 12.7 × 15.2 cm). The Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of American History. Photo credit: Archive Center, National Museum of American History, Smithsonian Institution.
The Draughtsman-Writer, ca. 1800. Brass, steel, wood, fiber. 58 × 34 5/8 × 22 3/8 in. (147.3 × 87.9 × 56.9 cm, 181437g). The Franklin Institute, Philadelphia, PA. Photo credit: Historical and Interpretive Collections of The Franklin Institute, Philadelphia, PA, photo by Charles Penniman.
MET Director Statement
Max Hollein, Director of The Met.
“The masterpieces in this exhibition—many of them precursors for some of today’s most innovative technological devices—are remarkable for their astonishing capabilities and sumptuous artistry,” “Making Marvels will reveal how these sophisticated treasures were valued in courtly life as a means for fashioning identity, bolstering prestige, and entertaining—notions that are clearly relatable in today’s world.”
ORGANIZER: Making Marvels is organized by Wolfram Koeppe, the Marina Kellen French Curator in The Met’s Department of European Sculpture and Decorative Arts.
Science and Splendor at the Courts of Europe
Publisher: The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Editor: Wolfram Koeppe
Pages: 308 pages
Illustrations: 300 in full color
Dimensions: 9 1/2” x 11 3/4”
Picture album: $14.95
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