CONF Jun 26, 2015

Art and Science in the Early Modern Low Countries (Amsterdam, 17-18 Sep 15)

Rijksmuseum / Trippenhuis, Amsterdam, NL, Sep 17–18, 2015
Registration deadline: Sep 14, 2015

Jan de Hond, Rijksmuseum Amsterdam

On September 17 and 18, 2015, Amsterdam is to host the conference 'Art and Science in the Early Modern Low Countries (ca 1560-1730)', organized by the Rijksmuseum and the Huygens Institute for the History of the Netherlands.

Prior to the eighteenth century, 'art' and 'science' were often considered complementary, rather than opposite, expressions of human culture. They enlightened one another: through comparable curiosity, knowledge and observation of the world, but also in their resulting products: paintings, prints, books, maps, anatomical preservations, life casts, and many others. Scholars, craftsmen and artists often engaged in observing and representing nature, in close cooperation.

During the sixteenth and seventeenth century, it was the Low Countries that emerged as a center of artistic and scientific innovation and creativity, and as central points in the exchange of goods, knowledge and skill. It is certainly no coincidence that the outburst of artistic productivity in the Netherlands, both the South and the North, coincided with the 'Scientific Revolution'.

The conference 'Art and Science in the Early Modern Low Countries' wants to contribute to the dialogue between experts in the history of art, historians of science, and all those interested in the visual and material culture of the sixteenth and seventeenth-century Netherlands. The conference focuses on historical objects, images, works or art or texts that represent the combination of art and science, and looks at their origin and intended audience. Sessions are, amongst others, devoted to the culture of collecting; modes of representing living nature; the influence of new optical devices on the arts; and the impact of travels abroad on representations of the world.

Although the emphasis of the conference will be on the Low Countries, both the South and the North, several contributions also include developments elsewhere in Europe. This way, it hopes to offer a broad overview of the way in which art and science came together in the early modern Low Countries.

Keynote Speakers:
- Pamela H. Smith, Columbia University, New York
- Alexander Marr, University of Cambridge

Organizing committee:
Eric Jorink and Ilja Nieuwland (Huygens Institute for the History of the Netherlands, The Hague), Jan de Hond, Gregor Weber, Gijs van der Ham and Pieter Roelofs (Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam)

Scientific committee:
Joanna Woodall (The Courtauld Institute of Art, London), Karin Leonhard (Universität Konstanz), Tim Huisman (Museum Boerhaave Leiden)

The first day of the conference (September 17) takes place in the Rijksmuseum, the second day (September 18) in the Trippenhuis (Seat of the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences), both in Amsterdam.


Day 1
17 September, Auditorium Rijksmuseum

Registration and coffee

Opening by Taco Dibbits (Director of collections, Rijksmuseum Amsterdam)

Eric Jorink (Huygens Institute for the History of the Netherlands, The Hague)
Introduction. Art and Science in the Early Modern Low Countries

Key-note lecture
Pamela H. Smith (Columbia University, New York)

10.45-11.00 Coffee

Session I: Representing Nature in New Media

Marisa Anne Bass (Harvard University)
Portentous Nature: Frogs, Fossils, and Divine Disasters in Mid-Sixteenth-Century Antwerp

Marrigje Rikken (Leiden University)
Exotic Animals in Flemish Art. Representing New Species in a New Medium around 1600

Tonny Beentjes, Arie Pappot and Lisa Wiersma (Rijksmuseum / University Amsterdam)
"Blommen ende Beestjens af te gieten": Life-casting in the Netherlands

Intermezzo I: Life-casting experiments Rijksmuseum

12.25-14.00 Lunch, and opportunity to visit highlighted objects Rijksmuseum.

Session II: Collecting and Communities of Discourse

Nadia Baadj (Bern University)
The Cabinetization of Art and Science in the Early Modern Low Countries

Paul van Duin (Rijksmuseum Amsterdam)
A unique Matera Medica Cabinet with a Miniature Apothecary

Bert van der Roemer (University of Amsterdam)
Dutch Collectors and the Metaphor of Nature as an Embroidery

Intermezzo II: Ways of Seeing, Ways of Knowing
(a.o. Presentation microscope and camera obscura by Museum Boerhaave Leiden)

15.35-16.00 Tea

Session III: The Body and the Eye

Daniel Margócsy (University of New York)

Huib J. Zuidervaart (Huygens Institute for the History of the Netherlands, The Hague)
Mathematical and Optical knowledge in mid-17th century Delft

Katrien Vanagt (Huygens Institute for the History of the Netherlands, The Hague)
Vopiscus Fortunatus Plempius and the Working of the Eye
Followed by the movie 'In Waking Hours'

17.15-18.00 Drinks

Day 2
18 September, Trippenhuis (Seat Royal Dutch Academy of Arts and Sciences)

Welcome; opening

Session IV: Representing Anatomy (of animals and humans)

Lisa Bourla (University of Pennsylvania)
Art, Anatomy, and Pedagogy between Flanders and Florence c. 1600

Gaëtane Maes (Université de Lille)
Between Nature, Anatomy and Art: Crispijn de Passe's Methods to draw Animals

Steven Nadler (University of Wisconsin-Madison)
Picturing Descartes's Man: The Illustrations of the Traité de l'homme, 1662 and 1664

10.55-11.15 Coffee

Alexander Marr (University of Cambridge)
Early Modern Epistemic Images

12.00-13.00 Lunch, poster-presentations

Session V: The Small World

Floriana Giallombardo (Univerity of Palermo)
Paolo Boccone's Recherches et observations naturelles (Amsterdam, 1674). European Curiosity, Microscopic Anatomy and the Enigma of Figured Stones

Ann-Sophie Lehmann, Jeroen Stumpel, (University of Groningen / University of Utrecht)
Oil and Observation. Vision and Science in Willem Beurs' Treatise on Oil Painting, De groote waereld in 't kleen geschildert

Kay Etheridge (Gettysburg College)
Maria Sibylla Merian: Envisioning the Natural World

Intermezzo III (10-minute presentations)

14.35-15.00 Tea, poster-presentations

Session VI: The World at Large: Exploring Oversea

Claudia Swan (Northwestern University, Chicago)
"Al hetwelcke my een groote verwonderinge was": Birds of Paradise in Dutch art, science, and trade

Thijs Weststeijn (University of Amsterdam)
The Chinese Challenge: East Asia in Nicolaas Witsen's Collection

Esther Helena Arens (University of Cologne)
Between the Exact and the Economic: Material and Illustration in Rumphius' Rariteitkamer and Kruid-boek, 1670s to 1740s

Intermezzo IV (10-minute presentations)

Discussion and concluding remarks

17.00-18.00 Drinks; poster-presentations

For a tentative program please consult:

Admission and registration:
€ 95 (both days); Students: € 45.
Register at:

For more information:
Ilja Nieuwland,

CONF: Art and Science in the Early Modern Low Countries (Amsterdam, 17-18 Sep 15). In:, Jun 26, 2015 (accessed Feb 28, 2021), <>.