THE DISCOVERY OF NATURENatural specimens in the chambers of art and curiosities in the 16th and 17th centuries
The methods of mathematics and natural science which are valid till today date back to the Renaissance, that had fallen back on Antiquity itself. At that time art and science were not strictly separated, but complemented one another. Accordingly the princely collections of the time contained both “artificialia” and “naturalia” . In the course of time many of these chambers of art and curiosities disappeared, some were transformed into big specialized museums later. The chamber of art and curiosities at Schloss Ambras is the only one preserved since late Renaissance. The main focus of the special exhibition in summer 2006 will be on one aspect of the Renaissance collections, that has not been shown in this context yet: nature.
Collections with natural objects had been started by experts in nature studies, as physicians or pharmacists, in the 16th century. But even earlier the contingent of worked and unworked natural specimens in the princely collections of the European residences was quite remarkable: big chambers of art and curiosities with artistic and natural specimens as well as coins and antiques had been installed.
Looking for a sea route to India Spanish and Portuguese voyagers had initiated the age of geographic discoveries, which led to an enormous increase of zoological and botanical knowledge. The sovereigns rivalled in owning exotic animals like crocodiles or rhinoceroses, or colourful birds which they showed as princely status symbols alive in menageries or stuffed in their collections. From furthermost areas the most strange objects were brought and displayed artistically worked or unworked, some of them also had a magic or curative component.
The 16th century already had well-known museum theorists working for sovereigns. This exhibition follows their disquisitions when the exhibits are distinguished between objects on earth’s surface, underneath earth’s surface, in the water and in the air. An other issue will be the exploration of the cosmos. Remarkable persons and animals, plants and minerals as well as wondrous natural phenomena will be shown as raw or worked naturalia or in paintings and books, dating back to the 16th and 17th centuries.
Magnificent worked objects from the Kunsthistorisches Museum,Vienna and Schloss Ambras, supplemented by attractive loans of the Naturhistorisches Museum, Vienna, the natural history collections of the Tiroler Landesmuseum Ferdinandeum, from the National Library, Vienna and the University Library Innsbruck, as well as numerous international collections demonstrate the erstwhile connectivity of art and nature.