The term cabinet originally described a room rather than a piece of furniture. The classic style of cabinet of curiosities emerged in the sixteenth century, although more rudimentary collections had existed earlier. These cabinets were encyclopedic collections of types of objects whose categorical boundaries were - in Renaissance Europe - yet to be defined. Modern terminology would categorize the objects included as belonging to natural history (sometimes faked), geology, ethnography, archaeology, religious and historical relics, works of art, and antiquities.
The earliest pictorial record of a natural history cabinet is the engraving below in Ferrante Imperato's Dell'Historia Naturale (Naples 1599). Click on the image to get a good large picture to examine - the details are just wonderful.
Such a room served to authenticate its author's credibility as a source of natural history information, in showing his open bookcases at the right, in which many volumes are stored lying down and stacked in the medieval fashion - or with their spines upward to protect the pages from dust. Every surface of the vaulted ceiling is occupied with preserved fishes, stuffed mammals and curious shells, with a stuffed crocodile suspended in the center. Examples of corals stand on the bookcases. At the left, the room is outfitted like a studiolo, with a range of built in bookcases whose fronts can be unlocked and let down to reveal intricately fitted nests of pigeonholes forming architectural units, filled with small mineral specimens. Above them, stuffed birds stand against panels inlaid with sqwuare polished stone samples, doubtless marbles and jaspers or fitted with compartments for specimens. Below them, range of cupboards contain specimen boxes and covered jars.
Don't you just want to spend hours going through everything?!
The engraving below depicts one of the most famously described Cabinet of Curiosities, Ol Worm, known as Olaus Wormius (1588-1654). Again, be sure to click the image to get a larger photo, which shows his collection of
presevered animals, horns, tusks, skeletons, minerals, as well as other types of equally fascinating man made objects: sculptures wondrously old, wondrously fine, or wondrously small; clockwork automata, ethnographic specimens from exotic locations. The collection includes items both fact and fiction, including apparently mythical creatures. Ol Worm, however, was also responsible for identifying the narwahl's tusk as coming from a whale, and not a unicorn as most owners of these tusks believed.
In the 16th and 17th centuries, wealthy merchants and scholars often collected rare and curious objects. These collections would be housed in cabinets specially made for the collector. A collection would generally contain fossiles, old coins, precious stones, preserved organisms, ostrich eggs and man made objects.
This superb ebony cabinet was designed to store a collection of art and rare objects and was made about 1630 in Augsburg for Duke August of Brunswick-Luneburg.
Still, today, many are fascinated by the unusual and marvelous things that nature and man have created, and cabinets of curiosities are still enjoyed throughout the world.
If I have whetted your appetite for more, visit the Metropolitan Museum of Art's website to read about "Collecting for the Kunstkammer." You will find many beautiful and unusual pieces of art collected for the Cabinet of Curiosity.
So, are you still having fun?!
Welcome to my little mini-exhibit of Paris artist Maïssa Toulet's cabinets of curiosities. I found them strangely hypnotic - beautiful, clever, fascinating, and amusing. I hope you enjoy taking a peek at this artist's version of the Cabinet of Curiosities.
To see many more, visit her website at and discover many new treasures!
Oh! I almost forgot. Have I introduced you to my mother?
Well, I did get a little work done yesterday. I made ham salad ... and we all know what that means! Empty ham can for altering! Here is my first Day of the Dead Ham shrine for 2010! I really need a new supply of skulls!
What are YOU looking at?Oh, I get it. You're tired of reading this post and want me to get on with the day. Gotcha.
Thanks for spending some time with me today. I'll be here in New Haven, awaiting Spring and flowers and butterflies
while you go make something beautiful!
(¸.•´ (¸.•´♥ Tristan ♥
(¸.•´ (¸.•´♥ Tristan ♥