The Age of the marvelous

Front Cover
Hood Museum of Art, 1991 - Art - 485 pages
During the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, Europeans were captivated by the marvelous. This term was used to describe events or objects that were considered unusual, extraordinary, or rare and that aroused in the viewer a sense of wonder, which the French philosopher Rene Descartes regarded as "the first of all the passions". The taste for the marvelous was remarkably widespread during this period and found expression in the visual arts, literature, music and drama, the natural sciences, religion, and philosophy. Among the reasons for the growing interest in the marvelous were the recovery of ancient texts that commented on marvels and marvelous effects; the efforts of the Catholic church to convince the faithful of the truth of God's miracles; and the profound impact of great scientific achievements, such as the invention of the telescope, that revealed new and fascinating aspects of the physical world. Perhaps most significant was the exploration of hitherto unknown lands by Christopher Columbus and others, which exerted an enormous influence on the European imagination and literally reshaped the way the world was understood. Published to accompany the exhibition The Age of the Marvelous, organized by the Hood Museum of Art at Dartmouth College, this catalogue offers the most thorough treatment of the subject to date. The essays were written by a team of scholars assembled by guest curator Joy Kenseth, Associate Professor of Art History at Dartmouth College and a specialist in Italian art of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Dr. Kenseth's introduction addresses both the criteria of the marvelous and the contemporary influences on this phenomenon. A second essay describesthe cabinets of curiosities known as Kunst- und Wunderkammern (rooms of art and marvels), that flourished at the time. James Mirollo, Professor of English and Comparative Literature at Columbia University, then examines the aesthetics of the marvelous in literature. The following three essays, dealing with anthropological, zoological and botanical wonders, are written by James Welu, Director of the Worcester Art Museum; William Ashworth, Associate Professor of the History of Science at the University of Missouri; and Elisabeth MacDougall, former Director of Studies in the History of Landscape Architecture, Dumbarton Oaks. The last three essays, describing marvels of art, are contributed by Mark Weil, Professor of Art History at Washington University, St. Louis; Arthur Wheelock, Curator of Northern Baroque Painting at The National Gallery of Art in Washington; and Zirka Filipczak, Professor of Art History at Williams College. This book includes descriptive catalogue entries for 225 objects. These works range from paintings, sculpture, prints, drawings, and illustrated books to maps and scientific instruments. The rich variety of objects in The Age of The Marvelous exhibition and in this catalogue celebrates the depth and breadth of this cultural phenomenon during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.

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