The Blue Ladys New Look and Other Curiosities

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The fabulous Habsburg Imperial collection included important Aztec artifacts, including the feather head-dress or crown of Montezuma now in the Museum of Ethnology, Vienna. These were cabinets in the sense of pieces of furniture, made from all imaginable exotic and expensive materials and filled with contents and ornamental details intended to reflect the entire cosmos on a miniature scale. The best preserved example is the one given by the city of Augsburg to King Gustavus Adolphus of Sweden in , which is kept in the Museum Gustavianum in Uppsala.

The curio cabinet , as a modern single piece of furniture, is a version of the grander historical examples. The juxtaposition of such disparate objects, according to Horst Bredekamp's analysis Bredekamp , encouraged comparisons, finding analogies and parallels and favoured the cultural change from a world viewed as static to a dynamic view of endlessly transforming natural history and a historical perspective that led in the seventeenth century to the germs of a scientific view of reality. The "Enlightenment Gallery" in the British Museum , installed in the former "Kings Library" room in to celebrate the th anniversary of the museum, aims to recreate the abundance and diversity that still characterized museums in the mid-eighteenth century, mixing shells, rock samples and botanical specimens with a great variety of artworks and other man-made objects from all over the world.

In , Michael Bernhard Valentini published an early museological work, Museum Museorum , an account of the cabinets known to him with catalogues of their contents. Some strands of the early universal collections, the bizarre or freakish biological specimens, whether genuine or fake, and the more exotic historical objects, could find a home in commercial freak shows and sideshows. He began sporadically collecting plants in England and France while studying medicine.

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He accepted and spent fifteen months collecting and cataloguing the native plants, animals, and artificial curiosities e. This became the basis for his two volume work, Natural History of Jamaica , published in and Sloane returned to England in with over eight hundred specimens of plants, which were live or mounted on heavy paper in an eight-volume herbarium.

He also attempted to bring back live animals e. Sloane meticulously cataloged and created extensive records for most of the specimens and objects in his collection. He also began to acquire other collections by gift or purchase. Herman Boerhaave gave him four volumes of plants from Boerhaave's gardens at Leiden. William Charleton, in a bequest in , gave Sloane numerous books of birds, fish, flowers, and shells and his miscellaneous museum consisting of curiosities, miniatures, insects, medals, animals, minerals, precious stones and curiosities in amber.

Sloane purchased Leonard Plukenet 's collection in It consisted of twenty-three volumes with over 8, plants from Africa, India, Japan and China.

The Blue Lady’s New Look

Mary Somerset, Duchess of Beaufort — , left him a twelve-volume herbarium from her gardens at Chelsea and Badminton upon her death in Reverend Adam Buddle gave Sloane thirteen volumes of British plants. Philip Miller gave him twelve volumes of plants grown from the Chelsea Physic Garden. John Tradescant the elder circa s— was a gardener, naturalist, and botanist in the employ of the Duke of Buckingham. He collected plants, bulbs, flowers, vines, berries, and fruit trees from Russia, the Levant, Algiers, France, Bermuda, the Caribbean, and the East Indies.

His son, John Tradescant the younger — traveled to Virginia in and collected flowers, plants, shells, an Indian deerskin mantle believed to have belonged to Powhatan , father of Pocahontas.


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Father and son, in addition to botanical specimens, collected zoological e. By the s, the Tradescants displayed their eclectic collection at their residence in South Lambeth. Tradescant's Ark, as it came to be known, was the earliest major cabinet of curiosity in England and open to the public for a small entrance fee. Elias Ashmole — was a lawyer, chemist, antiquarian, Freemason , and a member of the Royal Society with a keen interest in astrology , alchemy , and botany.

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Ashmole was also a neighbor of the Tradescants in Lambeth. He financed the publication of Musaeum Tradescantianum , a catalogue of the Ark collection in Ashmole, a collector in his own right, acquired the Tradescant Ark in and added it to his collection of astrological, medical, and historical manuscripts. In , he donated his library and collection and the Tradescant collection to the University of Oxford , provided that a suitable building be provided to house the collection. Ashmole's donation formed the foundation of the Ashmolean Museum at Oxford.

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Cabinets of curiosities served not only as collections to reflect the particular curiosities of their curators but as social devices to establish and uphold rank in society. There are said to be two main types of cabinets. Evans notes, there could be "the princely cabinet, serving a largely representational function, and dominated by aesthetic concerns and a marked predilection for the exotic," or the less grandiose, "the more modest collection of the humanist scholar or virtuoso, which served more practical and scientific purposes.

In addition to cabinets of curiosity serving as an establisher of socioeconomic status for its curator, these cabinets served as entertainment, as particularly illustrated by the proceedings of the Royal Society , whose early meetings were often a sort of open floor to any Fellow to exhibit the findings his curiosities led him to. However purely educational or investigative these exhibitions may sound, it is important to note that the Fellows in this period supported the idea of "learned entertainment, [20] " or the alignment of learning with entertainment.

This was not unusual, as the Royal Society had an earlier history of a love of the marvellous. This love was often exploited by eighteenth-century natural philosophers to secure the attention of their audience during their exhibitions. Places of exhibitions of and places of new societies that promoted natural knowledge also seemed to culture the idea of perfect civility.

Some scholars propose that this was "a reaction against the dogmatism and enthusiasm of the English Civil War and Interregum [sic]. Exhibitions of curiosities as they were typically odd and foreign marvels attracted a wide, more general audience, which "[rendered] them more suitable subjects of polite discourse at the Society.

Because of this, many displays simply included a concise description of the phenomena and avoided any mention of explanation for the phenomena. Quentin Skinner describes the early Royal Society as "something much more like a gentleman's club, [21] " an idea supported by John Evelyn , who depicts the Royal Society as "an Assembly of many honorable Gentlemen, who meete inoffensively together under his Majesty's Royal Cognizance; and to entertaine themselves ingenously, whilst their other domestique avocations or publique business deprives them of being always in the company of learned men and that they cannot dwell forever in the Universities.

Thomas Dent Mutter — was an early American pioneer of reconstructive plastic surgery. His specialty was repairing congenital anomalies, cleft lip and palates, and club foot.

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He also collected medical oddities, tumors, anatomical and pathological specimens, wet and dry preparations, wax models, plaster casts, and illustrations of medical deformities. This collection began as a teaching tool for young physicians. In the museum acquired one hundred human skulls from Austrian anatomist and phrenologist, Joseph Hyrtl — ; a nineteenth-century corpse, dubbed the "soap lady"; the conjoined liver and death cast of Chang and Eng Bunker , the Siamese twins; and in , Grover Cleveland 's jaw tumor.

In , New York businessmen formed the Hobby Club , a dining club limited to 50 men, in order to showcase their "cabinets of wonder" and their selected collections. These included literary specimens and incunable ; antiquities such as ancient armour; precious stones and geological items of interest. Annual formal dinners would be used to open the various collections up to inspection for the other members of the club. Minimal wear. Your purchase also supports literacy charities.


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