Art and Knowledge in Pre-Modern Europe
Cooperation Partners: Biblioteca Hertziana (Max Planck Institute for the Art History), Rome; Centre Alexandre Koyré, Paris; Stiftung Museum Kunstpalast, Düsseldorf; Institute for Art History, University of Bern; The Getty Research Institute; Chemical Heritage Foundation, Philadelphia; Museum of the History of Science, University of Oxford
This research group investigates how artists invented and appropriated knowledge, conceived and categorized knowledge, and transmitted and circulated knowledge in the visual and decorative arts in the pre-modern period. Did they distinguish artists’ knowledge from other types of knowledge, and if so, what kind of knowledge did they consider within their remit? How did the epistemic requirements for artists change between 1350 and 1750? Was this connected to the training and education of artists and to art theory? How was knowledge shared between artists and patrons, and which role did knowledge play in the collecting of art?
The production of objects of art is based on diverse fields of knowledge, from history to theology, from knowledge of materials and techniques to mathematics, from natural history to anatomy, from optics to alchemy. This research group is writing an epistemic history of art that focuses on the mediation of the circulation of knowledge within the artists's workshop and beyond as it travelled in other domains more familiar to historians of science, medicine and technology. By focusing on the epistemic dimensions of the production and consumption of art this project readdresses the long-standing question in the history of science on the contribution of the arts to the emergence of early modern science.
The research group considers both the visual and
the decorative arts. The main characteristic of its approach lies in dealing with
material objects, paintings and other visual depictions not primarily as images,
but as processes. The study of the sources requires expertise in
different domains, from technical art history to history of science and
technology, history of art and art theory. The research group links the Max Planck Institute for the History of
Science with the Institute for Art
History at the Freie Universität Berlin. This connection is part of the cooperation in the history of knowledge between the Max Planck Institute for the History of
Science and the three main universities in the German capital, the Freie Universität Berlin, the Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, and the Technische Universität Berlin.
A series of colloquia on the theme Art and Knowledge in Pre-Modern Europe will take place throughout the period of the group. All events take place from 4 p.m. until 6 p.m. in the seminar room of the Villa, Harnack Straße 5, 14195 Berlin - for the latest information on dates and upcoming events, please click