Early Modern Art Technology

Early Modern Art Technologies and Materials

Sven Dupre, Marjolijn Bol, Tina Asmussen, Sylvie Neven


Goldschmiedewerkstatt, Etienne de Laune

This project investigates why and how artist’s materials and techniques became an object of study for chymists, natural historians, physicians, mathematicians and natural philosophers in the early modern period. In early modern cities apothecaries supplied artists with the pigments and other materials their works and the objects they produced were made of. Beyond the shared commercial interest in materials, chymists, natural historians, physicians, and natural philosophers acquired an epistemic interest in artists’ materials and techniques. As these became objects of study and investigation, artisanal techniques and materials were turned into art technologies. This project is connected to current work on artisanal recipes, focussing on questions of collecting and readership of recipes. Building on completed work showing how the pre-modern evolution of the laboratory was entangled with epistemic exchanges between alchemists and artisans, the project considers the art technologies of a variety of artisans, including jewellers, dyers, glassmakers, potters and painters. Connecting the readership of early modern art technologies to the significance of connaisseurship, it investigates the relation between epistemic interests in materials and techniques, and luxury industries and consumption. In this way the project fosters the understanding of the historical process by which the union of artisanal practices and learned practices involving materials and techniques took place before the institutionalization of mixed epistemic and productive practices in the eighteenth century.