Natural History and the Arts

Conference at the Cluster of Excellence "Religion and Politics"

Plakat Natural History and the Arts


Natural History changed in a fundamental way around 1550. Knowledge of the European flora and fauna grew exponentially. New research methods, models of description, and classification systems were developed to organize the increasing amount of information (e.g. in the works of Gesner, Clusius and Aldrovandi). The arrival of information about numerous new species discovered in Africa, Asia and the New World necessitated a comprehensive overhaul of the existing classifications.

The increase of knowledge and information has often been regarded as the main cause of the friction between the so-called traditional, ‘emblematic’ worldview and a more ‘scientific’ one – although both concepts themselves are the subject of discussion. The micro-world of insects and other small creatures became a new focus of attention, moreover,partly on account of the invention of the microscope c. 1610 in Italy and the Netherlands.

The principal issues discussed in this conference are:

  • How was living nature documented in early-modern science – i.e. collected, described and depicted?
  • What is the intermedial interaction between collection, description and illustration?
  • How was this scientific and intermedial documentation ‘acculturated’, i.e. transposed to the visual arts and literature?
  • What was, in the processes of the acculturation of Natural History, the role of religion and/or theology (e.g. Reformation and Counter-Reformation), and of politics?

Conference Natural History and the Arts from the Perspective of Religion and Politics, 15th-18th centuries
Seminar für Lateinische Philologie des Mittelalters und der Neuzeit
Room B 304
Bogenstraße 15/16
D-48143 Münster


Thursday, 24. May
13:00–13:15 Welcome and Introduction Dean Prof. Dr. Jürgen Heidrich and the organizers
13:15–15:15 Session 1
Die antike Vorgeschichte der Verankerung der Naturgeschichte in Politik und Religion: Plinius‘ Zoologie und das Römische Reich Karl Enenkel, Münster
Lucas Cranach and his Representation of Animals in the Garden of Eden Paul J. Smith, Leiden
15:45–17:45 Session 2
Die Therobulia des böhmischen Humanisten Johannes Dubravius (1486-1553). Ein Fürstenspiegel in Gestalt eines Tierparlamentes Alexander Loose, Halle
Between the Fable and Natural History: Marten de Vos’s Representations of Animals in Late 16th Century Antwerp Amanda Herrin, Leiden
Friday, 25. May
09:00–11:00 Session 3
The Species and Beyond: Hybrid Animals Karl Enenkel, Münster
Are Cranes Republicans? A Short Chapter in Political Ornithology Sabine Kalff, Berlin
11:15–13:15 Session 4
Pious commodification. The Passion Flower and the Bird of Paradise as Motifs in 17th-Century Spanish Visual Culture Jose Ramon Marcaida, Madrid
Natural History, Christianity, Religion and Mythology: Flemish 17th-Century Animal Paintings (Roelant Savery, Jan Brueghel the Elder) Marrigje Rikken, Leiden
15:00–18:00 Session 5
Natur um 1600: Ganzheitsschau und Forschungsdrang – ein Widerspruch? Thea Vignau-Wilberg, München
Der Wal als Schauobjekt: Thomas Bartholin (1616-1680), die dänische Nation und das Ende der Einhörner Bernd Roling, Berlin
Looking for a Representation of the Clove Tree: a Kaleidoscope of Words and Illustrations Teresa Carvalho
Saturday, 26. May
09:00–11:00 Session 6
Insects in John Ray’s Natural History and Natural Theology Brian Ogilvie, Massachusetts
Micro before the Microscope. Visual evidence of the interest in details of Nature in Protestant and Catholic Europe Florike Egmond, Rome
11:20–14:00 Toads, snakes and insects. Otto Marseus, Johannes Swammerdam and the study of the lowest forms of life Erik Jorink
Vitalistic Physiology and Social Imagery: The Significance of Jacobite Ideology for the Natural History of Men in Early Enlightenment Thought Tamas Demeter, Budapest
Final Discussion/ Concluding Remarks