Sunday, January 29, 2006

Renaissance Discoveries and Inventions

Frontpiece of the series showing example advancements,
including Columbus and his America.
[click the images for larger versions]

Mola Aquaria 'Water Mill'
"Whoever thinks that watermills were invented in ancient times is all wrong"**
Sacks of grain are brought in, weighed and ground by millstones
driven by water power. Note the mid-stream watermills in the
background (right) to take advantage of stronger currents.

Distillatio ('Distillation')
"In the fire, the juice of all bodies is turned by art into
a mighty billow, clear and most potent."**
[Interestingly, a different painted version of Distillatio is displayed
at the Levity website as an example of an alchemical laboratory]

Polituva Armorum ('Polishing Armor')
"Swords, battle-axes and all the weapons of war,
are polished in our time, not in antiquity."**
Waterwheels below the workshop power the polishing apparatus.

Conspicilla ('Spectacles')
"Also invented were eyeglasses which remove dark veils from the eyes"**
Note the advertising banner outside the optician's shop
and the seeing-eye dog in the far background.
The optical aids without arms resembled pince-nez glasses.

Color Olivi ('Oil Paints')
"The famous master Eyckius (Jan van Eyck) discovered oil
as a convenience for painters"** {early 15th century}

Mola Alata ('Winged Mill')
"The winged mill which now wants to be driven by the
winds is said to have been unknown to the Romans"**

Sculptvra in Æs ('Engraving on Copper')
"By a new art the sculptor carves figures on beaten
sheets and reproduces them on a press"**
{Developed by Florentine goldsmiths in the 1400s}

[**Translation by Dr Rosen of latin descriptors below
each engraving which are cut off in the above images.]

Jan or Johannes Stradanus (originally: Jan van der Straet or Straeten) (1523-1605) was a Flemish artist and after an apprenticeship at an Antwerp publishing house, he spent the majority of his productive life in Italy, particularly Florence.

With the patronage of Cosimo I de Medici, Stradanus painted frescoes and designed tapestries. He also combined his talents with the Galle family of engravers (Antwerp) to produce a series of successful prints including the examples above. Probably his most well known legacy is a series of engraved prints of hunting that developed from a tapestry commission he received.

24 engravings from drawings by Stradanus were included in the Nova Reperta - 'New Discoveries' - collection, which was a print series celebrating renaissance progress in art, science and technology from ~1580. There's an obvious advocacy for viewing these discoveries and technologies as wholly belonging to the age in which the prints were issued.

There may not be a wealth of direct biographical or even descriptive material on Stradanus on the web, but it's hard not to come away without the impression that this was a very influential artist whose work was copied by the best. "After Stradanus" is an often repeated phrase.

"New discoveries; the sciences, inventions, and discoveries of the Middle Ages and the Renaissance as represented in 24 engravings issued in the early 1580s" is a book or portfolio collection from 1953 from a translation by Dr E Rosen with notes by Bern Dibner and is online at the Carnegie Mellon University's Posner Libary (click 'view book pages'). It's easy to navigate - an illustration every 2nd page in small, large or HUGE format. Posner library is one of the best resources on the internet for rare book images, despite having poor search ability and no way to move through books efficiently.


Anonymous said...

I really enjoyed these images (& had never heared of Stradanus before)—thank you!

peacay said...

A better version of Nova Reperta is to be found at the Max Planck Institute.

Anonymous said...

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