Images of a New World: the Watercolors of John White

This is a cross-posting from a piece I recently wrote for the Public Domain Review. For this version of the post, I’ve supplemented the original with quite a few more images which are sourced from the British Museum and are reproduced here under its fair use agreement. As a side note, I’ve been remiss in updating […]

Jahangir’s Turkey: Early Modern Globalization and Exotic Animals

The above image is one of my favorite examples of the bizarre cross-pollinations that early modern globalization brought about. It is a detail from a lavish watercolor painting created in 1618 by Bichitr for the Mughal emperor Jahangir (1569-1627). Here we find the strange juxtaposition of James I and VI of England and Scotland (1566-1625) […]

Cabinets of Curiosities in the Seventeenth Century

“There is no man alone, because every man is a Microcosm, and carries the whole world about him… There is all Africa, and her prodigies in us.”– Sir Thomas Browne, Religio Medici, 1642 Early modern Europeans envisioned their own bodies as miniature worlds which echoed God’s Creation in every detail. And in the expansionist, acquisitive […]

Mapping Nature in the ‘Age of Discovery’ Pt. I

In that part of Africa, which lies under the Torrid Zone, there are Countries extremely fertile… and ‘tis the same as to what lies under it in America, so far as is yet known. – John Senex, New General Atlas, 1720. Sorry about the long delay (occasioned by computer troubles and the Thanksgiving break). Today […]

Paintings from Dutch Brazil

Dutch Brazil, which officially called itself ‘Nieuw Holland,’ was a short-lived (1630-1654) state in the north-east of Brazil that resulted from the Dutch Republic’s aggressive policy of territorial expansion at the expense of the Portuguese colonies in the first half of the seventeenth century — a policy that also led to the Dutch occupation of […]

Nature Poetry by a Seventeenth Century Apothecary [February 2011 Update]

A bust of the famed physician, naturalist and collector Sir Hans Sloane. I spent the day doing some desultory browsing of the British Library’s  Sloane manuscript collection, and while it yielded little that I can actually use in my research, I did come across these poems.  Apparently written by one of Sir Hans Sloane‘s colleagues, the […]

Animals in Pisanello

Looking at the paintings of the early Italian Renaissance painter Pisanello just now, I was struck by how wonderfully delicate and accurate his paintings of animals are. If he had lived in a different time or created these images in a different context (one of scientific learning rather than courtly patronage) I’m convinced that Pisanello […]

Giolo, the Painted Prince

Prince Giolo, Son of ye King of Moangis or Gilolo: lying under the Equator in the Long[itude] of 152 Deg[rees] 30 Min[utes], a fruitful Island abounding with rich spices and other valuable Commodities. This famous Painted Prince is the just Wonder of ye Age. His whole Body (except Face, Hands and Feet) is curiously and […]

First post – The History of Four-Footed Beasts

Greetings friends and strangers.This is the first post in a blog, RES OBSCURA, designed to serve as a record of the strange things I come across in the course of my research as a graduate student in early modern (sixteenth through eighteenth century) history.  Early modern visual culture and natural history are special interests of […]