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 […]

Res Obscura Miscellany, Part One

A medical alchemist, or ‘iatrochemist,’ examines a jar of urine in seventeenth-century Holland. Well, I try to avoid posting decontextualized grab-bags of images (one of the drawbacks of Tumblr and its ilk, in my opinion), but I’m on vacation and busy with research, so this week I’m going to take the easy route and do just […]

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) […]

Photochroms of the 1890s

The Photochrom photographic process was developed in Zürich, Switzerland in the 1880s by the printing firm Orell Füssli (apparently still in business as a producer of “highly secure banknotes” and “identity documents” — see link). The famous Detroit Publishing Company (née Detroit Photographic Company) purchased exclusive American rights to the process in 1897, which was […]

Smokers and Drunkards in the Dutch Golden Age

I’ve recently been amassing an image library of paintings by the likes of Frans Hals, Adrian Brouwer, Gerrit Dou, Gabriel Metsu and Jan Steen — Dutch painters who were contemporaries of Rembrandt and Vermeer and, though less well known, were in my view almost as good. I suspect that Vermeer’s popularity has given us a […]

Daily Life as a Slave

Below are some vivid paintings and engravings of enslaved peoples in the colonial Americas compiled by Professor Jerome S. Handler (his personal site) and Michael L. Tuite, Jr. in a joint project funded by the University of Virginia and the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities. Contextual details for these images are scarce, but the pictures […]

Image of the Week: The Defeat of the Spanish Armada

This painting, by an anonymous English artist, depicts in remarkable detail the Spanish Armada‘s confrontation with English vessels, probably at the momentous Battle of Gravelines. From Wikipedia:          English losses stood at 50-100 dead and 400 wounded, and none of their ships had been sunk. But after the victory, typhus, dysentery and hunger killed many […]

The Domestic Life of Alchemists

Philadelphia’s Chemical Heritage Foundation maintains a wonderful Flickr page of images relating to the history of chemistry, pharmacy and alchemy. While perusing their image banks, I came across this collection of 17th and 18th-century paintings of alchemists practicing their occult art — paintings which include some revealing glimpses into the private life of those who […]

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 […]