Where Art and
Science Intersect
Kimberley Sorenson
The Waterford School
1480 E. 9400 South
Sandy, UT 84093
Technology, Dutch Art and
the Commercial Revolution
Italian Renaissance
• Raphael’s Madonna of
the Meadow, 1509
• Platonic—believes that
the ideal is more enduring
and real than specific
examples. Tableness, for
example, lasts forever,
though tables don’t.
• Narrative—telling a story.
• Perspective—seen from
a unique vantage point.
• Chiaroscuro—light and
shadow model three
• Many languages to describe the ideal
• Botticelli’s Birth of Venus (c. 1480) and secular humanism
The Cracking of the High
• Francis I of France invades
at invitation of Milan, 1494
• Savonarola overthrows
Medici; Machiavelli out of
• Habsburgs come to “help;”
occupy and sack Rome
• The Prince, 1532
• The “Machiavellian
Moment”: a ruler should be
effective, not idealistic
• Last Judgment, 1535-1541,
and Mannerism
Christian Humanism
• Northern Europe; next generation
• Anxiety re: secular humanism
• Humanism has the potential to
deepen and purify man’s
relationship with Christ
• Erasmus of Rotterdam (1466-1536)
• In Praise of Folly, Handbook of the
Christian Knight; translation of New
• He was the Internet of his day; in
personal communication with major
thinkers all over Europe (Latin)
Northern Renaissance Art
• Jan Van Eyck begins
as an illuminator—
• Oil paint had been
around; he is the first
to discover linseed oil,
a varnish that dries at
a consistent rate
• Oil holding pigment in
suspension reflects
“Disguised symbolism”
• Single candle and dog: fidelity
in marriage
• Green: fertility and hope
• Shoes removed: standing in a
holy places
• Gendered space: man is
wearing outside clothes and
pattens; woman is inside, with
• Fascination with reflective
surfaces: beads, chandelier,
and mirror; perhaps camera
• “Jan Van Eyck was here.”
Witness, not creator.
Madonnas of Van Eyck (North) and
Veneziano (Italy), c. 1450
Italian vs. Northern
• Attention to a few large
• Objects modeled by light
and shadow
• Legible situation in space
more important than
surface of objects
• Seen from single
• Narrative/ideal
• Attention to many small
• Light reflected off objects
• Surface of objects more
important than situation in
• No clearly situated viewer
• Objective record
16th century historical context
• Beeldenstorm, 1566
• Dutch Revolt and end of centralized authority
• Anxiety re: social order and importance of family as social unit and
restraint on “embarrassment of riches”
Think Martha Stewart Living
• “Just as American
sitcoms of the 1950s and
1960s offered a forum for
new notions of home and
family, Dutch paintings of
the 1650s and 1660s
worked out and
reinforced ideals of
proper domestic life.”
• Dollhouses that allowed
women to pore over
details of refinement
Family is source of learning (5 senses),
including appropriate life roles
Formation of Family
• Catholic societies, best
marriage is Christ with
church (i.e. nuns, priests)
• Protestant societies,
marriage is companionate
• He’s 35, she’s 30
• Thistle is “man’s faith”
• Ivy is woman clinging to
• Wedding ring on
forefinger and hand on
• Garden of love in rear
Children are children, with their
own needs and personalities
The Lacemaker
The Sick Child
Van Eyck, Vermeer and
technological innovation
• Both experimented with
techniques to mimic light
• Van Eyck: eventually
found varnishes that
made oil-base paint
• Vermeer put sand in paint
• Both used a camera
obscura, which means
they physically modeled
their compositions
• Vermeer and
Leeuwenhoek were
friends; better lenses
• All paintings have
highly specific
vantage point
• All are very specific
• Sizes correspond to
size of reflection
• Vermeer’s secrecy
and slowness
• “camera” viewpoints
• Lens-like highlights
Commercialization of Dutch Art
• 2 separate historical
estimates: more than 5
million paintings during
Golden Age
• 20% landscapes; perhaps
• Small enough to hang
and be affordable in
• Workshops, with masters
doing faces and hands
• Specialization
Seeing as a way of knowing more
completely; Willem Kalf’s lemons
The Art of Describing
• “Anatomy Lesson of Dr.
Tulp” (who changed his
name because he loved
• Hand demonstrating the
actions of the flexors
• Vesalius—first to deny
Galen’s mistakes with
empirical evidence
• Describing rather than
Francis Bacon and the Scientific
• “But to resolve nature
into abstractions is
less to our purpose
than to dissect her
into parts.” Novum
Organum, 1620.
• Describing rather than
Robert Hooke, Christopher
Wren, and the Royal Society
• Christopher Wren is
astronomer who uses
new lenses. His study
group becomes the Royal
Society in 1661.
• Robert Hooke named
weekly “experimenter.”
• Robert Hooke fiddles with
lenses, adds stage and
water bladder, publishes
Micrographia, 1665
“The eye, helped by the lens, was a means by which
men were able to turn from the misleading world of
Brain and Fancy to the concrete world of
things…shewing, that there is not so much requir’d
towards it, any strength of Imagination, or exactness
of Method, or depth of Contemplation (though the
addition of these, where they can be had, must
needs produce a much more perfect composure), as
a sincere Hand, and a faithful Eye, to examine, and
to record, the things themselves as they appear.”
--Sir Francis Bacon, Novum Organum
Hooke and Wren’s
“sincere hands and faithful eyes”
1. 52 churches after Great
Fire of 1666.
2. Function: want
everyone to hear and
see sermon, so invent
central plan churches
3. Little experience. Builds
models. Experiments
with materials for
acoustics and light.
Commercialization of architecture
• Had to build them
• Had to build them
cheaply: sacrificed
• But King wanted
footprint in London:
beautiful steeples
Commercialization of Fashion
• From 14th century, French
send 300 pound “fashion
doll” to English court once
a year. Fashion cycle of
c. 15 years
• 1770—Ladies’
magazines. Fashion
cycle of 1 year.
• Painted fashion plates.
Fashion cycle of 3 mos.
• 1790—paper dolls
Josiah Wedgwood and the
commercialization of desire
• Same pattern of style
(Herculaneum); technical
innovation (transfer; new
glazes; new clays) and
lower pricing (canals)
• But he realizes that’s not
• MARKETING: regional
warehouses, showrooms,
frog service for Catherine
the Great, money back
guarantee, free delivery
to London, traveling
salesmen, ads and puffs
Commercialism of science itself
• Begin with collections
• Lectures sponsored
by coffeehouses and
local societies
• Museums,
panoramas, zoos, etc.
Matthew Boulton and
John Newbery

From Ideal to Real - University of Massachusetts …