Cabinet of curiosities

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  • Intro

    Cabinets of curiosities, also known as ‘wonder rooms’, were small collections of extraordinary objects which, like today’s museums, attempted to categorise and tell stories about the wonders and oddities of the natural world. This illustration shows the tiny scenes created by the anatomist Frederick Ruysch (1638 - 1731) which were included in his cabinet of curiosities. Ruysch's museum displayed body parts and preserved organs alongside exotic birds, butterflies and plants. His daughter prepared delicate cuffs or collars to be slipped on to dead arms and necks. Small skeletons were positioned crying into handkerchiefs, wearing strings of pearls, or playing the violin.

     

    The scenes were intended to work like plays or stories, representing particular themes or ideas - that, for example, our life on earth is short. Ruysch was as much an expert showman as he was a scientist. His public dissections would be held by candlelight and accompanied by music and refreshments. And his curiosities, held open to public viewing in a number of Amsterdam houses, were known as the 8th wonder of the world.

     

    Shelfmark: C.108.c.37.

Find out more about the Cabinet of curiosities Here

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