Is a Crocodile a Work of Art?

Friday, Aug. 23, 2013 1:58 pm

Join Paula Findlen at 4:15 p.m., Oct. 3, for  "Is a Crocodile a Work of Art? Seeing Objects in the Early Modern Cabinet of Curiosities."

Modern museums and art galleries have their origins in late Renaissance European private collections of artifacts gathered for study and admiration. From Wunderkammer to the Modern Museum, 1606-1884, a Faulconer Gallery exhibition, documents this fascinating intersection of science and art, and explores the shift from private repositories to public institutions.

The crocodile is the canonical curiosity in the early modern cabinet, or at the very least the most visible and central artifact in well-known representations of cabinets of curiosities in the late sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. We see the crocodile everywhere but we do not know why or how.

Findlen explores the meaning and making of the crocodile as an early museum artifact as a case study in how to understand the selection, presentation, and interpretation of objects in the hands of early modern collectors. Findlen is the Ubaldo Pierotti Professor of Italian History; professor, by courtesy, of French and Italian; co-director for Medieval and Early Modern Studies; co-editor of Configurations at Stanford University.Co-sponsored by the Faulconer Gallery and the Center for Humanities.