Illusion as ingenuity: Dutch perspective boxes in the Royal Danish Kunstkammer’s ‘Perspective Chamber’

Illusion as ingenuity: Dutch perspective boxes in the Royal Danish Kunstkammer’s ‘Perspective... Abstract Five Dutch perspective boxes were once housed in the ‘Perspective Chamber’ of the Royal Danish Kunstkammer, a room devoted to illusionistic painting and inaugurated in the seventeenth century. Perspective boxes were created using a complicated arrangement of perspectival geometry, specific examples of which can be gleaned from contemporaneous treatises on the subject. As the first room visitors entered from the floor below, the Perspective Chamber, and hence perspective boxes, acted as showpieces for the esteem and glory of the sovereign, for they inferred that the ruling élite was mindful of the optical knowledge required to create such artful deceptions. Pausing at the entrance to the third floor of Copenhagen’s newly-erected royal collections building, Danish architect Lauritz de Thurah (1706–1759) takes stock of the curious art forms on display. As he details in his comprehensive treatise on Danish architecture, Hafnia Hodierna (1748), the Kunstkammer’s first room was known as the ‘Perspective Chamber’. Acting as an impressive introduction to the collection’s six other apartments, the chamber displayed . . . several cabinets in which one may see cunningly crafted perspective illusions of all manners of churches, be they Lutheran, Reformed, Roman-Catholic or other. [Here] one also finds a plethora of paintings with artful perspectives, yet others that are still lifes, as the painters term them.1 In addition to the fact that it is the only known room of its kind devoted exclusively to visual deceit in a European Kunstkammer, the ‘Perspective Chamber’ also displayed the greatest number of ‘cunningly crafted’ perspective cabinets in one shared space.2 These cabinets – or ‘perspective boxes’ as they are also called – are three-dimensional structures whose inner-facing panels are painted as church or domestic interiors.3 The enclosed, panoramic paintings are intended to be viewed through a peep-hole that has been cut through a front- or side-facing slat. All of the adjoining panels were crafted so as to give the illusion of three-dimensionality when viewed through the peep-hole, as human figures, pets, and assorted furniture appear to pop up independently from the two-dimensional surface of the painting. While exhibited in Denmark, the boxes were produced in Holland, as were the majority of works on display in the Perspective Chamber. Six of these perspective boxes remain today including three extant pieces from the Perspective Chamber. In the context of the Royal Danish Kuntskammer, the perspective box was presented as an object that surpassed artful mimesis and entered the realm of intellectual play. This is fitting, considering that their production obliged close study of advanced geometry as published in contemporaneous mathematical treatises. Throughout the course of the seventeenth century, perspective theory developed into a dynamic field in which artists and mathematicians alike expanded on the method’s potential for creating astonishing visual deceptions. The perspective box not only participated in dialogue with the discipline of perspective, but reified its tenets, albeit in a highly entertaining and captivating format. In the context of the Perspective Chamber, such reifications were showcased as objects of inquiry intended to express the Danish king’s quick-witted intellect as the reins of governance were taken up under an increasingly centralized absolute rule. The Royal Danish Kunstkammer’s Perspective Chamber The Kunstkammer was initially housed at Copenhagen Castle, King Frederick III’s (1609–1670) country summerhouse, next to the king’s private apartments. In 1655, Frederick acquired the Museum Wormianum formed by the late Olaus Wormius, the most acclaimed cabinet of natural specimens in the North. Wormius was a well-reputed scientist and royal physician who in the span of his career amassed an impressive collection of natural and artificial wonders.4 With the addition of the Museum Wormianum, the Kunstkammer became overcrowded and plans were made to construct a larger edifice that would house the collection and amalgamate it with the royal library and the artillery. The new building, designed by Albertus Mathiesen (1635–1668) and completed under Thomas Walgenstein, was split into three floors, with the artillery on the first, the library on the second, and the Kunstkammer on the third floor.5 At Frederick’s death in 1670, building was continued under the direction of Christian V (1646–1699) who finalized the transfer of objects from Copenhagen Castle in 1680. It was around this time that Christian appointed Holger Jacobæus (1650–1701), a respected Danish physician and professor at the University of Copenhagen, to oversee the collection and compile an inventory of the artefacts, later published as Muséum Regium (1696). The frontispiece to the inventory stands as the first published illustration of the newly erected building, as seen to the left of the public square within the central vignette (Fig. 1). Thirty-seven detailed illustrations engraved by J. Erichsonig after B. Grothschilling decorate the book and showcase the Kunstkammer’s wares in a ludic and entertaining format. In the chapter ‘On Humans & Quadrupeds’, the top banner consists of an arrangement of skeletons flanked by foetal corpses (Fig. 2). Human hands, elephant tusks, and mammalian claws make up the garland that decorates the headpiece.6 Fig. 1. View largeDownload slide J. Erichsonig after B. Grothschilling, Muséum Regium, seu, Catalogus rerum tam naturalium, quam artificialium, quae in basilica bibliothecae augustissimi Daniae Norvegiaeq[ue] monarchae Christiani Quinti, Hafniae asservantur (Denmark, 1696), frontispiece. Fig. 1. View largeDownload slide J. Erichsonig after B. Grothschilling, Muséum Regium, seu, Catalogus rerum tam naturalium, quam artificialium, quae in basilica bibliothecae augustissimi Daniae Norvegiaeq[ue] monarchae Christiani Quinti, Hafniae asservantur (Denmark, 1696), frontispiece. Fig. 2. View largeDownload slide J. Erichsonig after B. Grothschilling, Muséum Regium, seu, Catalogus rerum tam naturalium, quam artificialium, quae in basilica bibliothecae augustissimi Daniae Norvegiaeq[ue] monarchae Christiani Quinti, Hafniae asservantur (Denmark, 1696), Section i, p.1. Fig. 2. View largeDownload slide J. Erichsonig after B. Grothschilling, Muséum Regium, seu, Catalogus rerum tam naturalium, quam artificialium, quae in basilica bibliothecae augustissimi Daniae Norvegiaeq[ue] monarchae Christiani Quinti, Hafniae asservantur (Denmark, 1696), Section i, p.1. Like many Kunstkammern, Frederick’s collection acknowledged a number of themes.7 It contained a total of seven apartments and a painting gallery that spanned the length of the building’s floor. The gallery exhibited paintings pertaining to the Danish Crown, while the six remaining rooms showcased artefacts grouped according to the categories of numismatics, antiquities, artificialia, naturalia, military paraphernalia, and ‘Indian’ objects (Fig. 3).8 Since Muséum Regium documents only the Kunstkammer’s artificial, natural, and numismatic curiosities, contemporary inventories may be used to obtain the clearest picture of what was displayed within the Perspective Chamber. From the years 1689 to 1737, the Chamber exhibited between twenty-six and thirty-one paintings,9 and a total of five Dutch perspective boxes.10 Two of the surviving boxes are triangular and depict the interior spaces of Reformed and Catholic churches; the former adorned on its exterior with trompe l’oeil drawers to resemble a cabinet (Fig. 4, right). The third perspective box is rectangular in shape and rests upon a turned baluster plinth. Its interior depicts the sprawling antechamber of an upper-class home (Fig. 5). The original front has not survived and is currently replaced with a panel containing one peep-hole. Considering the anamorphic rendering of the right and left panels (Figs. 6, 7), it has been speculated that the box would originally have made use of three peep-holes, each oriented towards the home’s three vanishing points: one placed in the centre to align with the end panel’s perspective, and two others cut into the corners of the front panel, that aligned with the perspective of the left and right vignettes.11 Fig. 3. View largeDownload slide Floor plan of Frederick III’s Kunstkammer designed by Albertus Mathiesen, 1660s. Fig. 3. View largeDownload slide Floor plan of Frederick III’s Kunstkammer designed by Albertus Mathiesen, 1660s. Fig. 4. View largeDownload slide (left) Artist unknown, Perspective Box with Views into a Catholic Church (exterior), 1650–74. Oil on panel. 117.5 x 75 x 87 cm; (right) Artist unknown, Perspective Box with Views into a Reformed Church (exterior), 1650–1674. Oil on panel. 119 x 75.5 x 78 cm. Nationalmuseet, Copenhagen, Denmark. Author’s photograph. Fig. 4. View largeDownload slide (left) Artist unknown, Perspective Box with Views into a Catholic Church (exterior), 1650–74. Oil on panel. 117.5 x 75 x 87 cm; (right) Artist unknown, Perspective Box with Views into a Reformed Church (exterior), 1650–1674. Oil on panel. 119 x 75.5 x 78 cm. Nationalmuseet, Copenhagen, Denmark. Author’s photograph. Fig. 5. View largeDownload slide Artist unknown, A Box with a Dutch Antechamber (exterior), 1650–1674. Oil on panel. 83 x 53 x 66 cm, height of box including pedestal: 182 cm. Nationalmuseet, Copenhagen, Denmark. Author’s photograph. Fig. 5. View largeDownload slide Artist unknown, A Box with a Dutch Antechamber (exterior), 1650–1674. Oil on panel. 83 x 53 x 66 cm, height of box including pedestal: 182 cm. Nationalmuseet, Copenhagen, Denmark. Author’s photograph. Fig. 6. View largeDownload slide Artist unknown, A Box with a Dutch Antechamber (interior, right), 1650–74. Oil on panel. 83 x 53 x 66 cm, height of box including pedestal: 182 cm. Nationalmuseet, Copenhagen, Denmark. Author’s photograph. Fig. 6. View largeDownload slide Artist unknown, A Box with a Dutch Antechamber (interior, right), 1650–74. Oil on panel. 83 x 53 x 66 cm, height of box including pedestal: 182 cm. Nationalmuseet, Copenhagen, Denmark. Author’s photograph. Fig. 7. View largeDownload slide Artist unknown, A Box with a Dutch Antechamber (interior, left), 1650–74. Oil on panel. 83 x 53 x 66 cm, height of box including pedestal: 182 cm. Nationalmuseet, Copenhagen, Denmark. Author’s photograph. Fig. 7. View largeDownload slide Artist unknown, A Box with a Dutch Antechamber (interior, left), 1650–74. Oil on panel. 83 x 53 x 66 cm, height of box including pedestal: 182 cm. Nationalmuseet, Copenhagen, Denmark. Author’s photograph. The whereabouts of the two remaining perspective boxes listed in the Kunstkammer inventories are unknown. One is recorded as a work by ‘Fabricio of Delft’,12 also known as Carel Fabritius (1622–1654), and displayed an interior architectural scene, though no further details are known of its design.13 After the dissolution of the Kunstkammer, Fabritius’s box was sold at auction in 1824.14 The fifth box depicted a long gallery, but further particulars and its current whereabouts have been lost to history. In addition to the boxes acquired for the Danish collection are three extant pieces currently housed in European and North American collections:15 a triangular box depicting a view of a Dutch interior attributed to Dutch artist Pieter Janssens Elinga (1623–1682), on display at the Bredius Museum;16 a pentagonal box displaying a view of a vaulted vestibule is located in the Detroit Institute of Arts;17 and the perspective box created by Dutch artist Samuel van Hoogstraten on permanent display in the National Gallery, London (Fig. 8).18 Van Hoogstraten’s piece is the most sophisticated of the six as it contains two peep-holes cut into the right- and left-hand panels, which increases the inherent difficulty in arranging the perspectival schemas.19 Fig. 8. View largeDownload slide Samuel van Hoogstraten, Perspective Box with Views of a Dutch Interior (interior, left), 1655–60. Oil on panel, 58, 88, 60.5 cm. The pedestal is modern. National Gallery London, United Kingdom. Fig. 8. View largeDownload slide Samuel van Hoogstraten, Perspective Box with Views of a Dutch Interior (interior, left), 1655–60. Oil on panel, 58, 88, 60.5 cm. The pedestal is modern. National Gallery London, United Kingdom. Perspective boxes as reifications of perspective theory The geometrical complexity of the perspective boxes’ designs made them an especially apt form through which artists could showcase their skills in realism.20 Evidently, the multiple panels and restricted viewpoint presented a welcome challenge to artists like van Hoogstraten. His pupil, Arnold Houbraken (1660–1719), made note of his master’s enthusiasm for visual distortion, writing: [van Hoogstraten] painted portraits and histories in perspective within rooms (which you could see through a hole that was made in the panel). I have seen several of these paintings where a small room appears as a whole palace with vaulted arches, galleries, and marble columns.21 Van Hoogstraten is one of a handful of Dutch artists to have authored an ambitious and well-written treatise on painting, his Inleyding tot de hooge schoole der schilderkonst (Introduction to the Academy of the Art of Painting, 1678). In it he exclaims that ‘by means of perspective, one can fashion marvellous perspective boxes that when painted wisely, make a figure the size of your finger appear to be life-size.’22 However, despite his obvious interest in perspective, he does not elaborate further, choosing instead to leave his readers with a list of books by Dutch perspectivists such as Samuel Marolois and Hans Vredeman de Vries.23 Marolois’s La Perspective contenant la théorie et la practique d’icelle (1614), was one of the most widely read books on perspective in Holland; by the year 1622, it had appeared in French, Dutch, Italian, Latin, and German editions, and had been reprinted at least nine times.24 The popularity of Marolois’s work on perspective is evidenced in the writings of English landscape painter Joshua Kirby (1716–1774), who later emphasized its engaging character despite its treatment of dry subject-matter: ‘This work . . . though tedious in its Operations, is nevertheless a very curious Performance.’25 While La Perspective was successful in distributing theories on perspective to a wide Netherlandish audience, it is Marolois’s second treatise, Opera Mathematica (1614) (which included also La Perspective), that had the most direct impact on perspective box design. In it, he published an innovative technique to simulate a flat or curved wall in the corners of rooms, which we can see at play in the Kunstkammer’s two triangular perspective boxes.26 Marolois’s exploration of anamorphosis, or distorted perspective, is accomplished through portraits of animals. One of his canine motifs was later adapted in Netherlandish perspectivist Hendrick Hondius’s Institutio Artis Perspectivae (1622) (Fig. 9).27Institutio was used as a ‘how-to’ book for working Dutch artists, filled with examples they were likely to encounter in their studies – household interiors, furniture, and pets – all drawn in perspective, or in a few instances, anamorphically.28 Placing Hondius’s pup next to the dog painted in the Catholic church interior, one notices a very striking resemblance (Figs 9–10).29 Portraits of household pets were evidently a popular and highly useful motif to demonstrate the devices of the anamor phic method in seventeenth-century Holland. Thus, it should come as no surprise that artists responsible for the illusionistic interiors of perspective boxes would want to imitate these affable creatures. This choice may have carried added meaning, given the role that these pets play in each interior scene. Perspective boxes present the moment when the interior world of representation has been opened to view through a tiny perforation in its encasement. As we peep inside this miniature space, our lone eye goes largely unnoticed save for the attentive animals mirroring our gaze. Fig. 9. View largeDownload slide Hendrick Hondius, dog in perspective and anamorphosis, Institutio Artis Perspectivae (Leiden), fig. 24, 1622. Rare books, Berenson Library, Villa I Tatti, Florence, Italy. Fig. 9. View largeDownload slide Hendrick Hondius, dog in perspective and anamorphosis, Institutio Artis Perspectivae (Leiden), fig. 24, 1622. Rare books, Berenson Library, Villa I Tatti, Florence, Italy. Fig. 10. View largeDownload slide Artist unknown Perspective Box with Views into a Catholic Church (left), 1650–74. Oil on panel. 119 x 75.5 x 78 cm. Nationalmuseet, Copenhagen, Denmark. Author’s photograph. Fig. 10. View largeDownload slide Artist unknown Perspective Box with Views into a Catholic Church (left), 1650–74. Oil on panel. 119 x 75.5 x 78 cm. Nationalmuseet, Copenhagen, Denmark. Author’s photograph. The manipulation of perspective within the boxes is most apparent within the Reformed and Catholic church examples. What we are actually viewing when looking through the peep-hole are two perspectivally-angled paintings merged together to form an apex (Figs 11–12).30 The lines extending along the floor appear as straight and horizontal only from the point of view of the peep-hole. This method of corrected distortion is also employed in the triangular perspective box currently in the Museum Bredius. This suggests that the perspective box functioned as a pedagogical exercise in its own right, a reification of perspectival theory that participated in a continuing conversation with the mathematical treatises published year after year. Dutch interest in the more theoretical aspects of painting complicates Svetlana Alpers’s thesis in The Art of Describing: Dutch art in the seventeenth century (1983). Here Alpers argues that art created in the North (Dutch and Flemish) stands in contrast to the southern Italian tradition primarily through its emphasis on description in lieu of narration. The northern aesthetic is qualified as photographic, in that paintings are framed in an apparently arbitrary manner.31 As it follows, Alpers concludes that there are two ways of picturing the world: the first, after the Italian approach, conceives of the world as a framed object, a window into a view ‘to which we bring our eyes.’32 In the second, the picture comes to stand in for the eye and does not consider the viewer’s position before it. As objects ‘to which we bring our eyes’, Dutch perspective boxes are framed, microcosmic worlds that greatly consider formal and narrative structure in accordance with the spectator’s point of view. The perspective box’s implementation of geometrical theory paints a more complicated picture of the Dutch tradition than is allowed for in Alpers’s theories, and underscores how polarizing her assessment is. Fig. 11. View largeDownload slide Artist unknown Perspective Box with Views into a Reformed Church (interior view from peephole), 1650–74. Oil on panel. 119 x 75.5 x 78 cm. Nationalmuseet, Copenhagen, Denmark. Author’s photograph. Fig. 11. View largeDownload slide Artist unknown Perspective Box with Views into a Reformed Church (interior view from peephole), 1650–74. Oil on panel. 119 x 75.5 x 78 cm. Nationalmuseet, Copenhagen, Denmark. Author’s photograph. Fig. 12. View largeDownload slide Artist unknown, Perspective Box with Views into a Catholic Church (interior view not from peephole). 1650–74. Oil on panel. 117.5 x 75 x 87 cm. Nationalmuseet, Copenhagen, Denmark. Author’s photograph. Fig. 12. View largeDownload slide Artist unknown, Perspective Box with Views into a Catholic Church (interior view not from peephole). 1650–74. Oil on panel. 117.5 x 75 x 87 cm. Nationalmuseet, Copenhagen, Denmark. Author’s photograph. As reifications of the latest developments in perspective theory, perspective boxes functioned within the Danish court as both entertaining pieces of artistry and as scientific marvels. Further still, there is evidence that the chamber as a whole was seen as a space where the disciplines of painting and science commingled. Thurah’s description of the Perspective Chamber shows that an observation chair previously belonging to Danish astronomer Tycho Brahe (1546–1601) was exhibited in the room: Mounted in this room is also an intricately-fashioned wooden chair that the celebrated astronomer Tycho Brahe used in order to conduct his astronomical observations at the observatory.33 Since the chair was not included in the earliest iterations of the inventory, it may have been incorporated in the chamber at the turn of the eighteenth century.34 The placement of Tycho’s chair within the Perspective Chamber underscores the braided and mutually self-serving roles of science and court patronage in the early modern period. During the reign of Frederick II (1534–1588), Tycho received generous support to pursue his astronomical research and repeatedly dedicated his findings to his benefactor.35 Through these dedications, Tycho participated in the economy of patronage and gift-exchange central to courtly comportment, thereby ensuring that his works would be circulated amongst prince-practitioners and other learned men.36 In seeking protection under the Danish court, he elevated his status to that of a natural philosopher, further legitimizing his pursuits.37 Scientifica, or scientific instruments such as spheres, astrolabes, quadrants, and sectors, were popular collector’s items at European courts and in the homes of the well-to-do as early as the sixteenth century.38 These devices were used as educational tools for élite gentlemen as knowledge of perspective equipped them to participate in the affairs of their class, such as surveying and mapping.39 Lucas Brunn (1572–1628), curator of the Dresden Kunstkammer, held that training in geometry and mathematics was as crucial a practice for the ruling élite as it was for scholars, for ‘geometry and the study of proportion form a lofty and necessary art, one which can rescue a land and its inhabitants from great danger.’40 Indeed, the Kunstkammer became a site in which mathematical and scientific study were not only appreciated by the ruling élite, but were practised as well. It was not unknown for a prince or courtier to demonstrate the functioning of a mathematical instrument on display. Revealing knowledge and skill in this realm would have only bolstered one’s status. The court, in turn, might also function as a productive enclave for working scientists; here they received financial and social support, and a milieu in which their scholarship could circulate.41 A Dutch perspective box in a Danish collection The transmuting effects of linear perspective, paired with the cabinet-like design of the boxes, provided a private viewing experience for the Kunstkammer visitor. When the collection was first located at Copenhagen Castle, only privileged guests of the king were permitted entry. After the relocation, those wishing to peruse the artefacts could – upon payment and in the company of the Kunstkammer’s keeper – marvel at the objects on display and, in turn, at the monarch’s mastery of all branches of knowledge. Frederick III in particular was an eager and erudite patron of the arts, and the wealth of knowledge on display in the royal collection was undoubtedly tied to the image he soon carried of himself as supreme ruler.42 A few years after construction began on the new Kunstkammer edifice, Frederick founded the first absolute monarchy of Denmark-Norway in the revolution of 1660.43 At his election in 1648, Frederick had been forced to accept a parliamentary charter limiting his powers as king. He later capitalized on his popularity amongst the people to issue a reform, and in October 1660, after the nobility yielded to pressure, Frederick was released from the terms of his coronation and designated an absolute monarch. The hereditary monarchy was formalized in the constitution of 1665 known as the Kongeloven (King’s Law), which stipulated that Frederick’s heirs be granted the same rights and power under the condition that they fulfil two specific duties: to keep the Danish kingdom united, and to ensure that Denmark remained a Lutheran state. Up to the end of the eighteenth century, the Danish crown passed from father to son, in an alternating sequence of Fredericks and Christians. The incorporation of Dutch works of art within a Danish collection speaks to the socio-economic relations between the two countries throughout the course of the seventeenth century. The Dutch relied heavily on bulk goods such as grain and wood from the Baltic regions. In turn, herring, salt, wine, and textiles from Holland, Portugal, and France made their way north in what became informally known as the ‘Mother of all Trades’. Dutch-Danish trade provided financial justification for the defence of Copenhagen’s port after the Swedish siege of 1656. Under the leadership of a Dutch vice-admiral, the Swedes were ultimately defeated and Copenhagen was restored to Denmark. The conditions of peace between the Baltic countries were formalized in the Concert of The Hague (21 May 1659), affirming the role of the Netherlands as Denmark’s diplomatic ally. Fertile exchange and peaceful diplomacy precipitated the re-settlement of many Dutch citizens in the north. Following this migration, traces of Dutch culture became enmeshed in the architectural styles of public and private buildings, such as Copenhagen Castle, whose design closely imitates Dutch Renaissance structures.44 In light of the Dutch origins of the perspective boxes, the juxtaposition of the Reformed and Catholic church interiors in a Danish collection evinces the complicated picture of Christian practice in the two countries. In 1536, Denmark became an official Lutheran state with the establishment of the Danish National Church under the decree of Christian III. Thereafter, punitive actions were taken against adherents of Catholicism and Calvinism, and followers of Huldrych Zwingli, a leader of the Swiss reformation. Several bishops were imprisoned on pain of conversion, while monks and nuns were forced to transfer the titles of their monasteries and convents to the Danish Crown, which then distributed them among supportive nobles. The only Catholic centre that managed to maintain diplomatic immunity was the chapel of the French embassy. Both perspective-box interiors reflect the aesthetic outcomes of Protestant Reformation in their absence of idolatry. The bare, whitewashed walls and dearth of reliquaries, paintings, and statues points to the expunging of Christian symbols under the wave of iconoclasm fervently practised in seventeenth-century Europe.45 The Catholic perspective box reflects the religious atmosphere of both countries save for one distinction: while the walls are barren, the space is bustling with activity. While this could point to the restored practices of the Catholic faith after the French occupation of Holland in 1672, it is more likely a reflection of Holland’s religious tolerance. While Calvinism was the de facto state religion, other Christian religions were tolerated. The Catholic subject-matter is less perplexing when we consider the context in which the perspective box was displayed. Because the pieces were exhibited in a setting where illusionism was the primary objective, they would have been primarily appreciated for their three-dimensional effect, not their subject matter. This is in keeping with their Dutch heritage, for paintings of church interiors were also predominantly revered for their perspectival acuity, evidenced by the fact that they were often referred to as ‘perspectives’ in seventeenth-century inventories.46 The decorated exterior of the Reformed box reinforces this for it is painted as a trompe l’oeil cabinet whose drawers are overflowing with pearl necklaces, coins, and ribbons. It is as if the riches iconoclastically purged from this church are spilling out of its drawers. Gijsbrechts’s counterfeit objects The perspective box’s consummate illusions participated in dialogue with a collection of trompe l’oeil paintings created for the Perspective Chamber, many by Dutch artist Cornelius Gijsbrechts (1630–1683), court painter to Frederick III from 1668 to 1672. In light of his Dutch heritage, it is feasible that the artist informed Jacobæus of the perspective boxes. During his sojourn, Gijsbrechts created a total of fifteen of the twenty-nine paintings within the room, all immaculately rendered trompe l’oeil pieces feigning cabinets, letter-racks, and hunting accoutrements. One such tour-de-force imitates an easel supporting a still-life painting (Fig. 13). What the viewer perceives as a three-dimensional display is in fact one two-dimensional piece. The brushes and palette placed along the easel’s edge are as fabricated as the painting they allegedly created.47 In the cut-out’s original form, the illusion was further enhanced with a protruding mahlstick and rag for cleaning brushes whose remnants can be seen to the right of the easel’s ledge. Fig. 13. View largeDownload slide Cornelius Gijsbrechts, Easel with Fruit Piece, 1670. Easel, oil on canvas, 226 x 123 cm. Statens Museum for Kunst, Copenhagen, Denmark. Fig. 13. View largeDownload slide Cornelius Gijsbrechts, Easel with Fruit Piece, 1670. Easel, oil on canvas, 226 x 123 cm. Statens Museum for Kunst, Copenhagen, Denmark. The painting fictitiously leaning against the easel’s leg recalls another piece created by Gijsbrechts for the Perspective Chamber. This unassuming ‘back of a framed painting’ compelled the Kunstkammer visitor to turn it around in order to see what might be painted on the other side (Fig. 14). When the painting is turned, the supposed front reveals nothing but the real back of the canvas. Gijsbrechts’s work epitomizes a chantourné – a sub-genre of trompe l’oeil painting characterized as cut-outs of ersatz objects that through their form and representation appear as duplicates of the objects themselves. Van Hoogstraten, a role model for Gijsbrechts, was known to have arranged chantourné objects such as fruits, fish, and slippers around his home to fool visitors and offer delightful surprises. Back of a Framed Painting manages to deceive through both its skilled arrangement and sheer banality, as the apparent exposure of a painted backside in fact hides the actual painting in plain sight. Once turned about, Gijsbrechts’s work is stripped of any potential reading, as it is the very materiality of the painting as canvas that is showcased, back as front. The stunningly realistic effects of trompe l’oeil painting prompts the observer to touch the canvas to verify its surface, as it is so often a painting’s marginal aspects, such as curled bits of paper or diminutive cameos, that most compel physical scrutiny.48 Unlike other trompe l’oeil paintings arranged in the Perspective Chamber that fool the spectator into seeing a letter-rack or open cabinet, here the ‘object of this painting, is the painting as an object’.49Back of a Framed Painting was intended to lean against a wall within the Perspective Chamber, indicating that visitors were led to believe that the painting had yet to be hung. Fig. 14. View largeDownload slide Cornelius Gijsbrechts, Back of a Framed Painting, 1668–72. Oil on panel. 66.6 x 86.8 x 3.7 cm. Nationalmuseet, Copenhagen, Denmark. Fig. 14. View largeDownload slide Cornelius Gijsbrechts, Back of a Framed Painting, 1668–72. Oil on panel. 66.6 x 86.8 x 3.7 cm. Nationalmuseet, Copenhagen, Denmark. The placement of the perspective boxes within the Perspective Chamber alongside paintings such as those of Gijsbrechts indicates how they were to be experienced and understood. By surpassing the prerequisites of naturalistic painting, the trompe l’oeil works and perspective boxes enter a category all their own, for while the Perspective Chamber exhibited paintings per se, it was designed as separate from the painting gallery. As the first room, the chamber was intended to dazzle with art that could spark ideas about the role of the senses in the acquisition of knowledge. It primed guests to question the veracity and origin of objects within the collection and to assume the role of curious scientist. In this context, the placement of Tycho’s observation chair in the chamber seems all the more fitting. As one studies the stars with scrupulousness, so, too, must one peer with curious intent into a perspective box. The microscopic details in Gijsbrechts’ paintings likewise induce this mode of vision, compelling the spectator to look slowly and carefully in order to distinguish artifice from reality. As court painter, Gijsbrechts paid homage to the monarchs by cleverly referencing his patrons in his paintings, often by including their cameos amongst cluttered vanitas objects. Likewise, moving through the collection, visitors were repeatedly greeted with images of the monarchs, whether acknowledged as cameos or awaiting revelation as in the Chamber of Antiquities’ anamorphic double portrait of Frederick and Queen Sophie Amalie (1628–1685) (Fig. 15).50 Such tributes may help solve a riddle of attribution posed within the Kunstkammer’s rectangular perspective box of a domestic interior. On close inspection, it is revealed that all of the human and animal figures have been cut out and glued in place. This holds true only for the people and pets; the remaining elements of the scene have been painted directly on to the panels. There are two possible explanations for these additions. On the one hand, they may have been placed to cover incorrectly painted areas. Consider the motif of the birdcage (Fig. 16): while the chain on which the cage hangs is painted on the original panel, the cage itself is a cut-out, indicating that this could have been the artist’s second attempt at this particular vignette. In Erwin Panofsky’s Perspective as Symbolic Form (1927), he explains how skewed areas of a pre-perspectival painting were often masked in clever ways: Already in Antiquity, but then above all in the late Middle Ages, when this construction was revived in many parts of Europe, such awkward discrepancies were concealed by an escutcheon, a festoon, a bit of drapery or some other perspectival fig leaf.51 Fig. 15. View largeDownload slide Artist unknown, catoptric mirror of King Frederick III and Queen Sophie Amalie, seventeenth century. Nationalmuseet, Copenhagen, Denmark. Fig. 15. View largeDownload slide Artist unknown, catoptric mirror of King Frederick III and Queen Sophie Amalie, seventeenth century. Nationalmuseet, Copenhagen, Denmark. Fig. 16. View largeDownload slide Artist unknown, A Box with a Dutch Antechamber (detail of interior), 1650–74. Oil on panel. 83 x 53 x 66 cm, height of box including pedestal: 182 cm. Nationalmuseet, Copenhagen, Denmark. Author’s photograph. Fig. 16. View largeDownload slide Artist unknown, A Box with a Dutch Antechamber (detail of interior), 1650–74. Oil on panel. 83 x 53 x 66 cm, height of box including pedestal: 182 cm. Nationalmuseet, Copenhagen, Denmark. Author’s photograph. Panofsky’s turn of phrase, ‘perspectival fig leaf’, is noteworthy. Here, geometric discrepancies are treated as areas of the work that should be concealed as the ‘private parts of the painting’.52 The cut-out figures added to Copenhagen’s perspective box could very well have acted as such perspectival fig leaves, treated as drapery to cover an error that otherwise would have thrown off the comprehensive illusion.53 However, looking closely at the gentleman in the foreground we see that part of his left arm has peeled away revealing a space beneath that is continuous with the background (Fig. 17). Evidently, he was glued on after the interior as a whole was painted. Fig. 17. View largeDownload slide Artist unknown, A Box with a Dutch Antechamber (detail of interior), 1650–74. Oil on panel. 83 x 53 x 66 cm, height of box including pedestal: 182 cm. Nationalmuseet, Copenhagen, Denmark. Author’s photograph. Fig. 17. View largeDownload slide Artist unknown, A Box with a Dutch Antechamber (detail of interior), 1650–74. Oil on panel. 83 x 53 x 66 cm, height of box including pedestal: 182 cm. Nationalmuseet, Copenhagen, Denmark. Author’s photograph. I contend that the box was acquired for the Kunstkammer as a bare interior, and Gijsbrechts or another artist at court added the figures at a later time. This may explain why the figures seem somewhat out of place in the perspective of the room, and in the case of the gentleman and the two children, dwarfed in size next to the chair on the left. In light of the repeated homages to the king within the Perspective Chamber, it is tempting to suppose that the gentleman is in fact a portrait of Frederik III. With his long dark hair and imperial beard, he bears a striking resemblance to a portrait initially displayed within the painting gallery by Dutch-Danish painter Abraham Wuchters (1608–1682) (Fig. 18). However, the man in the perspective box is not depicted wearing the Order of the Elephant, Denmark’s most historic order of chivalry, which can be seen hanging from the monarch’s neck in Wutchers’ royal portrait. Thus, as tempting as the attribution may be, it is improbable that the figure peeling from the walls of the box is in fact the king. Be that as it may, whether a prominent courtier or beloved dignitary, the anonymous figure stands affixed to a space carefully plotted to astonish and delight. Peeping within, viewers were intended to draw associations between the perspective box’s skilful application of perspective and the might and intelligence of the sovereign. By implying that the king is mindful of the optical knowledge required to create such artful deceptions, the perspective box stands as a reminder to the public peeping in that the king was not only a patron of the arts and sciences, but intrinsic to their practice. Fig. 18. View largeDownload slide Abraham Wuchters, Frederik III, 1625–82. Oil on panel. 52.5 x 39.5 cm. Nationalmuseet, Copenhagen, Denmark. Fig. 18. View largeDownload slide Abraham Wuchters, Frederik III, 1625–82. Oil on panel. 52.5 x 39.5 cm. Nationalmuseet, Copenhagen, Denmark. Acknowledgements Funding for this project was gratefully received from the following: Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada; Fonds de recherche sur la société et la culture, Québec; Nederlands Interuniversitair Kunsthistorisch Instituut; The Huntington Library. Footnotes 1 L. Thurah, Hafnia Hodierna: Eller Udførlig Beskrivelse om den Kongelige Residentz- og Hoved-Stad Kiøbenhavn (Copenhagen, 1748), p. 153. 2 The Perspective Chamber is the only room of the Kunstkammer whose architectural framework remains in its original form. It is currently used as a storage room for maps and drawings belonging to the Danish National Archive. 3 The only contemporary discussion of the term ‘perspective box’ was written by one of their makers, the Dutch artist Samuel van Hoogstraten, who used the term perspectyfkas. S. van Hoogstraten, Inleyding tot de Hooge Schoole der Schilderkonst: anders de Zichtbaere Werelt (Rotterdam, 1678), p. 274. 4 See H. D. Schepelern, ‘The Museum Wormianum reconstructed: a note on the illustration of 1655’, Journal of the History of Collections 2 (1990), pp. 81–5; J. Hein, ‘Learning versus status? Kunstkammer or Schatzkammer?’ Journal of the History of Collections 14 (2002), pp. 177–92. 5 T. Eskerod and C. F. Møllers Tegnestue, Statens Museum for Kunst/ The Danish National Gallery (Denmark, 1998), pp. 12–14. 6 Illustrations in Muséum Regium are attributed to J. Erichsonig after B. Grothschilling. 7 B. Gundestrup, ‘The Royal Danish Kunstkammer’, Museum International 40 no. 4 (1988), pp. 186–9; M. Bencard, ‘Museerne og Verdensordenen, Kunstkammerets opståen og grundide’, Nordisk Museologi 1 (1993), pp. 3–16. 8 The ‘Indian’ artefacts were Chinese and Japanese weapons such as daggers, javelins, and swords, as well as Chinese furniture and porcelain. While Thurah writes that ‘Greenlandic weapons’ were exhibited in this chamber, they were in fact registered in the Chamber of Antiquities throughout the Kunstkammer’s history. Thurah, op. cit. (note 1), p. 127; B. Dam-Mikkelsen and T. Lundbæk (eds), Ethnographic Objects in the Royal Danish Kunstkammer 1650–1800 (Copenhagen, 1980). 9 Inventories of the collection were drawn up in 1674, 1689, 1690, and 1737. The 1674 inventory was conducted when the collection was still located at Copenhagen Castle and the subsequent listings reflect the Kunstkammer’s holdings in the new location. The 1689 and 1690 inventories reveal that the Perspective Chamber exhibited twenty-six paintings, while the 1737 inventory shows thirty-one. B. Gundestrup, Det kongelige danske Kunstkammer 1737/The Royal Danish Kunstkammer 1737 (Copenhagen, 1991), vol. ii, pp. 418–31; See also Gundestrup, op. cit. (note 7), p.188. 10 According to the 1690 inventory, the first item is described as ‘a box, in which a Roman-Catholic church painted in the Perspective Manner’; the second as ‘A box, in which a Reformed church painted in the same Manner’; the third lists ‘A box, in which a large Optical Perspective’; the fourth describes ‘A box, in which a Dutch Antechamber’; and finally, the fifth is listed as ‘Do [‘Ein ditto’, ‘the same’]. With a Long Gallery.’ 11 E. de la Fuente Pedersen, ‘Cornelius Gijsbrechts and the Perspective Chamber at the Royal Danish Kunstkammer’, SMK Art Journal: Statens Museum for Kunst (2003–4), p. 158. 12 ‘Et stort optisk stykke, staaende paa et Postament, gjort af en fornem mester Fabricio til Delft.’ (‘a large optical piece standing on a pedestal and made by a distinguished master, Fabricio of Delft.’). C. Brown, Carel Fabritius: Complete Edition with a Catalogue Raisonne (Oxford, 1981), p. 135. 13 Christopher Brown argues that the Reformed church perspective box has been erroneously attributed to Fabritius, in light of the inventory of the Kunstkammer taken in 1690. In a 1952 study, K. G. Hulten attributed this box to Fabritius, arguing that the church depicted was in fact in Purmerend, Holland, where Fabritius’s grandfather was predikant (pastor). However, Brown writes that the perspective box directly attributed to Fabritius in the inventory is more likely to be that of the Dutch Antechamber, noting that this particular box is the only one to have retained its original pedestal. Brown, op. cit. (note 12), p. 135; See also K. G. Hulten, ‘A peep show by Carel Fabritius’, Art Quarterly 15 (1952), pp. 279–90. Walter Liedtke has also previously suggested that Hendrick Van Vliet had in fact created the Reformed Church perspective box in the years 1660–1665, but this remains unconfirmed. W. Liedtke, ‘The “View in Delft” by Carel Fabritius’, Burlington Magazine 118 no. 875 (1976), p. 69. 14 Gundestrup, op. cit. (note 9), vol. ii, p. 416. 15 It is possible that a seventh perspective box made its way to Japan in the seventeenth century. The development of Japanese peep-boxes, or peeping karakuri, may have been informed by interactions with a Dutch perspective box. See M. Fukuoka, ‘Contextualising the peep-box in Tokugawa Japan’, Early Popular Visual Culture 3 no. 1 (2005), pp. 17–42; T. Screech, The Western Scientific Gaze and Popular Imagery in Later Edo Japan (Cambridge, 1996), p. 272. 16 The attribution of this perspective box to Elinga was first made by Hofstede de Groot, Schilder Janssens: een navolger van Pieter de Hooch (Amsterdam, 1891). However, Clotilde Brière-Misme has argues that the fashion of dress of the figures indicates the piece would have been made around 1630, and thus could not have been made by Elinga. See C. Brière-Misme, ‘Dutch intimist: Pieter Janssens Elinga’, Gazette des Beaux-Arts (1947–8), p. 159. The Bredius Museum has dated the piece to 1678. For further details on the date and attribution, see: A. Blankert, Museum Bredius: Catalogus van de schilderijen en tekeningen (The Hague, 1978), pp. 79–80. 17 This particular perspective box bears the marking of the year in which it was created, 1663 – the only box whose date is firmly established. See E. P. Richardson, ‘Samuel van Hoogstraten and Carel Fabritius’, Art in America and Elsewhere 25 no. 4 (1937), p. 141. 18 See C. Brown, D. Bomford, J. Plesters, and J. Mills, ‘Samuel van Hoogstraten: perspective and painting’, National Gallery Technical Bulletin 11 (1987), pp. 60–85; S. Alpers, The Art of Describing: Dutch art in the seventeenth century (Chicago, 1983), pp. 62–4. 19 Celeste Brusati has shown how van Hoogstraten codified his perspective box as a self-emblem by slyly footnoting his familial connections and career achievements in different corners of the house. C. Brusati, Artifice and Illusion: The art and writing of Samuel Van Hoogstraten (Chicago and London, 1995), pp. 169–217. 20 Susan Koslow was the first to explain that perspective boxes alter reality through the principles of linear perspective. See Susan Koslow, ‘De Wonderlijke perspectyfks: an aspect of seventeenth-century Dutch painting’, Oud Holland 82 (1967), pp. 35–56. 21 A. Houbraken, De Groote Schouburgh der Nederlantsche Konstschilders en Schilderessen (‘s-Gravenhage, 1753), vol. ii, p. 158. 22 Hoogstraten, op. cit. (note 3), p. 415. 23 ‘Read if you will Albrecht Dürer, Hans Vredeman de Vries, Marolois, Guidobaldo del Monte, or the new work of Desargues.’ Van Hoogstraten, op. cit. (note 3), pp. 415–16. 24 In addition to offering his own theories on the practice of perspective, Marolois also re-published Vredeman de Vries’s thesis in the second half of the treatise along with his corrections. A. K. Wheelock, Perspective, Optics, and Delft Artists around 1650 (New York, 1977), p. 12. Marolois excelled at synthesizing many sixteenth century perspectival texts of French, Italian, and German nature. His primary source material included: Jean Cousin’s Livre de la perspective (Paris, 1560); Daniel Barbaro’s La Pratica della perspettive (Venice, 1569); Barozzi da Vignola and Egnatio Danti’s Le due regole della prospettive (Rome, 1583); Guidobaldo del Monte’s Perspective (Pisa, 1600); and Albrecht Dürer’s Underweysung der Messung mit dem Zirckel un Richtscheyt (Nuremberg, 1525). 25 J. Kirby, Dr. Brook Taylor’s Method of Perspective made Easy, both in theory and in practice (Ipswich, 1754), Book ii, p. 81. 26 See K. Veltman, ‘Perspective, anamorphosis, and vision’, Marburger Jahrbuch für Kunstwissenschaft 21 (1986), pp. 99–100. 27 Curiously, van Hoogstraten does not mention Hondius in his treatise. However, links can be drawn between Hondius’s work in the area of perspective and the Netherlandish tradition, both directly through his writing and indirectly through his work with other perspectivists. 28 Hondius has been consistently acknowledged for his authorship of one of the three main perspective treatises available to Dutch artists in the first half of the seventeenth century. This treatise appeared in both Dutch and French editions, and was attuned to the Dutch artists’ need for a more applied and practical guide to the methods of perspective. See N. Orenstein, Hendrick Hondius and the Business of Prints in seventeenth-century Holland (Rotterdam, 1996), p. 118; Wheelock, op. cit. (note 24), p. 13. 29 Amusingly, Hondius’s names is a Latinized version of the Dutch surname ‘De Hondt’, which translates as ‘dog.’ 30 D. Bomford, ‘Perspective, anamorphosis, and illusion: seventeenth-century Dutch peep shows’, in I. Gaskell and M. Jonker (eds), Vermeer Studies (New Haven, 1998), p. 126. 31 Alpers, op. cit. (note 18), p. 43. 32 Ibid., p. 45. 33 Thurah, op. cit. (note 1), p. 120. 34 In the inventories, Tycho’s chair is mentioned for the first time in the 1737 listing as part of the Chamber of Models, which was located in the attic. While the inventories do not indicate that the chair was moved prior to the publication of Hafnia Hodierna, Thurah’s description is nonetheless illustrative of the perceived relationship between scientific memorabilia and works of fine art within the Danish collection. 35 A. Mosley, Bearing the Heavens: Tycho Brahe and the astronomical community of the late sixteenth century (Cambridge, 2007), p. 113. 36 Ibid., p. 124. 37 M. Biagioli, Galileo, Courtier: The practice of science in the culture of absolutism (Chicago, 1993), p. 156. 38 G. Strano, ‘Introduction’, in G. Strano, S. Johnston, M. Miniati, and A. Morrison-Low (eds), European Collections of Scientific Instruments 1550–1750 (Leiden, 2009), p. xxi. 39 A. Turner, ‘Mathematical instruments and the education of gentlemen,’ Annals of Science 30 no. 1 (1973), pp. 51–2. Turner’s study is largely centred on English noblemen in the seventeenth century, although the claim concerning upper class mathematical literacy can be applied also to France and Italy. 40 M. Korey, The Geometry of Power: Mathematical instruments and princely mechanical devices from around 1600 (Dresden, 2007), p. 44. 41 See L. Daston and K. Park, Wonders and the Order of Nature 1150–1750 (New York, 2001), pp. 165–72. 42 It should be noted that Frederick probably collected before he settled down in Copenhagen as king in 1648, for instance while he was governor in Schleswig-Holstein. After his move to Copenhagen, he hired others to look after the collection and re-decorated a series of rooms in the south wing of Copenhagen Castle to house the Kunstkammer artefacts. 43 To ensure this conversion Frederick instituted a state of emergency during a gathering of the Estates intended to solve Denmark’s financial problems faced after the wars. By playing the Estates against each other, Frederick earned support for both a hereditary monarchy and an absolute monarchical rule by decree. 44 W. Frijhoff and M. Spies, Dutch Culture in a European Perspective 1: 1650. Hard-won unity (London, 2004), pp. 133–5. 45 The architectural detail of the churches is reminiscent of the oeuvre of the Dutch artist Pieter Jansz. Saenredam (1597–1665), whose paintings of the interior of St Bavo’s exhibit the same whitewashed walls and human figures dwarfed in scale. Perspectival acuity was a central concern with Saenredam, for in addition to paying close attention to the overall spatial impression of his works, the studies he conducted for his paintings reveal puncture marks from a marking pin used to plot distance points within the perspectival schemas. M. Kemp, ‘Simon Stevin and Pieter Saenredam: a study of mathematics and vision in Dutch science and art’, Art Bulletin 68 no. 2 (1986), pp. 237–52, p. 246. See also W. Liedtke, ‘The New Church in Haarlem series: Saenredam’s sketching style in relation to perspective’, Simiolus 3 (1975–6), pp. 145–64; and A. Vanhaelen, The Wake of Iconoclasm: Painting the church in the Dutch Republic (University Park, 2012), pp. 133–5. 46 Such paintings are often referred to as ‘perspectives’ in seventeenth-century inventories. Vanhaelen, op. cit. (note 45), p. 60. 47 For more information on Gijsbrechts’s oeuvre, see O. Koester, ‘Cornelius Norbertus Gijsbrechts: an introduction’, in O. Koester (ed.), Illusions: Gijsbrechts, royal master of deception (Copenhagen, 1999), pp. 1–33. 48 See M. Leja, ‘Trompe l’oeil painting and the deceived viewer’, in R. Maniura and R. Shepherd (eds), Presence: The inherence of the prototype within images and other objects (Aldershot and Burlington, 2006), p. 177. 49 V. Stoichita, The Self-Aware Image: An insight into early modern meta-painting (Cambridge, 1997), pp. 277–9. 50 At Copenhagen Castle, the cylinder was placed within the Mathematical Chamber, and after the transfer to the new building it was relocated to the Chamber of Antiquities. Gundestrup, op. cit. (note 9), vol. ii, p. 260. For more on this cylinder, see also A. MacGregor, Curiosity and Enlightenment: Collectors and collections from the sixteenth to the nineteenth century (New Haven and London, 2007), pp. 47–8. 51 E. Panofsky, Perspective as Symbolic Form, trans. C. Wood (New York, 1991), p. 40. 52 H. Grootenboer, The Rhetoric of Perspective: Realism and illusionism in seventeenth-century Dutch still-life painting (Chicago and London, 2005), p. 115. 53 Such perspectival ‘cover-ups’ are also evident in van Hoogstraten’s perspective box. As Kirsti Andersen has noted, the presence of two peep-holes in this piece makes for an interesting conundrum when it comes to areas that should remain continuous between the two points of view: that of the ceiling, tiled floor, and back panel. These areas present a geometrical problem since here van Hoogstraten had to create perspectival projections that can be seen from two points of view that are quite a distance apart. In regard to the bottom panel, van Hoogstraten’s means of camouflaging the discrepancy was to use a tiled floor that culminates in the centre, thus providing an even appearance from both ends. Furthermore, the furniture in the central room (the first room visible from both peep-holes) is largely projected on the right and left panels, not on the bottom, which ensures that when looking from one of the peep-holes, the viewer does not see the items directly beneath. K. Andersen, The Geometry of an Art: The history of the mathematical theory of perspective from Alberti to Monge (New York, 2007), pp. 314–17. © The Author(s) 2017. Published by Oxford University Press. All rights reserved. This article is published and distributed under the terms of the Oxford University Press, Standard Journals Publication Model (https://academic.oup.com/journals/pages/open_access/funder_policies/chorus/standard_publication_model) http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png Journal of the History of Collections Oxford University Press

Illusion as ingenuity: Dutch perspective boxes in the Royal Danish Kunstkammer’s ‘Perspective Chamber’

Journal of the History of Collections , Volume Advance Article (2) – Aug 10, 2017

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Oxford University Press
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0954-6650
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Abstract

Abstract Five Dutch perspective boxes were once housed in the ‘Perspective Chamber’ of the Royal Danish Kunstkammer, a room devoted to illusionistic painting and inaugurated in the seventeenth century. Perspective boxes were created using a complicated arrangement of perspectival geometry, specific examples of which can be gleaned from contemporaneous treatises on the subject. As the first room visitors entered from the floor below, the Perspective Chamber, and hence perspective boxes, acted as showpieces for the esteem and glory of the sovereign, for they inferred that the ruling élite was mindful of the optical knowledge required to create such artful deceptions. Pausing at the entrance to the third floor of Copenhagen’s newly-erected royal collections building, Danish architect Lauritz de Thurah (1706–1759) takes stock of the curious art forms on display. As he details in his comprehensive treatise on Danish architecture, Hafnia Hodierna (1748), the Kunstkammer’s first room was known as the ‘Perspective Chamber’. Acting as an impressive introduction to the collection’s six other apartments, the chamber displayed . . . several cabinets in which one may see cunningly crafted perspective illusions of all manners of churches, be they Lutheran, Reformed, Roman-Catholic or other. [Here] one also finds a plethora of paintings with artful perspectives, yet others that are still lifes, as the painters term them.1 In addition to the fact that it is the only known room of its kind devoted exclusively to visual deceit in a European Kunstkammer, the ‘Perspective Chamber’ also displayed the greatest number of ‘cunningly crafted’ perspective cabinets in one shared space.2 These cabinets – or ‘perspective boxes’ as they are also called – are three-dimensional structures whose inner-facing panels are painted as church or domestic interiors.3 The enclosed, panoramic paintings are intended to be viewed through a peep-hole that has been cut through a front- or side-facing slat. All of the adjoining panels were crafted so as to give the illusion of three-dimensionality when viewed through the peep-hole, as human figures, pets, and assorted furniture appear to pop up independently from the two-dimensional surface of the painting. While exhibited in Denmark, the boxes were produced in Holland, as were the majority of works on display in the Perspective Chamber. Six of these perspective boxes remain today including three extant pieces from the Perspective Chamber. In the context of the Royal Danish Kuntskammer, the perspective box was presented as an object that surpassed artful mimesis and entered the realm of intellectual play. This is fitting, considering that their production obliged close study of advanced geometry as published in contemporaneous mathematical treatises. Throughout the course of the seventeenth century, perspective theory developed into a dynamic field in which artists and mathematicians alike expanded on the method’s potential for creating astonishing visual deceptions. The perspective box not only participated in dialogue with the discipline of perspective, but reified its tenets, albeit in a highly entertaining and captivating format. In the context of the Perspective Chamber, such reifications were showcased as objects of inquiry intended to express the Danish king’s quick-witted intellect as the reins of governance were taken up under an increasingly centralized absolute rule. The Royal Danish Kunstkammer’s Perspective Chamber The Kunstkammer was initially housed at Copenhagen Castle, King Frederick III’s (1609–1670) country summerhouse, next to the king’s private apartments. In 1655, Frederick acquired the Museum Wormianum formed by the late Olaus Wormius, the most acclaimed cabinet of natural specimens in the North. Wormius was a well-reputed scientist and royal physician who in the span of his career amassed an impressive collection of natural and artificial wonders.4 With the addition of the Museum Wormianum, the Kunstkammer became overcrowded and plans were made to construct a larger edifice that would house the collection and amalgamate it with the royal library and the artillery. The new building, designed by Albertus Mathiesen (1635–1668) and completed under Thomas Walgenstein, was split into three floors, with the artillery on the first, the library on the second, and the Kunstkammer on the third floor.5 At Frederick’s death in 1670, building was continued under the direction of Christian V (1646–1699) who finalized the transfer of objects from Copenhagen Castle in 1680. It was around this time that Christian appointed Holger Jacobæus (1650–1701), a respected Danish physician and professor at the University of Copenhagen, to oversee the collection and compile an inventory of the artefacts, later published as Muséum Regium (1696). The frontispiece to the inventory stands as the first published illustration of the newly erected building, as seen to the left of the public square within the central vignette (Fig. 1). Thirty-seven detailed illustrations engraved by J. Erichsonig after B. Grothschilling decorate the book and showcase the Kunstkammer’s wares in a ludic and entertaining format. In the chapter ‘On Humans & Quadrupeds’, the top banner consists of an arrangement of skeletons flanked by foetal corpses (Fig. 2). Human hands, elephant tusks, and mammalian claws make up the garland that decorates the headpiece.6 Fig. 1. View largeDownload slide J. Erichsonig after B. Grothschilling, Muséum Regium, seu, Catalogus rerum tam naturalium, quam artificialium, quae in basilica bibliothecae augustissimi Daniae Norvegiaeq[ue] monarchae Christiani Quinti, Hafniae asservantur (Denmark, 1696), frontispiece. Fig. 1. View largeDownload slide J. Erichsonig after B. Grothschilling, Muséum Regium, seu, Catalogus rerum tam naturalium, quam artificialium, quae in basilica bibliothecae augustissimi Daniae Norvegiaeq[ue] monarchae Christiani Quinti, Hafniae asservantur (Denmark, 1696), frontispiece. Fig. 2. View largeDownload slide J. Erichsonig after B. Grothschilling, Muséum Regium, seu, Catalogus rerum tam naturalium, quam artificialium, quae in basilica bibliothecae augustissimi Daniae Norvegiaeq[ue] monarchae Christiani Quinti, Hafniae asservantur (Denmark, 1696), Section i, p.1. Fig. 2. View largeDownload slide J. Erichsonig after B. Grothschilling, Muséum Regium, seu, Catalogus rerum tam naturalium, quam artificialium, quae in basilica bibliothecae augustissimi Daniae Norvegiaeq[ue] monarchae Christiani Quinti, Hafniae asservantur (Denmark, 1696), Section i, p.1. Like many Kunstkammern, Frederick’s collection acknowledged a number of themes.7 It contained a total of seven apartments and a painting gallery that spanned the length of the building’s floor. The gallery exhibited paintings pertaining to the Danish Crown, while the six remaining rooms showcased artefacts grouped according to the categories of numismatics, antiquities, artificialia, naturalia, military paraphernalia, and ‘Indian’ objects (Fig. 3).8 Since Muséum Regium documents only the Kunstkammer’s artificial, natural, and numismatic curiosities, contemporary inventories may be used to obtain the clearest picture of what was displayed within the Perspective Chamber. From the years 1689 to 1737, the Chamber exhibited between twenty-six and thirty-one paintings,9 and a total of five Dutch perspective boxes.10 Two of the surviving boxes are triangular and depict the interior spaces of Reformed and Catholic churches; the former adorned on its exterior with trompe l’oeil drawers to resemble a cabinet (Fig. 4, right). The third perspective box is rectangular in shape and rests upon a turned baluster plinth. Its interior depicts the sprawling antechamber of an upper-class home (Fig. 5). The original front has not survived and is currently replaced with a panel containing one peep-hole. Considering the anamorphic rendering of the right and left panels (Figs. 6, 7), it has been speculated that the box would originally have made use of three peep-holes, each oriented towards the home’s three vanishing points: one placed in the centre to align with the end panel’s perspective, and two others cut into the corners of the front panel, that aligned with the perspective of the left and right vignettes.11 Fig. 3. View largeDownload slide Floor plan of Frederick III’s Kunstkammer designed by Albertus Mathiesen, 1660s. Fig. 3. View largeDownload slide Floor plan of Frederick III’s Kunstkammer designed by Albertus Mathiesen, 1660s. Fig. 4. View largeDownload slide (left) Artist unknown, Perspective Box with Views into a Catholic Church (exterior), 1650–74. Oil on panel. 117.5 x 75 x 87 cm; (right) Artist unknown, Perspective Box with Views into a Reformed Church (exterior), 1650–1674. Oil on panel. 119 x 75.5 x 78 cm. Nationalmuseet, Copenhagen, Denmark. Author’s photograph. Fig. 4. View largeDownload slide (left) Artist unknown, Perspective Box with Views into a Catholic Church (exterior), 1650–74. Oil on panel. 117.5 x 75 x 87 cm; (right) Artist unknown, Perspective Box with Views into a Reformed Church (exterior), 1650–1674. Oil on panel. 119 x 75.5 x 78 cm. Nationalmuseet, Copenhagen, Denmark. Author’s photograph. Fig. 5. View largeDownload slide Artist unknown, A Box with a Dutch Antechamber (exterior), 1650–1674. Oil on panel. 83 x 53 x 66 cm, height of box including pedestal: 182 cm. Nationalmuseet, Copenhagen, Denmark. Author’s photograph. Fig. 5. View largeDownload slide Artist unknown, A Box with a Dutch Antechamber (exterior), 1650–1674. Oil on panel. 83 x 53 x 66 cm, height of box including pedestal: 182 cm. Nationalmuseet, Copenhagen, Denmark. Author’s photograph. Fig. 6. View largeDownload slide Artist unknown, A Box with a Dutch Antechamber (interior, right), 1650–74. Oil on panel. 83 x 53 x 66 cm, height of box including pedestal: 182 cm. Nationalmuseet, Copenhagen, Denmark. Author’s photograph. Fig. 6. View largeDownload slide Artist unknown, A Box with a Dutch Antechamber (interior, right), 1650–74. Oil on panel. 83 x 53 x 66 cm, height of box including pedestal: 182 cm. Nationalmuseet, Copenhagen, Denmark. Author’s photograph. Fig. 7. View largeDownload slide Artist unknown, A Box with a Dutch Antechamber (interior, left), 1650–74. Oil on panel. 83 x 53 x 66 cm, height of box including pedestal: 182 cm. Nationalmuseet, Copenhagen, Denmark. Author’s photograph. Fig. 7. View largeDownload slide Artist unknown, A Box with a Dutch Antechamber (interior, left), 1650–74. Oil on panel. 83 x 53 x 66 cm, height of box including pedestal: 182 cm. Nationalmuseet, Copenhagen, Denmark. Author’s photograph. The whereabouts of the two remaining perspective boxes listed in the Kunstkammer inventories are unknown. One is recorded as a work by ‘Fabricio of Delft’,12 also known as Carel Fabritius (1622–1654), and displayed an interior architectural scene, though no further details are known of its design.13 After the dissolution of the Kunstkammer, Fabritius’s box was sold at auction in 1824.14 The fifth box depicted a long gallery, but further particulars and its current whereabouts have been lost to history. In addition to the boxes acquired for the Danish collection are three extant pieces currently housed in European and North American collections:15 a triangular box depicting a view of a Dutch interior attributed to Dutch artist Pieter Janssens Elinga (1623–1682), on display at the Bredius Museum;16 a pentagonal box displaying a view of a vaulted vestibule is located in the Detroit Institute of Arts;17 and the perspective box created by Dutch artist Samuel van Hoogstraten on permanent display in the National Gallery, London (Fig. 8).18 Van Hoogstraten’s piece is the most sophisticated of the six as it contains two peep-holes cut into the right- and left-hand panels, which increases the inherent difficulty in arranging the perspectival schemas.19 Fig. 8. View largeDownload slide Samuel van Hoogstraten, Perspective Box with Views of a Dutch Interior (interior, left), 1655–60. Oil on panel, 58, 88, 60.5 cm. The pedestal is modern. National Gallery London, United Kingdom. Fig. 8. View largeDownload slide Samuel van Hoogstraten, Perspective Box with Views of a Dutch Interior (interior, left), 1655–60. Oil on panel, 58, 88, 60.5 cm. The pedestal is modern. National Gallery London, United Kingdom. Perspective boxes as reifications of perspective theory The geometrical complexity of the perspective boxes’ designs made them an especially apt form through which artists could showcase their skills in realism.20 Evidently, the multiple panels and restricted viewpoint presented a welcome challenge to artists like van Hoogstraten. His pupil, Arnold Houbraken (1660–1719), made note of his master’s enthusiasm for visual distortion, writing: [van Hoogstraten] painted portraits and histories in perspective within rooms (which you could see through a hole that was made in the panel). I have seen several of these paintings where a small room appears as a whole palace with vaulted arches, galleries, and marble columns.21 Van Hoogstraten is one of a handful of Dutch artists to have authored an ambitious and well-written treatise on painting, his Inleyding tot de hooge schoole der schilderkonst (Introduction to the Academy of the Art of Painting, 1678). In it he exclaims that ‘by means of perspective, one can fashion marvellous perspective boxes that when painted wisely, make a figure the size of your finger appear to be life-size.’22 However, despite his obvious interest in perspective, he does not elaborate further, choosing instead to leave his readers with a list of books by Dutch perspectivists such as Samuel Marolois and Hans Vredeman de Vries.23 Marolois’s La Perspective contenant la théorie et la practique d’icelle (1614), was one of the most widely read books on perspective in Holland; by the year 1622, it had appeared in French, Dutch, Italian, Latin, and German editions, and had been reprinted at least nine times.24 The popularity of Marolois’s work on perspective is evidenced in the writings of English landscape painter Joshua Kirby (1716–1774), who later emphasized its engaging character despite its treatment of dry subject-matter: ‘This work . . . though tedious in its Operations, is nevertheless a very curious Performance.’25 While La Perspective was successful in distributing theories on perspective to a wide Netherlandish audience, it is Marolois’s second treatise, Opera Mathematica (1614) (which included also La Perspective), that had the most direct impact on perspective box design. In it, he published an innovative technique to simulate a flat or curved wall in the corners of rooms, which we can see at play in the Kunstkammer’s two triangular perspective boxes.26 Marolois’s exploration of anamorphosis, or distorted perspective, is accomplished through portraits of animals. One of his canine motifs was later adapted in Netherlandish perspectivist Hendrick Hondius’s Institutio Artis Perspectivae (1622) (Fig. 9).27Institutio was used as a ‘how-to’ book for working Dutch artists, filled with examples they were likely to encounter in their studies – household interiors, furniture, and pets – all drawn in perspective, or in a few instances, anamorphically.28 Placing Hondius’s pup next to the dog painted in the Catholic church interior, one notices a very striking resemblance (Figs 9–10).29 Portraits of household pets were evidently a popular and highly useful motif to demonstrate the devices of the anamor phic method in seventeenth-century Holland. Thus, it should come as no surprise that artists responsible for the illusionistic interiors of perspective boxes would want to imitate these affable creatures. This choice may have carried added meaning, given the role that these pets play in each interior scene. Perspective boxes present the moment when the interior world of representation has been opened to view through a tiny perforation in its encasement. As we peep inside this miniature space, our lone eye goes largely unnoticed save for the attentive animals mirroring our gaze. Fig. 9. View largeDownload slide Hendrick Hondius, dog in perspective and anamorphosis, Institutio Artis Perspectivae (Leiden), fig. 24, 1622. Rare books, Berenson Library, Villa I Tatti, Florence, Italy. Fig. 9. View largeDownload slide Hendrick Hondius, dog in perspective and anamorphosis, Institutio Artis Perspectivae (Leiden), fig. 24, 1622. Rare books, Berenson Library, Villa I Tatti, Florence, Italy. Fig. 10. View largeDownload slide Artist unknown Perspective Box with Views into a Catholic Church (left), 1650–74. Oil on panel. 119 x 75.5 x 78 cm. Nationalmuseet, Copenhagen, Denmark. Author’s photograph. Fig. 10. View largeDownload slide Artist unknown Perspective Box with Views into a Catholic Church (left), 1650–74. Oil on panel. 119 x 75.5 x 78 cm. Nationalmuseet, Copenhagen, Denmark. Author’s photograph. The manipulation of perspective within the boxes is most apparent within the Reformed and Catholic church examples. What we are actually viewing when looking through the peep-hole are two perspectivally-angled paintings merged together to form an apex (Figs 11–12).30 The lines extending along the floor appear as straight and horizontal only from the point of view of the peep-hole. This method of corrected distortion is also employed in the triangular perspective box currently in the Museum Bredius. This suggests that the perspective box functioned as a pedagogical exercise in its own right, a reification of perspectival theory that participated in a continuing conversation with the mathematical treatises published year after year. Dutch interest in the more theoretical aspects of painting complicates Svetlana Alpers’s thesis in The Art of Describing: Dutch art in the seventeenth century (1983). Here Alpers argues that art created in the North (Dutch and Flemish) stands in contrast to the southern Italian tradition primarily through its emphasis on description in lieu of narration. The northern aesthetic is qualified as photographic, in that paintings are framed in an apparently arbitrary manner.31 As it follows, Alpers concludes that there are two ways of picturing the world: the first, after the Italian approach, conceives of the world as a framed object, a window into a view ‘to which we bring our eyes.’32 In the second, the picture comes to stand in for the eye and does not consider the viewer’s position before it. As objects ‘to which we bring our eyes’, Dutch perspective boxes are framed, microcosmic worlds that greatly consider formal and narrative structure in accordance with the spectator’s point of view. The perspective box’s implementation of geometrical theory paints a more complicated picture of the Dutch tradition than is allowed for in Alpers’s theories, and underscores how polarizing her assessment is. Fig. 11. View largeDownload slide Artist unknown Perspective Box with Views into a Reformed Church (interior view from peephole), 1650–74. Oil on panel. 119 x 75.5 x 78 cm. Nationalmuseet, Copenhagen, Denmark. Author’s photograph. Fig. 11. View largeDownload slide Artist unknown Perspective Box with Views into a Reformed Church (interior view from peephole), 1650–74. Oil on panel. 119 x 75.5 x 78 cm. Nationalmuseet, Copenhagen, Denmark. Author’s photograph. Fig. 12. View largeDownload slide Artist unknown, Perspective Box with Views into a Catholic Church (interior view not from peephole). 1650–74. Oil on panel. 117.5 x 75 x 87 cm. Nationalmuseet, Copenhagen, Denmark. Author’s photograph. Fig. 12. View largeDownload slide Artist unknown, Perspective Box with Views into a Catholic Church (interior view not from peephole). 1650–74. Oil on panel. 117.5 x 75 x 87 cm. Nationalmuseet, Copenhagen, Denmark. Author’s photograph. As reifications of the latest developments in perspective theory, perspective boxes functioned within the Danish court as both entertaining pieces of artistry and as scientific marvels. Further still, there is evidence that the chamber as a whole was seen as a space where the disciplines of painting and science commingled. Thurah’s description of the Perspective Chamber shows that an observation chair previously belonging to Danish astronomer Tycho Brahe (1546–1601) was exhibited in the room: Mounted in this room is also an intricately-fashioned wooden chair that the celebrated astronomer Tycho Brahe used in order to conduct his astronomical observations at the observatory.33 Since the chair was not included in the earliest iterations of the inventory, it may have been incorporated in the chamber at the turn of the eighteenth century.34 The placement of Tycho’s chair within the Perspective Chamber underscores the braided and mutually self-serving roles of science and court patronage in the early modern period. During the reign of Frederick II (1534–1588), Tycho received generous support to pursue his astronomical research and repeatedly dedicated his findings to his benefactor.35 Through these dedications, Tycho participated in the economy of patronage and gift-exchange central to courtly comportment, thereby ensuring that his works would be circulated amongst prince-practitioners and other learned men.36 In seeking protection under the Danish court, he elevated his status to that of a natural philosopher, further legitimizing his pursuits.37 Scientifica, or scientific instruments such as spheres, astrolabes, quadrants, and sectors, were popular collector’s items at European courts and in the homes of the well-to-do as early as the sixteenth century.38 These devices were used as educational tools for élite gentlemen as knowledge of perspective equipped them to participate in the affairs of their class, such as surveying and mapping.39 Lucas Brunn (1572–1628), curator of the Dresden Kunstkammer, held that training in geometry and mathematics was as crucial a practice for the ruling élite as it was for scholars, for ‘geometry and the study of proportion form a lofty and necessary art, one which can rescue a land and its inhabitants from great danger.’40 Indeed, the Kunstkammer became a site in which mathematical and scientific study were not only appreciated by the ruling élite, but were practised as well. It was not unknown for a prince or courtier to demonstrate the functioning of a mathematical instrument on display. Revealing knowledge and skill in this realm would have only bolstered one’s status. The court, in turn, might also function as a productive enclave for working scientists; here they received financial and social support, and a milieu in which their scholarship could circulate.41 A Dutch perspective box in a Danish collection The transmuting effects of linear perspective, paired with the cabinet-like design of the boxes, provided a private viewing experience for the Kunstkammer visitor. When the collection was first located at Copenhagen Castle, only privileged guests of the king were permitted entry. After the relocation, those wishing to peruse the artefacts could – upon payment and in the company of the Kunstkammer’s keeper – marvel at the objects on display and, in turn, at the monarch’s mastery of all branches of knowledge. Frederick III in particular was an eager and erudite patron of the arts, and the wealth of knowledge on display in the royal collection was undoubtedly tied to the image he soon carried of himself as supreme ruler.42 A few years after construction began on the new Kunstkammer edifice, Frederick founded the first absolute monarchy of Denmark-Norway in the revolution of 1660.43 At his election in 1648, Frederick had been forced to accept a parliamentary charter limiting his powers as king. He later capitalized on his popularity amongst the people to issue a reform, and in October 1660, after the nobility yielded to pressure, Frederick was released from the terms of his coronation and designated an absolute monarch. The hereditary monarchy was formalized in the constitution of 1665 known as the Kongeloven (King’s Law), which stipulated that Frederick’s heirs be granted the same rights and power under the condition that they fulfil two specific duties: to keep the Danish kingdom united, and to ensure that Denmark remained a Lutheran state. Up to the end of the eighteenth century, the Danish crown passed from father to son, in an alternating sequence of Fredericks and Christians. The incorporation of Dutch works of art within a Danish collection speaks to the socio-economic relations between the two countries throughout the course of the seventeenth century. The Dutch relied heavily on bulk goods such as grain and wood from the Baltic regions. In turn, herring, salt, wine, and textiles from Holland, Portugal, and France made their way north in what became informally known as the ‘Mother of all Trades’. Dutch-Danish trade provided financial justification for the defence of Copenhagen’s port after the Swedish siege of 1656. Under the leadership of a Dutch vice-admiral, the Swedes were ultimately defeated and Copenhagen was restored to Denmark. The conditions of peace between the Baltic countries were formalized in the Concert of The Hague (21 May 1659), affirming the role of the Netherlands as Denmark’s diplomatic ally. Fertile exchange and peaceful diplomacy precipitated the re-settlement of many Dutch citizens in the north. Following this migration, traces of Dutch culture became enmeshed in the architectural styles of public and private buildings, such as Copenhagen Castle, whose design closely imitates Dutch Renaissance structures.44 In light of the Dutch origins of the perspective boxes, the juxtaposition of the Reformed and Catholic church interiors in a Danish collection evinces the complicated picture of Christian practice in the two countries. In 1536, Denmark became an official Lutheran state with the establishment of the Danish National Church under the decree of Christian III. Thereafter, punitive actions were taken against adherents of Catholicism and Calvinism, and followers of Huldrych Zwingli, a leader of the Swiss reformation. Several bishops were imprisoned on pain of conversion, while monks and nuns were forced to transfer the titles of their monasteries and convents to the Danish Crown, which then distributed them among supportive nobles. The only Catholic centre that managed to maintain diplomatic immunity was the chapel of the French embassy. Both perspective-box interiors reflect the aesthetic outcomes of Protestant Reformation in their absence of idolatry. The bare, whitewashed walls and dearth of reliquaries, paintings, and statues points to the expunging of Christian symbols under the wave of iconoclasm fervently practised in seventeenth-century Europe.45 The Catholic perspective box reflects the religious atmosphere of both countries save for one distinction: while the walls are barren, the space is bustling with activity. While this could point to the restored practices of the Catholic faith after the French occupation of Holland in 1672, it is more likely a reflection of Holland’s religious tolerance. While Calvinism was the de facto state religion, other Christian religions were tolerated. The Catholic subject-matter is less perplexing when we consider the context in which the perspective box was displayed. Because the pieces were exhibited in a setting where illusionism was the primary objective, they would have been primarily appreciated for their three-dimensional effect, not their subject matter. This is in keeping with their Dutch heritage, for paintings of church interiors were also predominantly revered for their perspectival acuity, evidenced by the fact that they were often referred to as ‘perspectives’ in seventeenth-century inventories.46 The decorated exterior of the Reformed box reinforces this for it is painted as a trompe l’oeil cabinet whose drawers are overflowing with pearl necklaces, coins, and ribbons. It is as if the riches iconoclastically purged from this church are spilling out of its drawers. Gijsbrechts’s counterfeit objects The perspective box’s consummate illusions participated in dialogue with a collection of trompe l’oeil paintings created for the Perspective Chamber, many by Dutch artist Cornelius Gijsbrechts (1630–1683), court painter to Frederick III from 1668 to 1672. In light of his Dutch heritage, it is feasible that the artist informed Jacobæus of the perspective boxes. During his sojourn, Gijsbrechts created a total of fifteen of the twenty-nine paintings within the room, all immaculately rendered trompe l’oeil pieces feigning cabinets, letter-racks, and hunting accoutrements. One such tour-de-force imitates an easel supporting a still-life painting (Fig. 13). What the viewer perceives as a three-dimensional display is in fact one two-dimensional piece. The brushes and palette placed along the easel’s edge are as fabricated as the painting they allegedly created.47 In the cut-out’s original form, the illusion was further enhanced with a protruding mahlstick and rag for cleaning brushes whose remnants can be seen to the right of the easel’s ledge. Fig. 13. View largeDownload slide Cornelius Gijsbrechts, Easel with Fruit Piece, 1670. Easel, oil on canvas, 226 x 123 cm. Statens Museum for Kunst, Copenhagen, Denmark. Fig. 13. View largeDownload slide Cornelius Gijsbrechts, Easel with Fruit Piece, 1670. Easel, oil on canvas, 226 x 123 cm. Statens Museum for Kunst, Copenhagen, Denmark. The painting fictitiously leaning against the easel’s leg recalls another piece created by Gijsbrechts for the Perspective Chamber. This unassuming ‘back of a framed painting’ compelled the Kunstkammer visitor to turn it around in order to see what might be painted on the other side (Fig. 14). When the painting is turned, the supposed front reveals nothing but the real back of the canvas. Gijsbrechts’s work epitomizes a chantourné – a sub-genre of trompe l’oeil painting characterized as cut-outs of ersatz objects that through their form and representation appear as duplicates of the objects themselves. Van Hoogstraten, a role model for Gijsbrechts, was known to have arranged chantourné objects such as fruits, fish, and slippers around his home to fool visitors and offer delightful surprises. Back of a Framed Painting manages to deceive through both its skilled arrangement and sheer banality, as the apparent exposure of a painted backside in fact hides the actual painting in plain sight. Once turned about, Gijsbrechts’s work is stripped of any potential reading, as it is the very materiality of the painting as canvas that is showcased, back as front. The stunningly realistic effects of trompe l’oeil painting prompts the observer to touch the canvas to verify its surface, as it is so often a painting’s marginal aspects, such as curled bits of paper or diminutive cameos, that most compel physical scrutiny.48 Unlike other trompe l’oeil paintings arranged in the Perspective Chamber that fool the spectator into seeing a letter-rack or open cabinet, here the ‘object of this painting, is the painting as an object’.49Back of a Framed Painting was intended to lean against a wall within the Perspective Chamber, indicating that visitors were led to believe that the painting had yet to be hung. Fig. 14. View largeDownload slide Cornelius Gijsbrechts, Back of a Framed Painting, 1668–72. Oil on panel. 66.6 x 86.8 x 3.7 cm. Nationalmuseet, Copenhagen, Denmark. Fig. 14. View largeDownload slide Cornelius Gijsbrechts, Back of a Framed Painting, 1668–72. Oil on panel. 66.6 x 86.8 x 3.7 cm. Nationalmuseet, Copenhagen, Denmark. The placement of the perspective boxes within the Perspective Chamber alongside paintings such as those of Gijsbrechts indicates how they were to be experienced and understood. By surpassing the prerequisites of naturalistic painting, the trompe l’oeil works and perspective boxes enter a category all their own, for while the Perspective Chamber exhibited paintings per se, it was designed as separate from the painting gallery. As the first room, the chamber was intended to dazzle with art that could spark ideas about the role of the senses in the acquisition of knowledge. It primed guests to question the veracity and origin of objects within the collection and to assume the role of curious scientist. In this context, the placement of Tycho’s observation chair in the chamber seems all the more fitting. As one studies the stars with scrupulousness, so, too, must one peer with curious intent into a perspective box. The microscopic details in Gijsbrechts’ paintings likewise induce this mode of vision, compelling the spectator to look slowly and carefully in order to distinguish artifice from reality. As court painter, Gijsbrechts paid homage to the monarchs by cleverly referencing his patrons in his paintings, often by including their cameos amongst cluttered vanitas objects. Likewise, moving through the collection, visitors were repeatedly greeted with images of the monarchs, whether acknowledged as cameos or awaiting revelation as in the Chamber of Antiquities’ anamorphic double portrait of Frederick and Queen Sophie Amalie (1628–1685) (Fig. 15).50 Such tributes may help solve a riddle of attribution posed within the Kunstkammer’s rectangular perspective box of a domestic interior. On close inspection, it is revealed that all of the human and animal figures have been cut out and glued in place. This holds true only for the people and pets; the remaining elements of the scene have been painted directly on to the panels. There are two possible explanations for these additions. On the one hand, they may have been placed to cover incorrectly painted areas. Consider the motif of the birdcage (Fig. 16): while the chain on which the cage hangs is painted on the original panel, the cage itself is a cut-out, indicating that this could have been the artist’s second attempt at this particular vignette. In Erwin Panofsky’s Perspective as Symbolic Form (1927), he explains how skewed areas of a pre-perspectival painting were often masked in clever ways: Already in Antiquity, but then above all in the late Middle Ages, when this construction was revived in many parts of Europe, such awkward discrepancies were concealed by an escutcheon, a festoon, a bit of drapery or some other perspectival fig leaf.51 Fig. 15. View largeDownload slide Artist unknown, catoptric mirror of King Frederick III and Queen Sophie Amalie, seventeenth century. Nationalmuseet, Copenhagen, Denmark. Fig. 15. View largeDownload slide Artist unknown, catoptric mirror of King Frederick III and Queen Sophie Amalie, seventeenth century. Nationalmuseet, Copenhagen, Denmark. Fig. 16. View largeDownload slide Artist unknown, A Box with a Dutch Antechamber (detail of interior), 1650–74. Oil on panel. 83 x 53 x 66 cm, height of box including pedestal: 182 cm. Nationalmuseet, Copenhagen, Denmark. Author’s photograph. Fig. 16. View largeDownload slide Artist unknown, A Box with a Dutch Antechamber (detail of interior), 1650–74. Oil on panel. 83 x 53 x 66 cm, height of box including pedestal: 182 cm. Nationalmuseet, Copenhagen, Denmark. Author’s photograph. Panofsky’s turn of phrase, ‘perspectival fig leaf’, is noteworthy. Here, geometric discrepancies are treated as areas of the work that should be concealed as the ‘private parts of the painting’.52 The cut-out figures added to Copenhagen’s perspective box could very well have acted as such perspectival fig leaves, treated as drapery to cover an error that otherwise would have thrown off the comprehensive illusion.53 However, looking closely at the gentleman in the foreground we see that part of his left arm has peeled away revealing a space beneath that is continuous with the background (Fig. 17). Evidently, he was glued on after the interior as a whole was painted. Fig. 17. View largeDownload slide Artist unknown, A Box with a Dutch Antechamber (detail of interior), 1650–74. Oil on panel. 83 x 53 x 66 cm, height of box including pedestal: 182 cm. Nationalmuseet, Copenhagen, Denmark. Author’s photograph. Fig. 17. View largeDownload slide Artist unknown, A Box with a Dutch Antechamber (detail of interior), 1650–74. Oil on panel. 83 x 53 x 66 cm, height of box including pedestal: 182 cm. Nationalmuseet, Copenhagen, Denmark. Author’s photograph. I contend that the box was acquired for the Kunstkammer as a bare interior, and Gijsbrechts or another artist at court added the figures at a later time. This may explain why the figures seem somewhat out of place in the perspective of the room, and in the case of the gentleman and the two children, dwarfed in size next to the chair on the left. In light of the repeated homages to the king within the Perspective Chamber, it is tempting to suppose that the gentleman is in fact a portrait of Frederik III. With his long dark hair and imperial beard, he bears a striking resemblance to a portrait initially displayed within the painting gallery by Dutch-Danish painter Abraham Wuchters (1608–1682) (Fig. 18). However, the man in the perspective box is not depicted wearing the Order of the Elephant, Denmark’s most historic order of chivalry, which can be seen hanging from the monarch’s neck in Wutchers’ royal portrait. Thus, as tempting as the attribution may be, it is improbable that the figure peeling from the walls of the box is in fact the king. Be that as it may, whether a prominent courtier or beloved dignitary, the anonymous figure stands affixed to a space carefully plotted to astonish and delight. Peeping within, viewers were intended to draw associations between the perspective box’s skilful application of perspective and the might and intelligence of the sovereign. By implying that the king is mindful of the optical knowledge required to create such artful deceptions, the perspective box stands as a reminder to the public peeping in that the king was not only a patron of the arts and sciences, but intrinsic to their practice. Fig. 18. View largeDownload slide Abraham Wuchters, Frederik III, 1625–82. Oil on panel. 52.5 x 39.5 cm. Nationalmuseet, Copenhagen, Denmark. Fig. 18. View largeDownload slide Abraham Wuchters, Frederik III, 1625–82. Oil on panel. 52.5 x 39.5 cm. Nationalmuseet, Copenhagen, Denmark. Acknowledgements Funding for this project was gratefully received from the following: Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada; Fonds de recherche sur la société et la culture, Québec; Nederlands Interuniversitair Kunsthistorisch Instituut; The Huntington Library. Footnotes 1 L. Thurah, Hafnia Hodierna: Eller Udførlig Beskrivelse om den Kongelige Residentz- og Hoved-Stad Kiøbenhavn (Copenhagen, 1748), p. 153. 2 The Perspective Chamber is the only room of the Kunstkammer whose architectural framework remains in its original form. It is currently used as a storage room for maps and drawings belonging to the Danish National Archive. 3 The only contemporary discussion of the term ‘perspective box’ was written by one of their makers, the Dutch artist Samuel van Hoogstraten, who used the term perspectyfkas. S. van Hoogstraten, Inleyding tot de Hooge Schoole der Schilderkonst: anders de Zichtbaere Werelt (Rotterdam, 1678), p. 274. 4 See H. D. Schepelern, ‘The Museum Wormianum reconstructed: a note on the illustration of 1655’, Journal of the History of Collections 2 (1990), pp. 81–5; J. Hein, ‘Learning versus status? Kunstkammer or Schatzkammer?’ Journal of the History of Collections 14 (2002), pp. 177–92. 5 T. Eskerod and C. F. Møllers Tegnestue, Statens Museum for Kunst/ The Danish National Gallery (Denmark, 1998), pp. 12–14. 6 Illustrations in Muséum Regium are attributed to J. Erichsonig after B. Grothschilling. 7 B. Gundestrup, ‘The Royal Danish Kunstkammer’, Museum International 40 no. 4 (1988), pp. 186–9; M. Bencard, ‘Museerne og Verdensordenen, Kunstkammerets opståen og grundide’, Nordisk Museologi 1 (1993), pp. 3–16. 8 The ‘Indian’ artefacts were Chinese and Japanese weapons such as daggers, javelins, and swords, as well as Chinese furniture and porcelain. While Thurah writes that ‘Greenlandic weapons’ were exhibited in this chamber, they were in fact registered in the Chamber of Antiquities throughout the Kunstkammer’s history. Thurah, op. cit. (note 1), p. 127; B. Dam-Mikkelsen and T. Lundbæk (eds), Ethnographic Objects in the Royal Danish Kunstkammer 1650–1800 (Copenhagen, 1980). 9 Inventories of the collection were drawn up in 1674, 1689, 1690, and 1737. The 1674 inventory was conducted when the collection was still located at Copenhagen Castle and the subsequent listings reflect the Kunstkammer’s holdings in the new location. The 1689 and 1690 inventories reveal that the Perspective Chamber exhibited twenty-six paintings, while the 1737 inventory shows thirty-one. B. Gundestrup, Det kongelige danske Kunstkammer 1737/The Royal Danish Kunstkammer 1737 (Copenhagen, 1991), vol. ii, pp. 418–31; See also Gundestrup, op. cit. (note 7), p.188. 10 According to the 1690 inventory, the first item is described as ‘a box, in which a Roman-Catholic church painted in the Perspective Manner’; the second as ‘A box, in which a Reformed church painted in the same Manner’; the third lists ‘A box, in which a large Optical Perspective’; the fourth describes ‘A box, in which a Dutch Antechamber’; and finally, the fifth is listed as ‘Do [‘Ein ditto’, ‘the same’]. With a Long Gallery.’ 11 E. de la Fuente Pedersen, ‘Cornelius Gijsbrechts and the Perspective Chamber at the Royal Danish Kunstkammer’, SMK Art Journal: Statens Museum for Kunst (2003–4), p. 158. 12 ‘Et stort optisk stykke, staaende paa et Postament, gjort af en fornem mester Fabricio til Delft.’ (‘a large optical piece standing on a pedestal and made by a distinguished master, Fabricio of Delft.’). C. Brown, Carel Fabritius: Complete Edition with a Catalogue Raisonne (Oxford, 1981), p. 135. 13 Christopher Brown argues that the Reformed church perspective box has been erroneously attributed to Fabritius, in light of the inventory of the Kunstkammer taken in 1690. In a 1952 study, K. G. Hulten attributed this box to Fabritius, arguing that the church depicted was in fact in Purmerend, Holland, where Fabritius’s grandfather was predikant (pastor). However, Brown writes that the perspective box directly attributed to Fabritius in the inventory is more likely to be that of the Dutch Antechamber, noting that this particular box is the only one to have retained its original pedestal. Brown, op. cit. (note 12), p. 135; See also K. G. Hulten, ‘A peep show by Carel Fabritius’, Art Quarterly 15 (1952), pp. 279–90. Walter Liedtke has also previously suggested that Hendrick Van Vliet had in fact created the Reformed Church perspective box in the years 1660–1665, but this remains unconfirmed. W. Liedtke, ‘The “View in Delft” by Carel Fabritius’, Burlington Magazine 118 no. 875 (1976), p. 69. 14 Gundestrup, op. cit. (note 9), vol. ii, p. 416. 15 It is possible that a seventh perspective box made its way to Japan in the seventeenth century. The development of Japanese peep-boxes, or peeping karakuri, may have been informed by interactions with a Dutch perspective box. See M. Fukuoka, ‘Contextualising the peep-box in Tokugawa Japan’, Early Popular Visual Culture 3 no. 1 (2005), pp. 17–42; T. Screech, The Western Scientific Gaze and Popular Imagery in Later Edo Japan (Cambridge, 1996), p. 272. 16 The attribution of this perspective box to Elinga was first made by Hofstede de Groot, Schilder Janssens: een navolger van Pieter de Hooch (Amsterdam, 1891). However, Clotilde Brière-Misme has argues that the fashion of dress of the figures indicates the piece would have been made around 1630, and thus could not have been made by Elinga. See C. Brière-Misme, ‘Dutch intimist: Pieter Janssens Elinga’, Gazette des Beaux-Arts (1947–8), p. 159. The Bredius Museum has dated the piece to 1678. For further details on the date and attribution, see: A. Blankert, Museum Bredius: Catalogus van de schilderijen en tekeningen (The Hague, 1978), pp. 79–80. 17 This particular perspective box bears the marking of the year in which it was created, 1663 – the only box whose date is firmly established. See E. P. Richardson, ‘Samuel van Hoogstraten and Carel Fabritius’, Art in America and Elsewhere 25 no. 4 (1937), p. 141. 18 See C. Brown, D. Bomford, J. Plesters, and J. Mills, ‘Samuel van Hoogstraten: perspective and painting’, National Gallery Technical Bulletin 11 (1987), pp. 60–85; S. Alpers, The Art of Describing: Dutch art in the seventeenth century (Chicago, 1983), pp. 62–4. 19 Celeste Brusati has shown how van Hoogstraten codified his perspective box as a self-emblem by slyly footnoting his familial connections and career achievements in different corners of the house. C. Brusati, Artifice and Illusion: The art and writing of Samuel Van Hoogstraten (Chicago and London, 1995), pp. 169–217. 20 Susan Koslow was the first to explain that perspective boxes alter reality through the principles of linear perspective. See Susan Koslow, ‘De Wonderlijke perspectyfks: an aspect of seventeenth-century Dutch painting’, Oud Holland 82 (1967), pp. 35–56. 21 A. Houbraken, De Groote Schouburgh der Nederlantsche Konstschilders en Schilderessen (‘s-Gravenhage, 1753), vol. ii, p. 158. 22 Hoogstraten, op. cit. (note 3), p. 415. 23 ‘Read if you will Albrecht Dürer, Hans Vredeman de Vries, Marolois, Guidobaldo del Monte, or the new work of Desargues.’ Van Hoogstraten, op. cit. (note 3), pp. 415–16. 24 In addition to offering his own theories on the practice of perspective, Marolois also re-published Vredeman de Vries’s thesis in the second half of the treatise along with his corrections. A. K. Wheelock, Perspective, Optics, and Delft Artists around 1650 (New York, 1977), p. 12. Marolois excelled at synthesizing many sixteenth century perspectival texts of French, Italian, and German nature. His primary source material included: Jean Cousin’s Livre de la perspective (Paris, 1560); Daniel Barbaro’s La Pratica della perspettive (Venice, 1569); Barozzi da Vignola and Egnatio Danti’s Le due regole della prospettive (Rome, 1583); Guidobaldo del Monte’s Perspective (Pisa, 1600); and Albrecht Dürer’s Underweysung der Messung mit dem Zirckel un Richtscheyt (Nuremberg, 1525). 25 J. Kirby, Dr. Brook Taylor’s Method of Perspective made Easy, both in theory and in practice (Ipswich, 1754), Book ii, p. 81. 26 See K. Veltman, ‘Perspective, anamorphosis, and vision’, Marburger Jahrbuch für Kunstwissenschaft 21 (1986), pp. 99–100. 27 Curiously, van Hoogstraten does not mention Hondius in his treatise. However, links can be drawn between Hondius’s work in the area of perspective and the Netherlandish tradition, both directly through his writing and indirectly through his work with other perspectivists. 28 Hondius has been consistently acknowledged for his authorship of one of the three main perspective treatises available to Dutch artists in the first half of the seventeenth century. This treatise appeared in both Dutch and French editions, and was attuned to the Dutch artists’ need for a more applied and practical guide to the methods of perspective. See N. Orenstein, Hendrick Hondius and the Business of Prints in seventeenth-century Holland (Rotterdam, 1996), p. 118; Wheelock, op. cit. (note 24), p. 13. 29 Amusingly, Hondius’s names is a Latinized version of the Dutch surname ‘De Hondt’, which translates as ‘dog.’ 30 D. Bomford, ‘Perspective, anamorphosis, and illusion: seventeenth-century Dutch peep shows’, in I. Gaskell and M. Jonker (eds), Vermeer Studies (New Haven, 1998), p. 126. 31 Alpers, op. cit. (note 18), p. 43. 32 Ibid., p. 45. 33 Thurah, op. cit. (note 1), p. 120. 34 In the inventories, Tycho’s chair is mentioned for the first time in the 1737 listing as part of the Chamber of Models, which was located in the attic. While the inventories do not indicate that the chair was moved prior to the publication of Hafnia Hodierna, Thurah’s description is nonetheless illustrative of the perceived relationship between scientific memorabilia and works of fine art within the Danish collection. 35 A. Mosley, Bearing the Heavens: Tycho Brahe and the astronomical community of the late sixteenth century (Cambridge, 2007), p. 113. 36 Ibid., p. 124. 37 M. Biagioli, Galileo, Courtier: The practice of science in the culture of absolutism (Chicago, 1993), p. 156. 38 G. Strano, ‘Introduction’, in G. Strano, S. Johnston, M. Miniati, and A. Morrison-Low (eds), European Collections of Scientific Instruments 1550–1750 (Leiden, 2009), p. xxi. 39 A. Turner, ‘Mathematical instruments and the education of gentlemen,’ Annals of Science 30 no. 1 (1973), pp. 51–2. Turner’s study is largely centred on English noblemen in the seventeenth century, although the claim concerning upper class mathematical literacy can be applied also to France and Italy. 40 M. Korey, The Geometry of Power: Mathematical instruments and princely mechanical devices from around 1600 (Dresden, 2007), p. 44. 41 See L. Daston and K. Park, Wonders and the Order of Nature 1150–1750 (New York, 2001), pp. 165–72. 42 It should be noted that Frederick probably collected before he settled down in Copenhagen as king in 1648, for instance while he was governor in Schleswig-Holstein. After his move to Copenhagen, he hired others to look after the collection and re-decorated a series of rooms in the south wing of Copenhagen Castle to house the Kunstkammer artefacts. 43 To ensure this conversion Frederick instituted a state of emergency during a gathering of the Estates intended to solve Denmark’s financial problems faced after the wars. By playing the Estates against each other, Frederick earned support for both a hereditary monarchy and an absolute monarchical rule by decree. 44 W. Frijhoff and M. Spies, Dutch Culture in a European Perspective 1: 1650. Hard-won unity (London, 2004), pp. 133–5. 45 The architectural detail of the churches is reminiscent of the oeuvre of the Dutch artist Pieter Jansz. Saenredam (1597–1665), whose paintings of the interior of St Bavo’s exhibit the same whitewashed walls and human figures dwarfed in scale. Perspectival acuity was a central concern with Saenredam, for in addition to paying close attention to the overall spatial impression of his works, the studies he conducted for his paintings reveal puncture marks from a marking pin used to plot distance points within the perspectival schemas. M. Kemp, ‘Simon Stevin and Pieter Saenredam: a study of mathematics and vision in Dutch science and art’, Art Bulletin 68 no. 2 (1986), pp. 237–52, p. 246. See also W. Liedtke, ‘The New Church in Haarlem series: Saenredam’s sketching style in relation to perspective’, Simiolus 3 (1975–6), pp. 145–64; and A. Vanhaelen, The Wake of Iconoclasm: Painting the church in the Dutch Republic (University Park, 2012), pp. 133–5. 46 Such paintings are often referred to as ‘perspectives’ in seventeenth-century inventories. Vanhaelen, op. cit. (note 45), p. 60. 47 For more information on Gijsbrechts’s oeuvre, see O. Koester, ‘Cornelius Norbertus Gijsbrechts: an introduction’, in O. Koester (ed.), Illusions: Gijsbrechts, royal master of deception (Copenhagen, 1999), pp. 1–33. 48 See M. Leja, ‘Trompe l’oeil painting and the deceived viewer’, in R. Maniura and R. Shepherd (eds), Presence: The inherence of the prototype within images and other objects (Aldershot and Burlington, 2006), p. 177. 49 V. Stoichita, The Self-Aware Image: An insight into early modern meta-painting (Cambridge, 1997), pp. 277–9. 50 At Copenhagen Castle, the cylinder was placed within the Mathematical Chamber, and after the transfer to the new building it was relocated to the Chamber of Antiquities. Gundestrup, op. cit. (note 9), vol. ii, p. 260. For more on this cylinder, see also A. MacGregor, Curiosity and Enlightenment: Collectors and collections from the sixteenth to the nineteenth century (New Haven and London, 2007), pp. 47–8. 51 E. Panofsky, Perspective as Symbolic Form, trans. C. Wood (New York, 1991), p. 40. 52 H. Grootenboer, The Rhetoric of Perspective: Realism and illusionism in seventeenth-century Dutch still-life painting (Chicago and London, 2005), p. 115. 53 Such perspectival ‘cover-ups’ are also evident in van Hoogstraten’s perspective box. As Kirsti Andersen has noted, the presence of two peep-holes in this piece makes for an interesting conundrum when it comes to areas that should remain continuous between the two points of view: that of the ceiling, tiled floor, and back panel. These areas present a geometrical problem since here van Hoogstraten had to create perspectival projections that can be seen from two points of view that are quite a distance apart. In regard to the bottom panel, van Hoogstraten’s means of camouflaging the discrepancy was to use a tiled floor that culminates in the centre, thus providing an even appearance from both ends. Furthermore, the furniture in the central room (the first room visible from both peep-holes) is largely projected on the right and left panels, not on the bottom, which ensures that when looking from one of the peep-holes, the viewer does not see the items directly beneath. K. Andersen, The Geometry of an Art: The history of the mathematical theory of perspective from Alberti to Monge (New York, 2007), pp. 314–17. © The Author(s) 2017. Published by Oxford University Press. All rights reserved. This article is published and distributed under the terms of the Oxford University Press, Standard Journals Publication Model (https://academic.oup.com/journals/pages/open_access/funder_policies/chorus/standard_publication_model)

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Journal of the History of CollectionsOxford University Press

Published: Aug 10, 2017

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