Visual and Material Culture of Microscopy in Seventeenth-Century Italy


  • Participation on site previous registration
  • Beginn: 22.06.2022
  • Ende: 24.06.2022
Visual and Material Culture of Microscopy in Seventeenth-Century Italy
When researching the history of microscopy, Rome is a natural place to start. It is in Rome under the auspices of the Accademia dei Lincei that Federico Cesi published his microscopic observations of bees in his Melissographia (1625) and the Apiarium (1626). In honour of the recently elected Barberini Pope, Urban VIII, whose family’s coat of arms includes three bees, the bee became the first object of visual presentation of the research that was made possible through the new instrument that would soon be called “microscope.”

This international workshop takes as a starting point the drawings and printed images that were created by seventeenth-century microscopists and their artists. In a conversation between experts on seventeenth-century lenses (in microscopes and telescopes), early modern scientific instruments, epistemic images before and after the introduction of the microscope, the Italian microscopic networks, and drawing as an observational art, this workshop aims at understanding better the visual strategies of depicting the previously unseen and unknown. How did one communicate something to scientific colleagues and a wider audience that has never been seen before? How did the first Italian microscopists visualize their observations and what kind of visual traditions did they choose to use? How did these earliest representations influence later visual depictions of microscopic observations? Did the early microscope dictate a specific observation regime, and how did that affect microscope and visualization practice? And how was it that Italy with its famous instrument makers, scientific practitioners, and visual artists stood at the start and center of an European-wide network of microscopic research throughout the seventeenth century?


Visual and Material Culture of Microscopy in Seventeenth-Century Italy

Workshop at the Bibliotheca Hertziana – Max Planck Institute for Art History

Organized by Sietske Fransen (BHMPI) and Tiemen Cocquyt (Rijkmuseum Boerhaave).

BIBLIOTHECA HERTZIANA, Via Gregoriana 22, Villino Stroganoff

13:30 Doors open for coffee

14:00-14:45 Welcome by Tiemen Cocquyt (Rijksmuseum Boerhaave) and Sietske Fransen (BHMPI)

14:45-15:30: Luca Tonetti (Università di Bologna): Insect anatomy unveiled: A first look at Marcello Malpighi's unpublished notes

15:30-16:00 coffee break

16:00-18:00 Marvin Bolt (Technische Universität Berlin/Corning Museum of Glass) and Michael Korey (Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden): Brotherly Love: Telescopes and Microscopes

18:30 Dinner provided by Rijksmuseum Boerhaave in Villino Gardens (Bibliotheca Hertziana) for all speakers, invited guests, and Research Group

Thursday 23 June

Train from Rome Termini to Florence (7:25am)

Meeting point at 7:00am in front of the station close to the taxi stand (Piazza del Cinquecento).

10:00-12:00 Visit to Casa Buonarroti

Presentation by Cammy Brothers (Northeastern University, Boston): Observing Michelangelo

Tour along original Michelangelo drawings

12:00-13:00 lunch (individually)

13:00-14:00 Visit to Basilica San Lorenzo (grave of Nicholas Steno and small exhibition from La Specola, Natural History Museum).

14:30-16:30 Visit with guided tour at Museo Galileo.

Train back from Florence to Rome (around 18:03).

Meeting point 17:45 inside the station in front of gates towards the platforms.

Friday 24 June

9:15-10:00 Tour of the Bibliotheca Hertziana (meet in front of the main entrance)

10:00-11:00 Rare book session with early printed books from the Hertziana collections

11:00-11:30 Coffee Break

Session Chair: Ellen Pater (Huygens Institute/Leiden University)

11:30-12:15: Eric Jorink (Huygens Institute/Leiden University): The Microscope made Uneasy: Some thoughts on Humanists, Protestants, and the smallest letters in the Book of Nature, ca. 1560-1640

12:15-13:00: Pamela Mackenzie (KHI Florenz, A4Lab Berlin): Eggs, Seeds and Apricots: Microscopic Evidence in Seventeenth-Century Generation Debates

13:00-14:00 Lunch provided at Bibliotheca Hertziana

Session Chair: Eric Jorink (Huygens Institute/Leiden University)

14:00-14:45 Francesco Barreca (Università Statale di Milano): Instruments, Experimentation, and Narrative Building in the Saggi di Naturali Esperienze: a preliminary quantitative analysis

14:45-15:30 Christoph Lüthy (Radboud University Nijmegen): How Slowly the Microscope Became an Instrument!

15:30-16:00 Coffee Break

Session Chair: Tim Huisman (Rijksmuseum Boerhaave)

16:00-16:45 Wim van Egmond (microphotographer): Portraying Microbes

16:45-17:30 Final Remarks (Tiemen Cocquyt & Sietske Fransen)

For participation register via email:

Organized by Sietske Fransen (BHMPI) and Tiemen Cocquyt (Rijkmuseum Boerhaave)
This workshop is organized by the Max Planck Research Group Visualizing Science in Media Revolutions in collaboration with Rijksmuseum Boerhaave as part of the NWO-funded project Visualizing the Unknown.

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