Verschillende Disciplines In De Académie Des Sciences Et Des Beaux Arts, Sébastien Leclerc (i) (toegeschreven Aan), 1698

Images and Institutions

The Visual Culture of Early Modern Scientific Institutions

This research project focuses on how images and image-making practices contributed to the collective and collaborative production and dissemination of knowledge in scientific institutions from the late 15th until the late 18th century. One of the most important developments in this period was the foundation of institutions for collaborative research and the publication of knowledge, such as the Accademia dei Lincei in Rome (1603), the Academia Naturae Curiosorum (Leopoldina) in Schweinfurt (1652), the Accademia del Cimento in Florence (1657), the Royal Society in London (1660), the Académie Royale des Sciences in Paris (1666), and the Scientific Academy of St Petersburg (1725). Within these institutions, knowledge was not only acquired and disseminated orally and textually, but also visually. From drawings which circulated in society meetings to the printed plates in their published books, images across all media were vital to the developing practices of early modern science.

Within these early institutions, images functioned in diverse ways: they communicated new ideas, recorded new phenomena, demonstrated new instruments, and stood in for missing specimens. They expressed theories, clarified arguments, organized concepts, and persuaded colleagues. Distinctive and original features of this project are the wide geographical perspective and the longer temporal framework, as we deal with institutions in Italy, France, Germany, Great Britain, Portugal, Russia, and the Netherlands from the late 15th until the late 18th centuries. Central questions include: What common visual practices were shared among these institutions, and importantly, where did they diverge? How did differing national artistic contexts impact the visual culture of scientific institutions? And how did these relationships shift over time with new enlightenment societies founded in the 18th century? By comparing these institutions, this project will explore the ways in which images and image-making practices were integral to the advancement of early modern collaborative science.


  1. three-day international symposium 14-16 September 2022, in collaboration with the Bibliotheca Hertziana – Max Planck Institute for Art History in Rome, the Accademia dei Lincei in Rome, the Association for Art History (UK), the Society for Renaissance Studies (UK), and the Huizinga Institute RNW History and Philosophy of Science (NL).
  2. Edited Volume: planned for 2023/2024