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The New and Unknown World: Art, Exploration, and Trade in the Dutch Golden Age

The New and Unknown World: Art, Exploration, and Trade in the Dutch Golden Age

During the seventeenth century, the Dutch Republic rose to maritime and mercantile predominance, sending an ever-growing fleet to trade around the globe. This exhibition brings together many material signs of the Netherlands’ international success, including trade goods from China, Japan, India, and Indonesia brought back by the famous Dutch East India Company. In addition, it examines the Dutch thirst for knowledge about the peoples, plants, animals, and geography of far-flung places, as reflected in illustrated books and maps created by artists and scientists who sailed on Dutch voyages of trade and colonization. Along with opening new markets, this process of collecting knowledge was a virtual means of exerting global control and keeping ahead of the Netherlands’ bigger European neighbors.

Objects and knowledge brought back to the Netherlands from abroad also had a profound effect on art-making and collecting in the Dutch Republic. The practice among the wealthy of assembling rariteitkamers, or cabinets of curiosities, placing natural marvels of all descriptions alongside examples of human artifice, shows the lack of a barrier between art and science in the early modern understanding of the world. For the Dutch of the seventeenth century, collecting was simultaneously a form of expressing status, conducting scientific inquiry, and, ultimately, glorifying God by cataloguing the wonders of creation. We have re-created such a cabinet here.

We thank Professor Virginia Utermohlen for her contributions of her time, her scholarship, and her family’s collection of art, without which this exhibition would not be possible. The Johnson Museum also wishes to thank the following people for their crucial part in presenting this exhibition:

Katherine Reagan, Laurent Ferri, and Eisha Prather
Division of Rare and Manuscript Collections, Cornell University Library

Michele Brown, Patricia Fox, Roger Clearwater, Joan Brink, and Mary Schoenfelder
Book Conservation Unit, Cornell University Library

Dr. Gregory Dietl
Paleontological Research Institute

Dr. Kimberly Bostwick and Charles Dardia
Cornell Museum of Vertebrates

Dr. Tomasz Wazny
Malcolm and Carolyn Wiener Laboratory for Aegean and Near Eastern Dendrochronology

Banoo and Jeevak Parpia

Ann Day

Etsuko Terasaki


Andrew C. Weislogel
Associate Curator/Master Teacher

Images from The New and Unknown World: Art, Exploration, and... (Click an image to open slideshow)