Natura Artis Magistra


Prof. dr. Erik de Jong; Dr. Bert van de Roemer


Members of the research group

prof. dr. Erik de Jong, dr. Bert van de Roemer, drs. Hans Mulder, dr. Jonneke Bekkenkamp, dr. Maarten Reesink, dr. Jet Bakels, Noel van Dooren MSC, Sandra den Dulk MA, Harrie Kraaij MA


Description of the research programme of the research group

The focus of this research group is thematic as well as object-based. It will study the complex and multifaceted relationship between nature and culture from the early modern period to the present. The historical, archival, art historical and scientific collections of the Artis Library and the Artis Zoological Garden will form the breeding-ground for current and new research. The rich and diverse holdings of these collections are the point of departure and catalyst for new questions; however, the scope of research will transcend the particularities of these collections. A thematic focus will show how humans through the ages have shaped, researched, represented, modified and imitated nature in all its facets. This will be studied from different fields of interest, such as scientific research, visual arts, literature, landscape design and landscape art, media and (popular) culture. These fields are not viewed as separate. On the contrary, the focus on the relationship between art and nature will lead to interdisciplinary research and to attention for blind spots in the border regions of modern disciplinary classifications. 


Envisaged results

- J. Bekkenkamp, Flowers in literature. Language and meaning of flowers in Dutch prose and poetry (see individual research proposal)
- E. de Jong, Walking Nature. A study in performance. Monograph on the walk in nature from the 17th to the 20th century. This study will treat in several chapters the changing cultural meanings of walking landscapes and gardens and will try to shed light on the cultural, scientific, medicinal, botanical, spatial and social aspects of walking as a physical and psychological performance. (Ms due in 2018)
- E. de Jong, Monograph based on lecture series 'Nature and Art: not an opposition’; a book based on the lectures series at the University of Amsterdam; (ms due in 2016).
- E. de Jong, Two articles on ‘Nature at Court in Queen Hedvig’s Eleonora’s Sweden, 1650-1710’.  Publications due in 2015
- G.M. van de Roemer, Nature in abundance. Nature in order (working title). Monograph about the esthetic and cognitive rationales behind three Dutch collections of curiosities from the early eighteenth century (Frederik Ruysch, Simon Schijnvoet and Levinus Vincent). (Ms due in 2015).

- Iconographia Zoologica: 80.000 images of animals depicted between 1600 and 1900: woodcuts, engravings, etchings, lithographs, drawings, watercolors. 20.000 have been digitized already, the other 60.000 will be digital in 2015.
- Research for the new museum presentations of the Groote Museum for Nature and Man, Natura Artis Magistra, Royal Amsterdam Zoo; this involves research for overall concept, the objects, the stories and the educational material of this new museum, based on cultural historical and new musicological concepts. It also involves research into the restauration of the building, its place in the Artis-citypark and Artis heritage in general it also covers the direction of the content research team of three researches, of a collection manager and a building team. Funds were acquired through Artis with Nationale Postcode Lottery and others. (due for a finalization end of 2016)
- E. van Gelder, H. Mulder, exhibition and symposium Van vreemd tot vaderlands. De ontdekking van de Nederlandse natuur (1760-1815). (autumn 2015)
- H. Mulder, G.M. van de Roemer (organization), International Symposium on the artist and naturalist Maria Sybilla Merian. Output: international congress, website about life and work of M.S. Merian, exhibition (due for summer 2017)


Work plan and time schedule

See section above.


Societal relevance

The debate about the relation between nature and manmade culture is just as relevant today as it was in the past centuries, even though the content and form of this debate changes constantly.  We need only think about the discussions about genetically modified food, biodiversity, landscape architecture, or the new Dutch political Partij voor de Dieren. The primary aim of this research group is to feed these current debates from a more theoretical and historical perspective. A second aim is to create more awareness and interest for the versatile collection of the Artis Library and the Artis Zoo. This unique cultural heritage compels us to preserve, maintain, process, study and interpret it in a way from which future generations will benefit. In doing so, we seek our audience in different target groups. The projects concerning the digitization of source material and the publication of monographs are designed for a scholarly public. They will render research material accessible and contribute to the scholarly debate. In collaboration with the Rijksacademie van Beeldende Kunsten the collection will be used by contemporary artists who relate to the theme of this research group.   The projects concerning in exhibitions are aimed at a broader and a more general audience. In these exhibitions the insight gained in the research projects will be translated into accessible and stimulating presentations.

15 December 2014