Exploration : Overview

Throughout history, humans have constantly wandered beyond their comfort zones into the new and mysterious realms surrounding them. They searched for a better understanding of the world they were living within, and this passion for exploration can certainly be seen within the artwork created during the Baroque. As technology advanced and higher demands for foreign goods skyrocketed, travel to distant lands increased and brought with it the knowledge of different people, traditions, and ideologies. In addition, scientific study and observation brought about comprehension of the newly discovered areas and animals encountered as humans began to truly explore the world. This collection contains pieces displaying this freshly reinvigorated Baroque passion for delving into the unknown.

Columbia is a small ivory statuette depicting a Native American maiden that was made in Germany in the seventeenth-century. The use of ivory and the subject matter perfectly illustrates the effects of globalization and the newfound interest in exoticism in Europe. In addition, the statue is an allegorical representation and personification of America. It may actually be one statue in a series of four, which would also include the personifications of Europe, Asia, and Africa. Together, they would be depictions of the allegorical Four Continents theme that gained popularity in art as trade expanded and globalization increased in Europe during the Baroque period.

Couple With a Globe is an oil painting created by Lambert Doomer in 1684. The piece is an excellent example of Dutch portraiture at the time, and is an accurate depiction of Dutch prosperity during their Golden Age in the 17th century. The portrait contains several symbols that point to Dutch advancement in science and mathematics, including the globe and compass, as well as Dutch involvement in international trade. Their large navy and shipping fleet allowed the Dutch to trade with the Far East and Indian subcontinent, bolstering their domestic production through the import of high quality, low cost raw materials. In addition to the global themes presented in the piece, there is clearly an interest in displaying the wealth of this couple, through both their clothing and their jewelry.

The Native American in Virginia is an etching of a twenty-three year old Native American who visited London as a delegate for the Algonquian tribe in 1645. This depiction of the “Other” demonstrates the new interest many people in British society had which created a thriving art market with images of Indians like this one. Images like this also help to demonstrate the increased interest in globalization at large and Europe’s new fascination with the exotic.

The Stranded Whale on the Beach at Zandvoort, an engraving by members of the School of Goltzius, depicts what is believed to be a sperm whale being measured and observed by the congregated Dutch audience comprising of all ages and social backgrounds. Whale strandings were a huge event for the people along the Flemish coast, usually coinciding with historical and militant events that made whales into an omen for impending doom during conflict. However, as prints such as this spread throughout Europe, people began to explore the coasts and study leviathans whenever they washed ashore and the accurate measurements taken and recorded within the prints not only helped budding scientists of the time, but also helped future scientists to further explore these rare occurrences.

Each of these pieces allows the viewer to take a step alongside these Baroque explorations and see the new worlds, both man made and natural, that fascinated an entire population.