Collectors and Status
 “If having a collection was one means by which a prince or a merchant might proclaim his ability to command the world, creating a microcosm in which to receive visitors and to demonstrate his place in a world of global commerce and conquest, then a collection was indeed worth something.” Paula Findlin, Inventing Nature, 299-300 Cabinets of Curiosity were a way to show the possessors worldliness and status, to showcase their ability to choose the rarest and most intriguing curiosities in the known world.  For those who did not travel to enhance their own collection, but instead relied upon merchants and others to collect, their networks delivered objects that individually reflected the collector’s wealth and status.  It takes time and effort to create a network of reliable people willing to travel for you, and these people would have needed a certain discerning eye or level of education to be able to choose the best of the best, in addition to skilled at bringing objects back intact.  Most collections were gained through objects given by other scholars to the collector, with whom they kept in contact through correspondences. 1  There were, of course, collectors who were criticized as being ignorant and stupid despite of their wealth and education. A particularly vivid account by Fra Sabba da Castiglione states that “… though their taste and understanding of these matters was like that of an ass faced with music played on the lyre.” 2 There were collectors who rose from obscurity to become known for their ability to collect well.  John Evelyn wrote of one such man, “The next morning, I was had by a friend to the garden of Monsieur Morine, who, from being an ordinary gardener, is become one of the most skillful and curious persons in France for his rare collection of shells, flowers, and insects.” 3  Evelyn goes on to describe the layout of Monsieur Morine’s garden and living space, noting that he possessed books of prints by artists such as Albrecht Dürer.  One did not need to be rich to be known for their good tastes. Many of the prolific collectors are still known today for their Cabinets of Curiosities which were incorporated into museums or, in the case of those such as Sir Hans Sloane, were the founding collections of modern museums.  Sloane bequeathed his collection to King George II upon his death, and on June 7, 1753, an Act of Parliament created the British Museum. 4   __________________________________________________ 1 Pamela H. Smith, and Paula Findlen, eds, “Inventing Nature: Commerce, Art, and Science in the Early Modern Cabinet of Curiosities,” in Merchants & Marvels: Commerce, Science, and Art in Early Modern Europe (New York: Routledge, 2002), 299. 2 Fra Sabba da Castiglione, I Ricordi, quoted in Erin L. Thompson, Possession: The Curious History of Private Collectors from Antiquity to the Present (London: Yale University Press, 2016), 138. 3 John Evelyn, The Diary of John Evelyn, ed. William Bray (London: M. Walter Dunne, 1901), 64. https://www.gutenberg.org/files/41218/41218-h/41218-h.htm 4  General History, “Sir Hans Sloane,” The British Museum, accessed November 18, 2017, http://www.britishmuseum.org/about_us/the_museums_story/general_history/sir_hans_sloane.aspx.
Anonymous.  Frontispiece from the Museum Wormianum.  1655, engraving. Anonymous.  Dell’Historia Naturale.  1599, engraving. Zoffany, Johann.  Tribuna of the Uffizi. C. 1772-1778, oil on canvas, 48.8 x 61 in.
Collectors and Status
Anonymous.  Frontispiece from the Museum Wormianum.  1655, engraving. Zoffany, Johann.  Tribuna of the Uffizi. C. 1772-1778, oil on canvas, 48.8 x 61 in. Anonymous.  Dell’Historia Naturale.  1599, engraving.
 “If having a collection was one means by which a prince or a merchant might proclaim his ability to command the world, creating a microcosm in which to receive visitors and to demonstrate his place in a world of global commerce and conquest, then a collection was indeed worth something.” Paula Findlin, Inventing Nature, 299-300 Cabinets of Curiosity were a way to show the possessors worldliness and status, to showcase their ability to choose the rarest and most intriguing curiosities in the known world.  For those who did not travel to enhance their own collection, but instead relied upon merchants and others to collect, their networks delivered objects that individually reflected the collector’s wealth and status.  It takes time and effort to create a network of reliable people willing to travel for you, and these people would have needed a certain discerning eye or level of education to be able to choose the best of the best, in addition to skilled at bringing objects back intact.  Most collections were gained through objects given by other scholars to the collector, with whom they kept in contact through correspondences. 1  There were, of course, collectors who were criticized as being ignorant and stupid despite of their wealth and education. A particularly vivid account by Fra Sabba da Castiglione states that “… though their taste and understanding of these matters was like that of an ass faced with music played on the lyre.” 2 There were collectors who rose from obscurity to become known for their ability to collect well.  John Evelyn wrote of one such man, “The next morning, I was had by a friend to the garden of Monsieur Morine, who, from being an ordinary gardener, is become one of the most skillful and curious persons in France for his rare collection of shells, flowers, and insects.” 3  Evelyn goes on to describe the layout of Monsieur Morine’s garden and living space, noting that he possessed books of prints by artists such as Albrecht Dürer.  One did not need to be rich to be known for their good tastes. Many of the prolific collectors are still known today for their Cabinets of Curiosities which were incorporated into museums or, in the case of those such as Sir Hans Sloane, were the founding collections of modern museums.  Sloane bequeathed his collection to King George II upon his death, and on June 7, 1753, an Act of Parliament created the British Museum. 4   __________________________________________________ 1 Pamela H. Smith, and Paula Findlen, eds, “Inventing Nature: Commerce, Art, and Science in the Early Modern Cabinet of Curiosities,” in Merchants & Marvels: Commerce, Science, and Art in Early Modern Europe (New York: Routledge, 2002), 299. 2 Fra Sabba da Castiglione, I Ricordi, quoted in Erin L. Thompson, Possession: The Curious History of Private Collectors from Antiquity to the Present (London: Yale University Press, 2016), 138. 3 John Evelyn, The Diary of John Evelyn, ed. William Bray (London: M. Walter Dunne, 1901), 64. https://www.gutenberg.org/files/41218/41218-h/41218-h.htm 4  General History, “Sir Hans Sloane,” The British Museum, accessed November 18, 2017, http://www.britishmuseum.org/about_us/the_museums_story/general _history/sir_hans_sloane.aspx.