Art and science dovetail at Yale University exhibition opening Feb. 17
NEW HAVEN, Conn. — The Yale University Art Gallery will present Crafting Worldviews: Art and Science in Europe, 1500–1800, an exhibition that showcases nearly 100 objects from across Yale University’s collections, including the gallery, the Yale Peabody Museum, the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, the Harvey Cushing/John Hay Whitney Medical Library, the Yale Center for British Art, and the Lewis Walpole Library, as well as the collection of Thomas Lentz, Professor Emeritus of cell biology at the Yale University School of Medicine. The show will open on February 17 and remain on view through June 25.
Co-organized by Jessie Park, the Nina and Lee Griggs assistant curator of European art, and Paola Bertucci, associate professor, history of science and medicine program at Yale University and curator of the history of science and technology division, Yale Peabody Museum, Crafting Worldviews examines the inseparable relationship among art, science, and European colonialism from the 16th through the 18th century — an era of voyage, trade and Europe’s territorial dominance on a global scale.
The works featured in this multidisciplinary exhibition cross the modern-day boundaries
of art and science and range from the everyday, such as books, maps, globes, drafting tools, microscopes, playing cards and sundials, to the more unusual, such as a hand-cranked model of the solar system, an automaton clock and anatomical figures carved in ivory. Crafted from both locally and globally obtained materials, including brass, ivory, mahogany and ebony, these objects are remarkable not just for their exquisite design but also their intricate construction. Together, they illuminate the role that art and science have played in shaping Europeans’ understanding of the world and their place within it.
The exhibition also addresses the intellectual, artistic and scientific foundations of European colonialism, whose legacy continues in the present. According to Jessie Park, “In our current age of reckoning with racism and exploitation, we found it imperative to call our attention to the foundations of such forms of injustice. Visitors will encounter not only objects of noteworthy craftsmanship but also the realities of their production and consumption in the era of colonialism, which laid the groundwork for ongoing discrimination.”
Paola Bertucci notes that, for her, the exhibition “is a dream come true. I’ve always wanted to display scientific instruments to tell stories that we don’t typically associate with science. Early modern scientific instruments are usually presented in art museums as intriguing marvels. I was eager to emphasize instead the role of these objects in shaping European taste, everyday life, and a sense of superiority toward other cultures.”
To assist the cocurators in sensitively addressing the topics presented in the exhibition, the gallery formed an advisory committee. Members included Salwa Abdussabur (founder and creative director, Black Haven), Marisa Bass (professor, history of art, Yale University), Adrienne L. Childs (independent scholar), Meleko Mokgosi (associate professor and director of graduate studies, painting/printmaking, Yale School of Art), Ayesha Ramachandran (associate professor, comparative literature, Yale University), Romita Ray (associate professor and director of undergraduate studies, history of architecture, Syracuse University), and Carolyn Roberts (assistant professor, history of science and history of medicine, and African American studies, Yale University). Their insights were crucial for shaping this project.
Visit the website of the Yale University Art Gallery and see its dedicated page for Crafting Worldviews: Art and Science in Europe, 1500–1800.