Cabinet of Curiosities

13/10/2019 - 10/01/2021

The Wunderkammer or Cabinet of Curiosities is a typical 16th -century phenomenon. It was the result of a collecting approach favoured by the aristocracy, and might be considered as the first stage in the development of the museum concept.

The aim was to collect and display mirabilia, uniting art/science and nature, the two poles of ancient knowledge and creating a journey into the dimension of the extraordinary through naturalia and artificialia.

Nature is the main fulcrum of every cabinet of curiosities, which offers samples of the strangest things, each item presenting some exceptional feature of shape, size or rarity. The (lion’s) skull is a must, an evocative memento mori which interacts with stuffed animal bodies, representing respectively the transience of nature and mankind’s ambition for eternal life; and coral, reproduced here with sealing wax, which in the age when the boundaries between science and legend were sometimes blurred was considered both animal vegetable and mineral, embodying perfection and hence endowed with a thaumaturgic value.

The very divisions of the room, underlined by the colours of the walls and by some works in the collections, allude to two of the four elements, earth and water, in homage to the celebrated Tribune of Francesco I de’Medici.

Artificialia are artefacts considered special for their orginality and uniqueness, objects sometimes used as simple reproductions of the live animal or which express the Mannerist taste for grafting human elements onto natural objects. The works of the collections fulfil these requirements, together with ancient sculptures punctuating the display: the lions’ paws in Imperial age marble; the wave carved out of wood; the metal bird in contrast to the exotic ones; the site-specific intervention of Nicola Perucca “around” a whale rib.

Finally, the objects presented invite viewers to reflect on extremely topical themes: the richness and fragility of the environment surrounding us and the relationship between nature and human beings; a relationship which is today difficult and fraught and which through the mediation of art may, as in this case, turn out to be virtuous.

Exhibition promoted by
City of La Spezia
Pierluigi Peracchini, Mayor
Massimiliano Curletto, general manager of Cultural Services

and produced by 
Centre of Modern and Contemporay Art

with the contribution of
Coop Liguria

curated by
Cristiana Maucci in collaborazione con Eleonora Acerbi
Museo Archeologico Castello San Giorgio (conservatore Donatella Alessi), Museo Civico Etnografico Giovanni Podenzana (conservatore Giacomo Paolicchi), Museo del Sigillo (conservatore Anna Nancy Rozzi), collezioni private
textual equipment
Donatella Alessi, Giacomo Paolicchi, Rossana Piccioli, Anna Nancy Rozzi
site specific work
Nicola Perucca
sound design
Roberto Vendasi
Davide Bommino
con Oscar Bordoni e Giacomo Portunato
graphic design
Sarah Fontana
Susan Charlton

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