Cultures of Ingenuity in the Early Modern Hispanic World.

From the singular Don Quijote de la Mancha –“ingenioso hidalgo”– to Lope de Vega’s nickname –“fénix de los ingenios”– references to ingenuity in early modern Spanish culture are innumerable. Indeed, both ingenuity (“ingenio”, “agudeza”) and its personification (the so-called “ingenios”) enjoyed such a widespread acclaim that it does not seem exaggerated to regard this period of Spanish culture as the “age of ingenio”.

This project will examine the development of this culture of appreciation of ingenuity and creativity both in terms of its intellectual components and its perceptible results, with an emphasis on the overlaps between artistic and scientific practices. Drawing on examples from the rich repository of early modern Spanish culture –from the treatises by Juan Huarte de San Juan and Baltasar Gracián to the work of artists, writers, inventors and other creative “ingenios”– its central aim is to examine the theme of Hispanic ingenuity and evaluate its importance as one of the leading motifs in a period traditionally characterised as the Spanish Golden Age.


José Ramón Marcaida is a Postdoctoral Researcher in the ERC-funded Project Genius Before Romanticism: Ingenuity in Early Modern Art and Science.

His research focuses on the history of early modern Iberian science and its connections with the European visual culture of the 16th and 17th centuries. He has worked on the relation between science, art and collecting in the Spanish Baroque, the materials of the Francisco Hernández expedition, the naturalist work of the Spanish Jesuit Juan Eusebio Nieremberg, and the portrayal of science-related motifs in still-life, vanitas and gallery paintings. He also has a long-held interest in the visual culture of the bird of paradise, which has led him to study the representation of this curious bird in a variety of formats – most recently in several paintings by Peter Paul Rubens.

José Ramón graduated in Philosophy (Universidad de Deusto) and Physics (Imperial College London) before completing a MSc in History of Science, Medicine and Technology at the London Centre for the History of Science, Medicine and Technology. He was a predoctoral researcher at the CSIC (Instituto de Historia) in Madrid, and obtained his PhD at the Universidad Autónoma de Madrid with a dissertation on Nieremberg, natural history and Baroque art in 17th-century Spain, supervised by Juan Pimentel. Before joining CRASSH he spent two years as a Visiting Scholar at the Department of History and Philosophy of Science, University of Cambridge, and more recently has been working as a Postdoctoral Researcher at the Universidad de Deusto in Bilbao.

He has held funding from the Spanish Ministry of Education and the Department of Education of the Basque Government. He was a Humanities Fellow at the Residencia de Estudiantes in Madrid, and School of Arts and Humanities Fellow at the IE Business School. In 2013 he won the IV Premio Internacional Alfonso E. Pérez Sánchez “Arte del Barroco” awarded by the Fundación Focus-Abengoa, for the revised version of his doctoral dissertation, forthcoming with Marcial Pons Historia.


Personal web: 



J. R. Marcaida, Arte y ciencia en el Barroco español. Historia natural, coleccionismo y cultural visual. Madrid: Marcial Pons Historia – Fundación Focus-Abengoa, (2014).

Journal special issues

J. Moscoso, M. Lucena and J. R. Marcaida (eds.), Polyphonic History. An homage to Peter Burke. Special issue of Arbor. Ciencia, Pensamiento y Cultura (2010), vol. 186 no. 743.

Articles and book chapters

J. R. Marcaida and J. Pimentel, “Green treasures and paper floras: the business of José Celestino Mutis in New Granada (1783-1808)”. Special issue of History of Science, edited by Lissa Roberts (forthcoming 2014).

J. R. Marcaida, ‘Rubens and the bird of paradise. Painting natural knowledge in the early seventeenth century’, Renaissance Studies 28:1 (2014): 112-127.

J. R. Marcaida, ‘El ave del paraíso: historia natural y alegoría’, in María Tausiet (ed.), Alegorías: imagen y discurso en la España moderna (Madrid: CSIC, 2014), pp. 93-108.

J. R. Marcaida and J. Pimentel, ‘Dead Natures or Still Lives? Science, Art and Collecting in the Spanish Baroque’, in Daniela Bleichmar and Peter C. Mancall (eds.), Collecting Across Cultures. Material Exchanges in the Early Modern Atlantic World. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2011, pp. 99-115.

J. R. Marcaida, ‘Ciencia, Barroco, y la polifonía de las cosas’, in Nathalie Peyrebonne and Pauline Renoux-Caron (eds.), Le milieu naturel en Espagne et en Italie (XVe-XVIIe siècles): savoirs et représentations. Paris: Université Sorbonne Nouvelle, 2011, pp. 21-34

J. R. Marcaida, Portraying technology in gallery paintings’, History and Technology 25, no. 4 (2009): 391-397.

J. Pimentel and J. R. Marcaida, ‘La ciencia moderna en la cultura del barroco’, Revista de Occidente 328 (2008): 136-151.


Peter Dear, Revolutionizing the sciences. European knowledge and its ambitions, 1500-1700 (Palgrave, 2001). Spanish translation: Peter Dear, La revolución de las ciencias. El conocimiento europeo y sus expectativas, 1500-1700 (Madrid: Marcial Pons Historia, 2007).


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