10 May 2017 - 12 May 2017All dayLittle Hall, Sidgwick Site (Wed 10 May) & SG12 (Thurs 11 & Fr 12 May) Alison Richard Building, 7 West Road, Cambridge CB3 9DT


This conference explored the practices oriented around the period category of ingenuity, which served as a way to understand and appreciate the power, elegance, or craft of a thing, material, or person. This focus promised a principled way to answer methodologically pressing questions that matter across the study of early modern culture:

Ingenious makers and technique

  • How did ingenuity define a maker or creator?
  • What counted as ingenious technique?
  • How did textual craft relate to the practices of artisans and other makers?
  • What social and political practices were oriented around ingenious makers?

Ingenious matter and objects

  • What kinds of matter were perceived to be ‘spirited’?
  • In what sense did such ingenious matter have agency?
  • How could one recognise ‘ingenuity’ in objects, pictures, people, or nature?
  • How did particular senses inform experiences of ingenuity?
  • When might language fail–what about tacit knowledge–in experiencing ingenuity?

The conference opened with a public lecture, Ingenious Failure: Artisanal Languages of Error given by Sven Dupré at 5pm on 10 May in the Little Hall, Sidgwick Site. On the afternoon of 12 May it closed with a conversation between Sven Dupré and Tim Ingold. The programme booklet for the event is available here.

Convenors: Richard Oosterhoff and José Ramon Marcaida with Alexander Marr (PI), Raphaële Garrod, and Tim Chesters

Participants: Tina Asmussen (Max Planck Institute for the History of Science, Berlin), Jenny Boulboullé (Utrecht University), Michael Bycroft (University of Warwick), Sven Dupré (Utrecht University), Anna Grasskamp (Hong Kong Baptist University/University of Leiden), Caroline van Eck (University of Cambridge), Stefan Hanß (University of Cambridge), Marieke Hendriksen (Utrecht University), Viktoria von Hoffmann (Villa I Tatti), Tim Ingold (University of Aberdeen), Vera Keller (Clark Honors College, University of Oregon), Andrew Morrall (Bard Graduate Center), Hannah Murphy (King’s College London), Christina Neilson (Oberlin College),  Evan Ragland (University of Notre Dame), Jennifer M. Rampling (Princeton University), Denis Ribouillault (University of Montreal), Doina-Cristina Rusu (University of Groningen), Tillmann Taape (University of Cambridge).

This conference is part of  Genius Before Romanticism: Ingenuity in Early Modern Art and Science, a five-year project funded by the European Research Council, based at CRASSH. 

Please contact Gaenor Moore (Project Administrator) for further information.



Supported by the Centre for Research in the Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences (CRASSH) at the University of Cambridge. Funded by the European Research Council under the European Union’s Seventh Framework Programme (FP7/2007-2013)/ ERC grant agreement no 617391.



Wednesday 10 May, Little Hall (Sidgwick Site)
17.00 - 18.00

Public Lecture

Sven Dupré (Utrecht University and University of Amsterdam)  Ingenious Failure: Artisanal Languages of Error

The lecture will be followed by a wine reception which will be held in the Atrium of the Alison Richard Building.

Thursday 11 May, Room SG1/SG2 (Alison Richard Building)

Registration and Coffee

09.15 - 09.30

Opening Remarks by Richard Oosterhoff (University of Cambridge)

09.30 - 11.00

Session I – Chaired by Alexander Marr (University of Cambridge)

Andrew Morrall (Bard Graduate Center) Io’s Hoof and the Origins of Letters: Ingenuity and Invention in Geofroy Tory’s Champ Fleury of 1529

Jenny Boulboullé (Utrecht University) These require the industry of the most ingenious Artificer […]”: The Making of the Ingenious Artifex and Artificers in Early Modern ‘Manuals’ (1540 -1662) 

Marieke Hendriksen (Utrecht University) Redefining Ingenuity and Technique in Art Theory and Critique, ca. 1800

11.00 - 11.30


11.30 - 13.00

Session II – Chaired by Tim Chesters (University of Cambridge)

Tina Asmussen (Max Planck Institute for the History of Science, Berlin)  Ingenuity, Labour, Diligence: Miners and the Resilience of mineral matter

Doina-Cristina Rusu (University of Groningen) Tangible, pneumatic, and their intermediates: Francis Bacon on the transformation of matter

Michael Bycroft (University of Warwick) Ingenuity in the Testing: The Detection of Counterfeit Gems in Early Modern Europe

13.00 - 14.00


14.00 - 15.00

Session III – Chaired by José Ramon Marcaida (University of Cambridge)

Stefan Hanß (University of Cambridge) New World Feathers and the Matter of Ingenuity

Anna Grasskamp (Hong Kong Baptist University/University of Leiden) “Artful” Objects and “Indian” Provenance in German Records around 1600

15.00 - 15.30


15.30 - 17.00

Session IV – Chaired by Sietske Fransen (University of Cambridge)

Viktoria von Hoffman (Villa I Tatti) Ingenious Hands? Touch and Technique in Renaissance Practices of Anatomy

Tillmann Taape (University of Cambridge) The Artisanal Mastery of Natural Matter and the Human Body in Early German print

Evan Ragland (University of Notre Dame) The Contested Ingenuities of Brains, Nature, and Hard Work in Seventeenth-Century Dutch Anatomy and Chymistry

Friday 12 May, Room SG1/SG2 (Alison Richard Building)
10.00 - 11.30

Session V – Chaired by Katherine Reinhart (University of Cambridge) 

Caroline van Eck (University of Cambridge) For Piranesi the Roman Empire lasted until 1770:  Creating Roman Artefacts in the Eighteenth Century

Hannah Murphy (King's College London) Making, Writing and Thinking in Early Modern Nuremberg

Denis Ribouillault (University of Montreal) Ingenious Sundials in Italian Renaissance Gardens

11.30 - 13.00

Early lunch

13.00 - 14.30

Session VI – Chaired by Raphaële Garrod  (University of Cambridge) 

Jennifer M. Rampling (Princeton University) Spirited Matter and Ingenious Nature: Accounting for Chemical Change in Early Modern England

Christina Neilson (Oberlin College) Crafting the Miraculous, Animating Automata

Vera Keller (Clark Honors College, University of Oregon)  A Vitalist Counterblast: Renaissance Biotechnology and the Charlatan’s Ingenuity in J. E. Burggrav’s Lamp of Life (1611)

14.30 - 15.00


15.00 - 16.00

Ingenuity in the Making: A Conversation with Sven Dupré and Tim Ingold (University of Aberdeen)

Chaired by Alexander Marr


Concluding remarks


Tel: +44 1223 766886
Email enquiries@crassh.cam.ac.uk