Journal article published in Perspectives on Science, The MIT Press, Volume 27, Issue 3, May – June 2019, p.350 – 394
Author: Sachiko Kusukawa, Principal Investigator, Making Visible: The visual and graphic practices of the early Royal Society (2015 – 2019)
Recent studies have fruitfully examined the intersection between early modern science and visual culture by elucidating the functions of images in shaping and disseminating scientific knowledge. Given its rich archival sources, it is possible to extend this line of research in the case of the Royal Society to an examination of attitudes towards images as artifacts—manufactured objects worth commissioning, collecting, and studying. Drawing on existing scholarship and material from the Royal Society Archives, I discuss Fellows’ interests in prints, drawings, varnishes, colourants, images made out of unusual materials, and methods of identifying the painter from a painting. Knowledge of production processes of images was important to members of the Royal Society, not only as connoisseurs and collectors, but also as those interested in a Baconian mastery of material processes, including a “history of trades.” Their antiquarian interests led to discussion of painters’ styles, and they gradually developed a visual memorial to an institution through portraits and other visual records.