Title of Showcase Submission

A Closer Look at Agneta Block's Bird Illustration: A Case Study in Recovering the Histories of Women in Early Modern European Science

Student Type

Graduate

Faculty Sponsor

Dr. Sarah Cantor

Date

4-12-2022

College Affiliation

College of Arts and Humanities

Department

Art History and Visual Culture

Submission Type

Oral Presentation

Abstract

Agneta Block (1629-1704) was a Dutch Mennonite naturalist, collector, and patron, as well as an artist herself. In a family portrait painted by Jan Weenix (1642-1719) depicting Agneta in her renowned garden estate, it is the pineapple plant which usually receives the most attention, as she is cited as the first person in the Dutch Republic to have successfully cultivated one. However, while best known for such horticultural achievements and botanical interests, little attention has been paid to her ornithological endeavors. Agneta is known to have kept an aviary at her gardens, as well as a natural history cabinet which included avian specimens, and had her exotic birds documented on paper just as she did her flowers; and in Weenix's painting, it is a picture of the former she proudly displays rather than the latter. So, what kind of bird is it, and why does it matter? I will present my formal identification of the species depicted, and what it can tell us about Agneta's unrecognized place in early modern European ornithology.

Publication Date

2022

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Apr 12th, 12:00 AM

A Closer Look at Agneta Block's Bird Illustration: A Case Study in Recovering the Histories of Women in Early Modern European Science

Agneta Block (1629-1704) was a Dutch Mennonite naturalist, collector, and patron, as well as an artist herself. In a family portrait painted by Jan Weenix (1642-1719) depicting Agneta in her renowned garden estate, it is the pineapple plant which usually receives the most attention, as she is cited as the first person in the Dutch Republic to have successfully cultivated one. However, while best known for such horticultural achievements and botanical interests, little attention has been paid to her ornithological endeavors. Agneta is known to have kept an aviary at her gardens, as well as a natural history cabinet which included avian specimens, and had her exotic birds documented on paper just as she did her flowers; and in Weenix's painting, it is a picture of the former she proudly displays rather than the latter. So, what kind of bird is it, and why does it matter? I will present my formal identification of the species depicted, and what it can tell us about Agneta's unrecognized place in early modern European ornithology.