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Posts Tagged ‘emerveillement’

I’m reading The Discoverer, by Jan Kjaerstad (ISBN 978-1905147366) just now and a few pages back he mentioned something called a “studiolo”. This was a secret room hidden deep within a palace (usually not even on the architect’s drawings, and often windowless), in which a Prince would keep a private collection. The key to the collection was anything which induced a sense of wonder. Now, there’s a VERY appealing idea. I’ve written before about how wonder, amazement, or, “emerveillement“, can bring a very special quality to everyday life, so the idea of having a collection which would stimulate such an attitude is really very interesting. As The Discoverer is a novel, I wasn’t sure if the author had made the idea up, or if such rooms ever really existed. Well, guess what? They did!

Wikipedia has an entry about such rooms. They were also known by the German word “Wunderkammer”, or from the French “cabinet” as a “cabinet of curiosities”, or “cabinet of miracles”. Some people have misinterpreted the “cabinet” as an item of furniture, but it was actually a room. A particularly spectacular version was the Studiolo of Francesco I de Medici, in the Palazzo Vecchio, Florence. Sadly, all the objects in that one are long since gone, but the room itself looks stunning. The contents, we are told, would be natural objects, shells, crystals, horns and so on, and art objects such as paintings and sculptures. What held the collection together was the collector. Whatever he, or she, (usually he!) found made him wonder was a worthwhile item for inclusion.

These rooms were probably precursors of museums as well as being laboratories of discovery and sources of inspiration. They were catalysts to the imagination, to creativity and to understanding.

I love this concept, and was therefore intruiged by the description of some contemporary manifestations of “cabinets of curiosity”, or “wonder rooms”.

The Museum of Jurassic Technology in LA, uses this idea.

There’s an Italian cultural organisation dedicated to the concept.

And a quarterly Arts magazine called “Cabinet“.

Interestingly, there’s a mention in the wikipedia article of some bloggers describing their blogs as “wonder rooms”. Well, I haven’t exactly made my blog that way, but it’s not far off it, is it? Quite often, I browse through my old posts at some of the photos, references, or reviews and they stimulate my “emerveillement”. I hope browsing through them might do the same for you. But I’m inspired now. Maybe there’s a photobook project in this? Maybe there’s a website project? Maybe I could start a physical collection somewhere in my home! Does this idea inspire you? If you come across such rooms (physical or virtual) please let me know!

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