Expert meeting – From the mind to the page: navigating the early modern sketchbook

The importance of studying sketchbooks for understanding early modern artistic practice has long been acknowledged. In sketchbooks, artists trained their hands, collected motifs, recorded travel impressions and experimented with original compositions. Because these books were made for private use rather than for public display, they present a clear and immediate impression of artists’ working procedures.
Intact (or partly intact) sketchbooks from Italian artists and workshops have been studied extensively, but only a handfull of 16th century Northern books have survived. Research into these objects has largely focused on the subject-matter depicted on the successive folios, rather than exploring these books as indispensable instruments for artistic practice. The meeting is centered around one case-study: the personal sketchbook of the Amsterdam painter, printmaker, and cartographer Cornelis Anthonisz (c.1505-1553). This sketchbook can be situated at the crossroads of traditional and modern drawing practice: it partly follows the conventional praxis of a traditional model-book, but it later grew into a tool for comprehending and experimenting with a new kind of visual geometry useful for Anthonisz’ multifaceted artistic and scientific endeavors.

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In order to gain a better understanding of the functioning of early modern sketchbooks from the North, this expert-meeting aims to look beyond the separate folios to uncover the rationale behind these objects. The pivotal role the personal sketchbook played in the early modern artistic practice will be scrutinized on the basis of presentations of, and discussion with, distinguished specialists on interrelated areas of expertise. Through sharing knowledge and expertise, and a session in Casa Buonarotti to examine some of Michelangelo’s drawings, this meeting at the NIKI aims to further the understanding of sketchbooks as essential tools for the early modern work-flow and develop ideas for future research and possible collaboration at the same time.

The expert-meeting is not open for the public.

It was made possible through the generous support of the NIKI and a visiting-professorship funded by the NWIB (Netherlands Scientific Institutes Abroad).