Cabinet d'Aldrovandi, Ulisse

Cabinet cité par Pierre Borel (1649).

Roole des prin­ci­paux cabi­nets curieux, et autres choses remar­quables qui se voyent ez prin­ci­pales Villes de l'Europe.
Pierre Borel men­tionne un nom pour la ville de Bologne :
"Bologne.
Le cabi­net de feu Ulysses Aldro­van­dus, Mede­cin."

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The Ulisse Aldro­van­di Museum

Cette pré­sen­ta­tion du musée nous a été four­nie par le Musée Aldro­van­di. Nous remer­cions vive­ment Anna Addis, qui a rédi­gé ce texte, et Ful­vio Simo­ni, conser­va­teur des col­lec­tions, pour leur accueil cha­leu­reux et leur col­la­bo­ra­tion.

Both Lin­naeus (1707–78) and Buf­fon (1707–88) consi­de­red Bolo­gna native Ulisse Aldro­van­di (1522–1605) the foun­der of modern natu­ral his­to­ry.

In 1554 Aldro­van­di began to teach at the uni­ver­si­ty as a lec­tor of logic and then phi­lo­so­phy. For the two-year per­iod of 1560–61 he was appoin­ted lec­tu­ra phi­lo­so­phiae natu­ra­lis ordi­na­ria de fos­si­li­bus, plan­tis et ani­ma­li­bus or, in other words, the first pro­fes­sor of natu­ral sciences at the Uni­ver­si­tà di Bolo­gna. In 1568 he set up the bota­ni­cal gar­den, which was ini­tial­ly situa­ted in the cour­tyard of the Palaz­zo Pub­bli­co, and ser­ved as its direc­tor until his death. With his pro­di­gious stu­dies and work, he legi­ti­mi­zed this new dis­ci­pline at the uni­ver­si­ty and hel­ped make Bolo­gna one of the lea­ding centres for natu­ral science research in Europe. Convin­ced that the advan­ce­ment of know­ledge could not stem sole­ly from indi­vi­dual stu­dies, he began to col­la­bo­rate with Ita­lian and forei­gn scho­lars: famous scien­tists such as Pier Andrea Mat­tio­li (1500–77), Kon­rad von Ges­ner (1516–65) and Caro­lus Clu­sius (1526–1609), as well as local phy­si­cians and phar­ma­cists, small col­lec­tors and those who were inter­es­ted in “natu­ral things”. The scope of Sto­ria Natu­rale is also attri­bu­table to these rela­tion­ships. A work com­po­sed of thir­teen volumes (only the three volumes of Orni­tho­lo­gia and the volume tit­led De ani­ma­li­bus insec­tis were publi­shed during the author’s life­time), it was the broa­dest and most detai­led des­crip­tion of the three natu­ral king­doms – mine­ral, plant and ani­mal – ever writ­ten until then.

The exchange of infor­ma­tion and mate­rials, as well as a net­work of contacts connec­ting Aldrovandi’s home in Bolo­gna to the Old and New Worlds, also contri­bu­ted to the esta­blish­ment of the museum also known as “theatre”, or “micro­cosm of nature”. The enor­mous task of cata­lo­guing nature, cou­pled with the ongoing and pains­ta­king veri­fi­ca­tion of nature’s des­crip­tions by ancient authors, implied first-hand obser­va­tion – “with one’s own eyes” – of “the things of nature”. Howe­ver, the world that ope­ned up to a scho­lar of the second half of the 16th cen­tu­ry was deci­ded­ly broa­der and more varied than that of the ancients. Geo­gra­phi­cal dis­co­ve­ries were gra­dual­ly revea­ling new natu­ral set­tings which were obvious­ly beyond com­pre­hen­sive first-hand know­ledge. Since he was unable “to go to all places”, Aldro­van­di attemp­ted to recons­truct the natu­ral set­tings of all lands, near and far, inside his own home. Towards the end of his life, he proud­ly decla­red that he pos­ses­sed 18,000 “varie­ties of natu­ral things” and 7,000 “dried plants in 15 volumes”. This was an extra­or­di­na­ri­ly rich col­lec­tion that, like those of other scho­lars such as Fran­ces­co Cal­zo­la­ri (1522–1609) and Fer­rante Impe­ra­to (1550–1631), dif­fe­red from the ency­clo­pae­dic model typi­cal of the Kunst und Wun­der­kam­mern because of its clear­ly spe­cia­li­zed focus on natu­ral science.

The 17 volumes with thou­sands of illus­tra­tions of ani­mals, plants, mine­rals and mons­ters (now at the Biblio­te­ca Uni­ver­si­ta­ria di Bolo­gna) were a key com­ponent of the museum, as were the 14 cabi­nets, the Pina­cho­teche, contai­ning car­ved woo­den blocks used as wood­cuts to illus­trate prin­ted volumes (some are exhi­bi­ted in this room and the rest are at the Biblio­te­ca Uni­ver­si­ta­ria di Bolo­gna).

Aldro­van­di was convin­ced that a com­plete and well-orga­ni­zed col­lec­tion of ani­mals, plants and mine­rals, com­po­sed of real spe­ci­mens or pic­tures, was indis­pen­sable for his research and tea­ching acti­vi­ties at the uni­ver­si­ty. Using a research method based main­ly on the use of “one’s bodi­ly eyes” in order to cor­rect the “thou­sands of errors” that, until then, had mar­red know­ledge of plants, ani­mals and mine­rals, Aldro­van­di gave illus­tra­tions and spe­ci­mens a cen­tral role in stu­dies in this field. Their pur­pose was to show “the things of nature” in their enti­re­ty and in opti­mum condi­tion, thus len­ding full scien­ti­fic vali­di­ty to the arte­facts exhi­bi­ted at the museum. These figures, exe­cu­ted in tem­pe­ra or water­co­lour by a num­ber of artists, inclu­ding Jaco­po Ligoz­zi, Gio­van­ni Neri and Cor­ne­lio Schwindt, enabled Aldro­van­di to see nature in its enti­re­ty. Repro­du­ced as wood­cuts in the volumes of Sto­ria Natu­rale (thanks pri­ma­ri­ly to the work of the engra­ver Cris­to­fo­ro Corio­la­no), these images made it pos­sible “to show” the spe­ci­mens to all rea­ders and thus illus­trate in a com­plete man­ner what was des­cri­bed in the text.

In his will, Aldro­van­di bequea­thed the museum and the entire scien­ti­fic col­lec­tion that he had accu­mu­la­ted throu­ghout his life to the Bolo­gna Senate, so that after his death all his work would be “use­ful and honou­rable to the city”. His bequest bears fur­ther wit­ness to the public dimen­sion that he had constant­ly given to his scien­ti­fic acti­vi­ty. This public cha­rac­ter was inherent in the collection’s mis­sion “to aid and bene­fit man” and in the approach Aldro­van­di used to build and deve­lop it with the sup­port and col­la­bo­ra­tion of nume­rous scho­lars all over Europe.

In 1617 the museum was thus set up in six rooms at the Palaz­zo Pub­bli­co (now City Hall), where it remai­ned until 1742, when it was moved to the Ins­ti­tu­to delle Scienze in Palaz­zo Pog­gi. Most of the col­lec­tion was dis­mant­led in the 19th cen­tu­ry and dis­tri­bu­ted both to local and far away museums and libra­ries; part of the col­lec­tion was reas­sem­bled at its cur­rent venue in 1907.

 

Pour voir les pho­tos des vitrines du musée Aldro­van­di, dont cer­taines sont publiées avec l'aimable auto­ri­sa­tion du musée, on peut visi­ter notre gale­rie .

Site de réfé­rence : http://www.museopalazzopoggi.unibo.it
Wal­ter Tega (ed.), Guide to the Museo di Palaz­zo Pog­gi. Science and art,Bolo­gna, Edi­trice Com­po­si­to­ri, 2001.

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