By A. Tosini (G Agostini "dis. in. pictra”). 16thC print.

Research: Hortus


Hortus is a new project, which involves research into the early Renaissance Botanic Gardens of Padua (IT) and Leiden (NL). I’m very glad to receive the a-n Artist Bursary so I can start my project with visiting these sites and their libraries. I know, the 16th Century is going back a bit but it is for a very good reason.

The early botanic gardens where among the first places to catalogue and research new plants and animals. European explorers of new trade routes and territories brought back a large number of new species, which led to a rethink about what people knew about the world. To be able to make sense of it all, or to impose some order on the wide variation of the expanding natural world, a classification system needed to be created. It was the Universities who initiated botanic gardens as places to research and teach a new understanding of the world, not only from books but from life itself. The study and categorisation of plants and their medicinal properties led to a new science, Botany. The gathering at the hortus of new, other worldly specimens of animals became exhibitions of the natural world. The hortus as garden became a place where you could wonder about the world. The University of Leiden even staged life anatomical dissection of bodies for the public in an anatomical theatre next to the hortus. (Who needs reality TV?)

So much interesting stuff happened right there and then. I am also drawn to that time because the revolution that took place then was linked to an expanding world. Our world today seems to be shrinking: disappearing environments and more and more species becoming extinct. So, a rich field for me to explore and get ideas for new art installations.

Top Image: The Botanical Garden of Padova (Orto dei semplici) in a 16th-century print.
By A. Tosini (G Agostini dis. in. pictra) – lithographed by “Kiev”? in Venice – Unknown. Reprinted in “L’Orto botanico di Padova nell’ anno 1842” by Roberto De Visiani (1842).
Public Domain. Wikipedia.