In their portraits, scholars often surround themselves with objects such as books and written documents. However, collectibles and scientific instruments also serve to embellish the portraits, offering revelations about the individual portrayed.
Here you can see three of Göttingen’s 18th Century scientists presenting themselves with artefacts that give clear indication of their chosen area of research. Simultaneously, the value assigned to objects indicates a revolution in the way science thought about itself.
A NEW ROLE MODEL FOR SCIENCE
The Age of Enlightenment focused on material objects and made them the central focus point of scientific research. Knowledge about nature should not only be taught by means of classical texts, but also through observation and by means of measuring devices and experiments. Due to the involvement with the material world, nature and culture became important subjects for this newly acquired research methodology.
BETWEEN RESEARCH AND SELF-PORTRAYAL
The relationship between the objects and the individuals portrayed is different in each of the three selected images. While the portrait of Johann Georg Roederer (1726-1763), professor of obstetrics, exhibits a new research programme, the image of Christian Wilhelm Büttner (1716-1801), professor of natural history, depicts the collector’s biography more obliquely through scholarly riddles.
The medal in the portrait of Baron von Asch (1729-1807) promotes his work as a physician at the court of Catherine the Great (1729-1796)