Wunderkammer: once upon a time….

Wunderkammer: the art of collecting the most strange and bizarre objects from the world

Some people collect stilettos or works of art, others skulls, stuffed animals or other disturbing objects that in past centuries were kept in a Wunderkammer, also called a cabinet de curiositè. Originating in the sixteenth-century, this is a phenomenon that still has its adherents in our own day. The Wunderkammer, a forerunner of the museum, was used to house any object that aroused wonder. It was a room lined with wooden shelves where skeletons, coral branches, shells, dried plants, seeds, rare books and even glass jars containing parts of human or animal bodies all found a place. The smallest or most valuable pieces were kept in drawers, while stuffed animals were ranged alongside the shelves. Possessing a Wunderkammer worthy of note was rare at the time. Generally only kings, aristocrats or wealthy men of science could afford them. Today, enthusiasts for the cabinet de curiositè prefer to place objects in different corners of their houses and surprise guests with pieces that look like they could have come from a natural history museum. Disturbing yes, but fascinating too.

Where to buy:

Antichi Vizi via Dell’Orso 12, Milan

Finch & Co. 2 Old Brompton Road, London

Il segno del tempo via Fiori Chiari 20, Milan

Kunstkammer Georg Laue Schellingstrasse 56, Munich

Nautilus via Bellezia 15, Turin

Van Leest Mariaplaats 45, Utrecht

 Creel And Gow 131 East 70th Street, New York

To visit

Le musée de l’Ecole nationale vétérinaire d’Alfort: One of the oldest museums in France, the legacy of the “cabinet of the King” created in 1766 in the second veterinary school in the world.

The Kunstkammer Wien:  Acollection of “Wunderkammer” belonged to several emperors beginning with that of Ferdinand II of Tyrol (1529-1595).


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