“Schlosser could be described as the least-known famous art historian.”
In the 16th and 17th centuries, Central European nobles gathered and displayed art and natural wonders side by side in spaces known as art and curiosity cabinets, or kunst- und Wunderkammer. Viewers were awed by the spectacle of traditional fine artworks alongside objects like ostrich eggs in elaborate stands, complex mechanical clocks, suits of armor, and calligraphic manuscripts. In 1908 Austrian curator and scholar Julius von Schlosser wrote a treatise on this late-Renaissance collecting and display practice, theorizing that it was a critical precursor to the modern museum. Titled Die Kunst- und Wunderkammern der Spätrenaissance (Art and Curiosity Cabinets of the Late Renaissance), Schlosser’s German text was central to the emerging field of art history and, later, to the beginning of museum studies. Despite the impact of Schlosser’s book, it has only recently been translated into English.
In this episode, Thomas DaCosta Kaufmann discusses the history of art history, the importance of late-Renaissance art and curiosity cabinets, and Schlosser’s contributions to the fields of art history and museology. Kaufmann is Frederick Marquand Professor of Art and Archaeology at Princeton University and author of the introduction to Art and Curiosity Cabinets of the Late Renaissance: A Contribution to the History of Collecting, the English translation of Schlosser’s 1908 text published by Getty Publications.
“There is, and appropriately so, a tension between Sarnath as an archaeological monument, a historical monument, but also a highly sacred one.”
After reaching enlightenment, the Buddha began attracting followers—and founding a religion—by preaching. He delivered his first sermon at Sarnath, near the banks of the Ganges in Northeast India, in the 6th century BCE. By the 3rd century BCE, it had become a site of considerable importance; the emperor Ashoka visited and erected a gleaming pillar, officially declaring it the site of the Buddha’s sermon while also referencing the flourishing monastic community. For thousands of years Sarnath has attracted monks, artists, archaeologists, and tourists from across the globe. Today, it ranks among the most prominent and most visited sites for Buddhists. Its ancient religious structures, including stupas, or reliquary mounds, and pieces of Ashoka’s pillar, can be visited in an archaeological park that is a candidate for World Heritage status.
In this episode, Fredrick Asher, professor emeritus of art history at the University of Minnesota, discusses the long history and significance of Sarnath, the site’s relationship to its local populations, and ideas for the future of the excavated area. Asher is the author of Sarnath: A Critical History of the Place Where Buddhism Began, recently released by Getty Publications.