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Thursday, June 30, 2011

Visit with Dr. Van Den Abbeele and his Colleagues from Northeastern University - How full professors will use Graham Arader's gift of historically significent maps.

A Report by Nina Kreuter, a Junior at Denison University working with Arader Galleries as a summer intern:

Today, we had the pleasure of meeting Dean of Humanities at Northeastern George Van Den Abbeele. Accompanying him was Robert from the development office who is working on cross disciplinary development, and Barrel, a professor or arts and literature. It was as if we were in a classroom learning about the complex and rich history of Europe and European art. Each map and each painting had a story the Dr. Van Den Abbeele spoke eloquently on.

He began by speaking on two Ortelius maps and noted the significance of the change of perspective that was occurring in map making. The first one he pointed out showed a primary focus on accurate coastlines. Then we transitioned to viewing his world map and discussing the recognition of localities and the spherical nature of the globe. Dr. Van Den Abbeele also spoke multiple time throughout our discussion about the evolution of mediums of the maps and the transition from woodcuts to copperplate and engravings, and thus the increase in reproductions that could be created.

Looking at this collection of historically significant maps also prompted a conversation on the connection of map making and images of botanicals and animal life. In this great time of discovery map making gave way for the rise of anthropology as well.

We discussed explorers including Chinese exploration and their potential at the time to be a hugely dominant nation. Dr. Van Den Abbeele noted how Marco Polo’s mass recognition came from the fact his findings were translated

Our conversation transitioned quickly to Dutch dominance in the 17th century. Dr. Van Den Abbeele spoke thoroughly on the many factors that led to the Dutch being a forceful entity in the political world. The main reason: the spice trade. The King of Portugal had long been considered the wealthiest monarch. He was also known by “Spice King” for his overruling power over the business. However, when the young King Sebastian comes to power Portugal witnesses a massive collapse in power. King Sebastian makes the detrimental decision to take the entire monarch and invade Morocco, where Portugal was inevitably wiped out. This gave the Dutch the opportunity to obtain control over the spice trade.

We also learned about the rise of Dutch Calvinism and the ways in which artwork was affected by new religious views. There were ‘acceptable’ approaches to art, including still live, botanical and landscape images all to portray to beauties of the God’s natural creation. We also spoke about the rise of the scientific method and Descarte’s publication. Descartes spent his time in Holland out of the public eye. At the same time Galileo was on trial causing Descarte to move to Holland as it was a place of intellectual freedom.

We moved the stairwell on the fifth floor to view the stunning tapestries that once hung in Versailles. Mr. Arader spoke passionately about these exotic pieces and their controversial history. Louis XIV was given paintings as gifts which were later recreated into tapestries. Years later with the fall of the French monarchy the tapestries were looted from Versaille.

We moved into Mr. Arader’s bedroom, which houses a vast collection of historically significant maps. The map that caught the attention of Dr. Van Den Abbeele was an Albernaz map of the coastline of Choromandel. The accuracy of the coastline was perfection and it included several technical aspects which made it even more interesting. The Compass Rose allows for even more accuracy when especially for sailors exploring the world. It shows the understanding of the spherical nature of the world. In addition it shows two scales of measurements; one unit was Spanish, and the other British. This suggests that the map was produces two satisfy multiple clienteles. During this time we also discussed the evolution of imagery and the loss of dimension due to technology. Now, with sites like google, such images are readily accessible and flattened. Whereas woodblock prints, engravings, and copperplate print has a level of three-dimensionality. Dr. Van Den Abbeele spoke on the evolution of images into film and noted Edouard Muybridge and his innovative approach to perspective and movement.

Finally we moved to the 3rd floor to view Mr. Arader’s Parmigiano painting of Charles V. There is far more than meets the eye to this painting. Barrel discussed the underlying religious nature of the painting and commented and some of the symbolism she saw with the palm, which represents martyrdom. Mr. Arader expressed his love for the painting as it is seemingly a satirical representation as it was painted with perhaps a bitter intention. It was a fascinating discussion of the hidden undertones of the historical painting.

The tour was finished with a lovely lunch, where we continued to discuss similar subject matter. Today was filled with learning and I was thrilled to meet such educated and passionate individuals. It is great to know that the collection of maps given by Mr. Arader will be viewed and studied by students at Northeastern University with distinguished professors using them to teach history.

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