New Book | The Collector’s Cabinet and Miniature Pharmacy

Posted in books, museums by Editor on June 28, 2017

Collector’s Cabinet with Miniature Apothecary’s Shop, 1730
(Amsterdam: Rijksmuseum)

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Press release (23 June 2017) from the Rijksmuseum. The English edition of the book should be be available from Distributed Art Publishers (DAP) in August.

Paul van Duin, ed., The Collector’s Cabinet and Miniature Pharmacy / Verzamelaarskast met miniatuurapotheek (Amsterdam: Rijksmuseum, 2017), 184 pages, ISBN: 978 949171 4610 (Dutch edition) / ISBN: 978 949171 4726 (English edition), 40€ / $60. Essays by Reinier Baarsen, Annette Bierman, Judith van der Brugge-Mulder, Gerhard Cadée, Roelof van Gelder, and Dave van Gompel.

In the last few years no fewer than 50 experts have been involved in conducting research on the only eighteenth-century miniature apothecary’s shop in the Netherlands. The Rijksmuseum is now presenting the results of this research and conservation project in an extensive publication, designed by Irma Boom and showing the miniature pharmacy and 56 secret drawers for the first time, at almost actual size.

This rare collector’s cabinet houses an abundance of curiosities including a fully fitted miniature apothecary’s shop containing more than three hundred Delftware pots, glass bottles, tiny wooden drawers, paintings, and gilded ornaments. Concealed beside and behind the miniature pharmacy are no fewer than 56 secret drawers, all but five of which contain the collection of nearly 2000 varieties of naturalia, including seeds, flowers, roots, animal parts, rocks, minerals, and fossils.

The research has now been completed, providing a far deeper understanding of the cabinet’s origins, its purpose, the exceptional naturalia it contains, and the collectors’ world it inhabited. We can now be fairly certain that the cabinet was made in Amsterdam in 1730 for a wealthy doctor or apothecary, as a curiosity for the entertainment of a select group of friends and fellow collectors. The study also revealed that most of the naturalia items form the original contents of the cabinet. The naturalia even include uraninite and two other minerals containing uranium—for safety reasons, these materials are now safely stored in lead caskets in the Rijksmuseum’s depot, in accordance with the regulations and permit issued under the Dutch Nuclear Energy Act.

The conservation and restoration work have for a large part returned the cabinet and miniature apothecary’s shop to their former glory, and this object is now one of the highlights of the eighteenth-century galleries in the Rijksmuseum.

With thanks to the Cultural Heritage Agency of the Netherlands, Naturalis Biodiversity Center, Leiden University, and the Royal Netherlands Institute of Sea Research. The research, conservation, and publication were made possible by the Bank of America Merrill Lynch Art Conservation Project.






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