‘Intellectual Ornaments’: Style, Function and society in Some Instruments of Art

  • Martin Kemp


Martin Kemp’s chapter serves as a contrast and also partial confirmation of Jordanova’s approach. Kemp writes that the existence of rigidly demarcated intellectual disciplines means that cultural artefacts are often put into interpretative categories which do not reflect their real nature. The plea for cross-disciplinary study (which Kemp realises will be difficult to fulfil) goes together with a rejection of the fashionable semiotic readings of texts which are intrinsically reductive of the variety and vitality of cultural artefacts. Clearly, Kemp from his particular background in art history, wants to keep the individual and the untidiness of history in the foreground and is suspicious of any historical determinism, whatever the amount of mediation that may lie between cause and effect. Yet, although from a very different theoretical position, he, like Jorda- nova, sees the value of cultural history. Kemp’s vision of the new history, especially as regards the history of style, is that of a loose, intuitive, associationist technique so that the true nature of similar objects and their social contexts can emerge uninfluenced by the categories of pre-existing taxonomies.


Scientific Instrument Cultural History Early Nineteenth Century Camera Lucida Science Museum 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. 1.
    J. A. Bennett, The Divided Circle. A History of Instruments for Astronomy, Navigation and Surveying, Oxford, 1987.Google Scholar
  2. A. Turner, Early Scientific Instruments, Europe 1400–1780, London, 1987. The present chapter is a reorientated version of talk given at a conference on ‘Museums, Artifacts and the History of Science’ organised jointly by the British Society for the History of Science and the Group for Scientific, Technological and Medical Collections at the Science Museum in London on 29 November 1986.Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    J. V. Field, ‘What is Scientific about a Scientific Instrument? Nuncius, 111, pt. 2, 1988, pp. 3–26.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. 4.
    N. Pastore and C. Rosen, ‘Alberti and the Camera Obscura’, Physis, xxv, 1984, pp. 259–69.Google Scholar
  5. 7.
    M. Kemp, ‘Geometrical Perspective from Brunelleschi to Desargues: A Pictorial Means or an Intellectual End’, Proceedings of the British Academy, lxx, 1984, pp. 89–132.Google Scholar
  6. 8.
    J. Barozzi da Vignola, Le due regole delta prospettiva pratica, ed. I Danti, Rome, 1583, pp. 61–2.Google Scholar
  7. C. Maltese, ‘La prospettiva curva di Leonardo da Vinci e uno strumento di Baldassare Land’, La Propspettiva rinascimentale, ed. M. Dalai Emiliani, Florence, 1980, pp. 417–25.Google Scholar
  8. 10.
    S. Pepper and N. Adams, Firearms and Fortification. Military Architecture and Seige Warfare in Sixteenth-Century Siena, Chicago and London, 1986, pp. 66, 77, 88–9 and 157–9.Google Scholar
  9. 12.
    L. Berti, Il Principe dello studiolo, Florence, 1967.Google Scholar
  10. T. S. R. Boase, Giorgio Vasari, The Man and the Book, Princeton, 1979, pp. 314ff.Google Scholar
  11. 13.
    T. Settle, ‘Antonio Santucci, his “New Tractatus on Comets” and Galileo’, Novità celesti e crisi del sapere, ed. P. Galuzzi, Florence, 1983, pp. 229–38.Google Scholar
  12. 14.
    F. Mancinelli and J. Casanovas, La Torre dei Vend, Vatican, 1980.Google Scholar
  13. 15.
    For the Bolognese illusionistic painters, see E. Sjöstrom, Quadra-tura, Studies in Italian Ceiling Painting, Stockholm, 1978.Google Scholar
  14. 22.
    Galileo Galilei, Istoria e dimostrazioni intorno alle macchie solari e loro accidenti, Rome, 1613, p. 52.Google Scholar
  15. 23.
    J. F. Niceron, La Perspective curieuse ou magie artificielle, Paris, 1638, p. 77, and Thaumaturgus opticus, Paris, 1646, p. 191.Google Scholar
  16. 26.
    J. Freund, Photography and Society, London, 1980, pp. 8–17.Google Scholar
  17. 27.
    S. Bedini, Thomas Jefferson and his Copying Machines, Charlottes-ville, 1984.Google Scholar
  18. 29.
    See C. Varley, A Treatise on Optical Drawing Instruments, London, 1845, p. 27; and J. H. Hammond and J. Austin, The Camera Lucida inGoogle Scholar
  19. 31.
    L. Schaaf, Tracings of Light, Sir John Herschel and the Camera Lucida San Francisco, 1989.Google Scholar
  20. 32.
    For a ‘camera’ drawing by Thomas Sandby, Paul’s brother, see A. P. Oppé, The Drawings of Paul and Thomas Sandby in the Collection of His Majesty the King at Windsor Castle, London, 1947, no. 14729.Google Scholar
  21. 37.
    F. Ronalds, Mechanical Perspective or, Description and Uses of an Instrument for Sketching From Nature, 2nd edn, London, 1838.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Joan H. Pittock and Andrew Wear 1991

Authors and Affiliations

  • Martin Kemp

There are no affiliations available

Personalised recommendations