Thinking with Crocodiles: An Iconic Animal at the Intersection of Early-Modern Religion and Natural Philosophy


in Early Science and Medicine
Restricted Access
Get Access to Full Text
Rent on DeepDyve

Have an Access Token?



Enter your access token to activate and access content online.

Please login and go to your personal user account to enter your access token.



Help

Have Institutional Access?



Access content through your institution. Any other coaching guidance?



Connect

This paper seeks to explore how culturally and religiously significant animals could shape discourses in which they were deployed, taking the crocodile as its case study. Beginning with the textual and visual traditions linking the crocodile with Africa and the Middle East, I read sixteenth- and seventeenth-century travel narratives categorizing American reptiles as “crocodiles” rather than “alligators,” as attempts to mitigate the disruptive strangeness of the Americas. The second section draws on Ann Blair’s study of “Mosaic Philosophy” to examine scholarly debates over the taxonomic identity of the biblical Leviathan. I argue that the language and analytical tools of natural philosophy progressively permeated religious discourse. Finally, a survey of more than 25 extant examples of the premodern practice of displaying crocodiles in churches, as well as other crocodilian elements in Christian iconography, provides an explanation for the ubiquity of crocodiles in Wunderkammern, as natural philosophy appropriated ecclesial visual vocabularies.


Thinking with Crocodiles: An Iconic Animal at the Intersection of Early-Modern Religion and Natural Philosophy


in Early Science and Medicine

Sections

References

2

William B. Ashworth Jr.“Emblematic Natural History of the Renaissance,” in Cultures of Natural Historyedited by Nicholas Jardine James A. Secord and Emma C. Spary 17–37 (Cambridge 1996) 36.

3

Charlotte Sleigh“Jan Swammerdam’s Frogs,” Notes and Records of the Royal Society of London66 (2012) 373–392388.

4

Simon Ditchfield“Thinking with Saints: Sanctity and Society in the Early Modern World,” Critical Inquiry35 (2009) 552–584554.

5

Ann Blair“Mosaic Physics and the Search for a Pious Natural Philosophy in the Late Renaissance,” Isis91 (2000) 32–5833 35.

8

Wilma George“Sources and Background to Discoveries of New Animals in the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries,” History of Science18 (1980) 79–104101.

9

Joan-Pau Rubiés“New Worlds and Renaissance Ethnology,” History and Anthropology6 (1993) 157–197159–161.

10

Susan Scott Parrish“The Female Opossum and the Nature of the New World,” The William and Mary Quarterly3rd series 54 (1997) 475–514 480. Rubiés “New Worlds” 161 181.

11

George“New Animals” 100.

12

Parrish“Female Opossum” 485.

13

George“New Animals” 101.

14

Parrish“Female Opossum” 485. While Parrish usefully highlights the familiarity of the Old World animals as the source of their “morphological normalcy” it seems to me that it was equally the product of religious associations to which I shall return farther on.

15

Parrish“Female Opossum” 485.

16

Natalie Lawrence“Assembling the Dodo in Early Modern Natural History,” The British Journal for the History of ScienceFirstView article (2015) 1–22 12.

17

George C. Druce“The Symbolism of the Crocodile in the Middle Ages,” The Archaeological Journal66 (1909) 311–338315–316.

36

Grafton with Shelford and SiraisiNew Worlds6.

37

Eric Jorink“Noah’s Ark Restored (and Wrecked): Dutch Collectors, Natural History and the Problem of Biblical Exegesis,” in Silent Messengers: The Circulation of Material Objects of Knowledge in the Early Modern Low Countriesedited by Sven Dupré and Christoph Lüthy (Münster 2011) 153–182 174–175.

38

Lawrence“Assembling the Dodo” 12.

41

Smith and Findlen“Representation of Nature” 11.

42

Blair“Mosaic Physics” 34 50. Jonathan Sheehan “From Philology to Fossils: The Biblical Encyclopedia in Early Modern Europe” Journal of the History of Ideas 64 (2003) 41–60 46 60.

43

Blair“Mosaic Physics” 34. For an excellent discussion of the role of religious knowledge in organizing natural knowledge see Jorink “Noah’s Ark.”

45

Blair“Mosaic Physics” 33 50.

53

Blair“Mosaic Physics” 49–50. Sheehan “Philology to Fossils” 42.

57

GrewMusaeum Regalis Societatis41. Italics in the original.

61

Sheehan“Philology to Fossils” 46–47.

62

Sheehan“Philology to Fossils” 46. Italics mine.

63

HutchesonExposition37. Writers of every faction in early-modern confessional and intellectual conflicts “took the Bible as the only fully valid account of the past” including natural history. Grafton with Shelford and Siraisi New Worlds 207. By contrast Sheehan suggests that the confidence in biblical accuracy expressed by authors like Bochart was an attempt to stifle anxieties. Sheehan “Philology to Fossils” 46.

64

Blair“Mosaic Physics” 50.

65

HutchesonExposition37–38. Italics in the original.

66

HasselquistVoyages and Travels216. Pontoppidan Natural History 206.

67

Ibid.440.

68

Blair“Mosaic Physics” 35.

69

MasonBefore Disenchantment60.

74

Paula Findlen“Inventing Nature: Commerce, Art, and Science in the Early Modern Cabinet of Curiosities,” in Merchants and Marvelsedited by Pamela Smith and Paula Findlen 297–323 (New York 2002) 307 312–313. Findlen Possessing Nature 17–21 28.

75

Louise W. Lippincott“The Unnatural History of Dragons,” Philadelphia Museum of Art Bulletin77 (1981) 2–243.

78

Paula Findlen“Courting Nature,” in Cultures of Natural Historyedited by Nicholas Jardine James A. Secord and Emma C. Spary 57–74 (Cambridge 1996) 60.

81

Druce“Crocodile” 315–316 322.

83

Findlen“Inventing Nature” 302.

84

Felfe“Collections” 250. Findlen Possessing Nature 67.

85

Jorink“Noah’s Ark” 158–160.

92

Druce“Crocodile” 313–314 316. J.V. Kinnier Wilson “A Return to the Problems of Behemoth and Leviathan” Vetus Testamentum 25 (1975) 1–14 1–2.

94

Druce“Crocodile” 321 324. For further discussion of the hydrus see Ignacio Malaxecheverria “L’Hydre et le Crocodile Médiévaux” Romance Notes 21 (1980) 376–380.

99

Westerhoff“World of Signs” 634.

100

See M. Boskovits“Krokodil,” in Lexikon der christlichen Ikonographieedited by Engelbert Kirschbaum 659 (Rome 1970) 659.

101

Druce“Crocodile” 316.

105

Findlen“Inventing Nature” 302.

106

Paula Findlen“Scientific Spectacle in Baroque Rome: Athanasius Kircher and the Roman College Museum,” in Jesuit Science and the Republic of Lettersedited by Mordechai Feingold (Cambridge 2007) 225–284 245 257. Findlen Possessing Nature 81–82 84 91.

110

Tripps“Halbertstädter Drachen” 84.

111

Le Quellec“Le Crocodile d’Oiron” 57.

113

Attilio Zanca“The crocodile of Santuario of Saint Mary of Grazie,” Grazie’s Sanctuary2000 http://www.fermimn.gov.it/grazie/inglese/s4.html [accessed 19 May 2015].

117

Cabildo Catedral de Sevilla“Catedral de Sevilla.” Maxime de Montrond, “Les crocodiles de l’Hôtel de ville de Nîmes,” Bibliothèque de l’École des Chartes14 (1853). 67. Le Quellec “Le Crocodile d’Oiron” 58.

122

Parrish“Female Opossum” 488.

123

Findlen“Courting Nature” 60. Findlen Possessing Nature 201 208. Lugli “Inquiry as Collection” 111–112.

124

Daston and ParkWonders167.

125

Findlen“Courting Nature” 58–65.

128

Mueller“Mathematical Wunderkammern” 785. Findlen Possessing Nature 201.

130

Tripps“Halbertstädter Drachen” 84.

133

de Montrond“Les crocodiles” 67.

134

Tripps“Halberstädter Drachen” 84.

136

Le Quellec“Le Crocodile d’Oiron” 57–59.

140

Tripps“Halbertstädter Drachen” 83.

144

Tripps“Halberstädter Drachen” 83.

148

Scharpf“Il Coccodrillo” 9.

149

Scharpf“Il Coccodrillo” 9.

150

Scharpf“Il Coccodrillo” 9.

Figures

  • View in gallery
    AEGYPTO CAPTA, Silver Denarius of Octavian (later Augustus), Pergamum, Silver, 28–27 BCE, Yale University Art Gallery 2001.87.885. Image credit: Yale University Art Gallery

  • View in gallery
    Detail from Arnold Florent van Langren, “Orbis terrae compendiosa descriptio ex peritissimorum totius orbis Gaeographorum operibus desumta” (Antwerp: apud Joañem Baptistam Vrient, 1596). Image credit: Courtesy of the John Carter Brown Library at Brown University.

  • View in gallery
    Marten de Vos and Adrian Collaert, Africa, Print / Engraving on Copper, 1594, The Metropolitan Museum of Art 49.95.1516. Image credit: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City

  • View in gallery
    Detail from Giovanni Battista Tiepolo, Allegory of the Planets and Continents, Fresco, 1752–1753, Würzburger Residenz. Image credit: Web Gallery of Art

  • View in gallery
    Detail from Henry Popple, “A Map of the British Empire in America with the French and Spanish Settlements Adjacent Thereto” (London, 1733). Image credit: Library of Congress, Geography and Map Division

  • View in gallery
    “Crocodile or ye Leviathan,” from Nehemiah Grew, Musaeum Regalis Societatis. Or a Catalogue & Description of the Natural and Artificial Rarities Belonging to the Royal Society and Preserved at Gresham Colledge (London: W. Rawlins, 1681). Image credit: Yale University, Harvey Cushing / John Hay Whitney Medical Library

  • View in gallery
    Frontispiece to Imperato, Ferrante. Historia naturale di Ferrante Imperato napolitano nella quale ordinatamente si tratta della diversa condition di minere, pietre pretiose, ed altre curiosità. Con varie historie di piante, ed animali, sin’hora non date in luce (Venetia [Venice]: Presso Combi, & la Noù, 1672). Image credit: The Wellcome Library, London.

  • View in gallery
    “Hours, use of Rome.” Beinecke MS 287. Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library. Image credit: General Collection, Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University.

  • View in gallery
    “British Library Add MS 38126: Book of Hours, Use of Rome (The ‘Huth Hours’),” British Library Digitised Manuscripts (Flanders, 1480), 143v. Image credit: The British Library

  • View in gallery
    Photograph of the crocodile hanging in Santuario della Madonna delle Lacrime (Ponte Nossa, Italy). Image Credit: Courtesy of Santuario della Madonna delle Lacrime


Index Card

Content Metrics

Content Metrics

All Time Past Year Past 30 Days
Abstract Views 52 52 33
Full Text Views 20 20 20
PDF Downloads 2 2 2
EPUB Downloads 0 0 0