THE PERSISTENT IMAGE OF AN UNUSUAL CENTAUR. A BIOGRAPHY OF ALDROVANDI'S TWO-LEGGED CENTAUR WOODCUT'

in Nuncius
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Abstract

<title> ABSTRACT </title>This article traces the biography of a particular scientific image in early modern natural history, that of an unusual, two-legged centaur. It begins by examining the preconditions for the emergence of this image in the work of the eminent Bolognese natural historian Ulisse Aldrovandi. I then analyse its various shifts in content and function as it re-emerged in different publications and, finally, the reasons for its eclipse around 1700. An examination of this trajectory yields valuable insights into the way in which Aldrovandi and other naturalists of the late Renaissance dealt with visualisations. It is reminiscent of their practices of excerpting and reusing textually represented bits of knowledge. The fact that authors like Aldrovandi borrowed and reproduced images from earlier printed sources on a variety of subjects - many aimed not only at naturalists - led to their wide circulation and contributed to the endurance of an older visual style. As a result, one notes a certain amount of inconsistency between the then dominant "epistemic virtue" and the visualisations used during this period: While natural historians heeded "natural particulars" much more than the usual productions of nature, their depictions of them, much like their descriptions, were often highly generalised. Particular phenomena did not have to be individualised ones.

THE PERSISTENT IMAGE OF AN UNUSUAL CENTAUR. A BIOGRAPHY OF ALDROVANDI'S TWO-LEGGED CENTAUR WOODCUT'

in Nuncius

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