At Sehwan in Sindh in 1845, the British soldier and Orientalist Richard Francis Burton planted a fake ancient jar for an antiquarian to discover. Burton’s prank was designed to poke fun at British associations of Sehwan with Alexander the Great. This article examines the incident, Burton’s motivations, and the broader question of British colonial fixation on Alexander’s campaigns in Sindh.
In Anna-Rosja Haveman’s essay, the largely forgotten work of the Groningen artist Han Jansen is examined. Her analysis unpacks the artistic oeuvre, within a broader perspective of the nature-culture debates in art and society. The public discussion that emerged around the Waddenprojects brings to bear contrasting ideas about nature in society. By embedding the project in the historical context of emerging environmental activism, the tensions inherent in art that aims to ‘raise awareness of nature’ become clear. As illustrated, the position of Han Jansen remains paradoxical: while he certainly intended to contribute to the awareness of nature and reconfigured hierarchies between humans and nature during the making process, the project created an image of a human, the artist, as polluter without further reflection on the ethics of his own actions.
Although the well-documented cartographic involvement of painters has received some partial academic interest, this essay makes a contextual and comparative analysis of the phenomenon of the painter-cartographer in the Low Countries between 1480 and 1550. Contrary to a previous generation of painters, these artists’ involvement in cartographic mapping projects exceeded a mere chorographic visual input. As their familiarity with geometrical principles and trigonometry increased, so did their involvement shift from a purely aesthetic role towards an active input on the technical and scientific design process. By combining art historical archival research with architectural history and the history of mapmaking, this paper explores new perspectives on what united art and science during the early sixteenth century. It is argued that painters’ cartographical endeavors were never considered a side-business next to their more regular painting commissions, but rather that their cartographic involvement aided artists such as Lanceloot Blondeel, Pieter Pourbus, and Jan van Scorel to elevate their social position by their display of geometrical knowledge and their expertise as ingenious geometers.
The construction of Flevoland is the largest land reclamation project in the Netherlands to date. Its completion around 1970 coincided with the emergence of a new postmodern art form, Land art. In Flevoland, the abundance of empty space and the desire to promote and give meaning to the new land gave rise to a remarkable collection of site-specific Land art pieces, created by internationally renowned artists on behalf of local governments. This essay unravels the stories these Land art pieces tell about the polders in which they are located. The artworks refer to the history of the man-made landscape and draw our attention to its qualities. But they also express the ambivalent feelings that polder landscapes evoke. In addition to an optimistic pioneering spirit and admiration for the skills of the Dutch hydraulic engineers, the works are also about human conceit and the sheer power of nature. They remind us that we are on precarious ground.