by Julia Siemon, Assistant Curator

Cooper Hewitt recently launched the “Stradanus Sketchbook Project,” a multi-year initiative supported by a major grant from the J. Paul Getty Foundation. This ambitious project centers on the work of Johannes Stradanus (Netherlandish, 1523­–1605), a principal artist at the Medici court in Renaissance Florence, who was also a prolific and sophisticated print designer. Covering a broad range of subjects—including mythology, religion, politics, literature, scientific innovations, and the exploration of America—his internationally-known designs represent an important chapter in the history of ideas and information-sharing; they and are some of the most influential images in European history. Cooper Hewitt’s collection includes a large number of drawings by Stradanus, which document the design process behind his prints. Our Stradanus Sketchbook Project will make these treasures of Cooper Hewitt’s collection accessible to the museum’s diverse audiences for the very first time.

Drawing, Invention of the Compass, preliminary design for

Drawing, Invention of the Compass, preliminary design for “Lapis Polaris Magnes,” plate 2 in the Nova Reperta (New Inventions of Modern Times) print series

The project begins with a period of intensive study. Curatorial research by the project’s lead, Julia Siemon (assistant curator, Drawings, Prints & Graphic Design), will be complimented by the completion of a careful conservation survey overseen by Perry Choe (paper conservator). This survey will shed light on the objects’ complicated history. The 150 double-sided drawings were once bound into a sketchbook or sketchbooks. Unfortunately, these copiously-annotated leaves were later separated and cut apart into individual compositions. Luckily, however, the pages often retain evidence of their binding, and the drawings and notes frequently carry signs of their original arrangement. Funding from the Smithsonian’s National Collections Program will also support essential conservation treatment of the drawings in order to protect them and to facilitate analysis and imaging. The project will employ multiple modes of curatorial, technical, and conservation-based investigation in order to gather information about the drawings, with the aim of reconstructing and reevaluating the sketchbook in digital form.

The ultimate goal of the Stradanus Sketchbook Project is to provide an extraordinary online tool through which the museum’s broad audiences—including visitors from across the globe—can access a virtual reconstruction of Cooper Hewitt’s Stradanus sketchbook. This platform will present high-resolution images together with rich content regarding subject matter, cultural and political context, inscriptions and annotations, historical and literary sources, and related artworks. The development of this platform, carried out in collaboration with a large number of colleagues including members of Cooper Hewitt’s Digital and Emerging Media and Cross-Platform Publishing, as well as the Smithsonian’s Digitization Program Office, will create an exciting new tool for digital storytelling around the collection.


One thought on “Stradanus Sketchbook Project

Really interesting subject of which I was not aware. Definitely a work that needs to be preserved for generations to come.

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