Saturday, 29 November 2014

What is my dissertation about?

The Elector of Saxony’s wire drawing bench (1565) is an extremely complicated piece of art and technology which remains relatively unknown outside France and Germany. It deserves to be more widely known not only amongst the general public, but also art and cultural historians too, due to its unique straddling of the Renaissance art and scientific world.

The geography of art is as important as the history of art when making sense of the bench. However geography of art remains controversial, therefore a critical evaluation of the term Kunstgeographie is provided. A consideration of the bench from this broad geographical point of view enables discussion about how different environmental factors impacted on the society, economy, and individuals that produced it.

In this dissertation the assertion of Saxon independence and the increasing awareness of a German national identity against European religious sectarianism is examined. At a local level, hunting techniques, local flora and fauna, and the resource rich natural environment around Dresden are discussed. The elaborate marquetry decoration depicts the Saxon landscape by using the rich wood resources at the artist’s disposal.

Saxony was famous for its manufacturing and engineering expertise but also produced craftspeople of the highest calibre. The people commissioned to produce the bench are discussed and they appear to criss-cross art/technical boundaries with fluid impunity.

Ultimately using geography to explore this unique bench is successful. Its rich complexity reflects not just the Elector and his Kunstkammer, but also his court, his state and place in the Europe. The bench represents how August made his state rich and powerful, and by commissioning such a machine, he sent a clear signal, both nationally and internationally, that Saxony’s resources were his to extract, manage and master. This bench couldn't be more rooted in the place in which it was commissioned, designed and constructed.

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