Baroque Modes and the Production of Knowledge

Ofer Gal*, Raz Chen-Morris

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review

1 Scopus citations


In his Art of Painting (Fig. 1.1) Johannes Vermeer opens a curtain and lets the observer peek at the crafting of an image. The lavishly dressed painter, his back to the observer, is busy putting to paper the figure of Clio, the muse of history, draped in blue and holding the symbols of her art: the book and the trumpet. On the wall behind her is an elaborate map of the Netherlands (the west facing up), framed by miniature depictions of Dutch towns. Vermeer “juxtapose[s] two kinds of pictorial image” wrote Svetlana Alpers of this painting in her deservedly celebrated analysis: an image fraught with “meanings (art as emblem)” on the one hand, and on the other—an image which serves as a careful “description (art as mapping)” (Alpers 1984, 166). But Vermeer is not commenting on art alone. “The aim of Dutch painters was to capture on a surface a great range of knowledge and information about the world” (Alpers 1984, 122), and Vermeer is setting a contrast between two modes of knowledge: the theatrical, poetic, historical narrative represented by Clio; and the visual exactness and immediacy of the descriptio—the mathematically drawn, factual map (Alpers 1984, 119–123; 166–167).

Original languageAmerican English
Title of host publicationInternational Archives of the History of Ideas/Archives Internationales d'Histoire des Idees
PublisherSpringer Nature
Number of pages9
StatePublished - 2013
Externally publishedYes

Publication series

NameInternational Archives of the History of Ideas/Archives Internationales d'Histoire des Idees
ISSN (Print)0066-6610
ISSN (Electronic)2215-0307

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2012, Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht.


  • Causal Account
  • Scientific Revolution
  • Sensual Detail
  • Seventeenth Century
  • Spiritual Speculation


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