Drs. M.E. (Marrigje) Rikken

  • PhD student
  • Art History
  • Natural History

Personal Homepage: hum.leiden.edu/​lucas/​members-medieval-early-modern/​rikkenme.html

Fields of interest

16th- and 17th-century Dutch and Flemish paintings, prints and drawings


Natural history changed in a fundamental way after 1550, partly because of the discovery of numerous new species and technical innovations. My research project focuses on how the accumulation of knowledge in natural history was transposed to the field of the visual arts. How did artists employ the scientific documentation of nature?

An important notion in the project is the friction between an already existing ‘emblematic’ worldview and a more ‘scientific’ worldview, that emerged from 1550 onwards. The new worldview did not abruptly replace the traditional worldview but both coincided in the 16th and first half of the 17th century, leaving the artists with a choice to opt for either one or both of the worldviews in depicting animal scenes. What choices did they make and in what context were these choices made? In my research emphasis will be placed on the function of the animal depictions. It will be investigated whether an interrelation exists between the function of an artwork and the choice between an emblematic and a scientific representation. The role played by the patrons will also be examined in order to establish who or what was the deciding factor in the way the knowledge of natural history was applied. Since art works were often part of a larger collection, the role of the works in the collection will also be taken into account.

As case studies I will focus on depictions of animals by Joris Hoefnagel, Jan Brueghel the Elder and Jan van Kessel. All three artists have produced works in which the changing relationship between emblematic and scientific worldviews is explicitly present. Moreover, canon formation plays an important part in their work. Brueghel and Van Kessel knew Hoefnagel’s corpus very well. The artists did not only imitate one another, but all three of them also competed with printed scientific observations of nature. The relatively long time span in which these artists worked, makes it possible to provide insight into the developments in the application of natural history by artists.

The research project is interdisciplinary – since the history of science and the art history meet – as well as intermedial. When artists borrow motifs from printed natural history observations, the medium usually changes. Moreover, the art works were often part of collections consisting of various media.

Teaching activities

  • 2009 - present: coordination of the BA course "Kunst in Nederland", Art History department, University of Amsterdam
  • 2009 - present: BA course "Visuele Analyse", Art History department, University of Amsterdam

Curriculum Vitae

2004-2006: University of Amsterdam, ResearchMaster Art Studies. Specialization: Dutch paintings and prints of the early modern period. Graduated Cum Laude on the thesis: "'Vermaeckt u daer mede in eerlijcke vrolijckheyt’: Het Utrechts Zang-Prieeltjen in de context van de zeventiende-eeuwse Nederlandse lied- en embleembundels."

2001-2004: University of Amsterdam, Bachelor Art History of the early modern period. Minor in Meseology. Graduated Cum Laude on the thesis: "Tekeningen in de Essais van Montaigne: de keuzes van Pieter van Veen."

Professional Experience

  • 2010 - present: PhD candidate at Leiden university

  • 2009 - present: University Lecturer in Art History at the University of Amsterdam

  • 2009: Project Assistant at CODART

  • 2006-2008: Assistant Curator Dutch 17th-century Paintings at the Rijksmuseum Amsterdam

  • 2004-2006: Assistant of Prof.dr. E.J. Sluijter at the University of Amsterdam

Key publications

  • 2011 (forthcoming): [with P.J. Smith] ‘Jan Brueghel’s Allegory of Air (1621) in natural historical perspective’, Nederlands Kunsthistorisch Jaarboek (theme issue Art and Science), (2011).
  • 2008: Melchior d’Hondecoeter: Vogelschilder, Amsterdam 2008. (English edition: Melchior d’Hondecoeter: Bird painter)
  • 2008: ‘Het Utrechts Zang-Prieeltjen: een valse noot tussen de liedboeken?’, in: De zeventiende eeuw (theme issue Klank van de stad), vol. 24, nr. 1 (2008): p. 66-88.
  • 2008: ‘Vroege kleurendruk in Amsterdam: een onbekend zeventiende-eeuws plaatwerk van Carel Allard’, in: De Boekenwereld: Tijdschrift voor boek en prent (theme issue Vroege kleurendruk in Amsterdam), vol. 24, nr. 4 (2008): p. 202-226.
  • 2007: [with Dr. E.E.P. Kolfin] ‘A Very Personal Copy: Pieter van Veen’s Illustrations to Montaigne’s Essais’, in: P.J. Smith, K.A.E. Enenkel, Montaigne and the Low Countries (1580-1700), Intersections 8, Leiden: Brill, 2007: p. 247-262.

Last Modified: 10-12-2015