© Amsterdam Museum

Gender and Self-Fashioning at the Intersection of Art and Science

In her forthcoming book, art historian Catherine Powell explores the intriguing life of Agnes Block, a remarkable seventeenth-century Dutch woman who we can find at the intersection of art and science. Powell will share her findings in a lecture, followed by comments by botanical philosopher Norbert Peeters and a presentation by literary scholar Feike Dietz.

At once a collector, amateur botanist, avid reader, amateur artist, and patron, Agnes Block is best described as a cultural producer. In her research, Catherine Powell seeks to write the still largely obscure Block and her contributions into the art and cultural history of the Dutch seventeenth-century, and to highlight the need for and the potential of a multi-faceted approach to the research of early modern women. Examining Block’s achievements, her relationships, and her objects reveals a woman who was independent, knowledgeable, self-aware, and not above engaging in self-promotion. Though her gender meant fewer opportunities than for men and many barriers, Agnes Block succeeded in fashioning herself as Flora Batava, a “liefhebber” at the intersection of art and science.

After Powell’s lectue, botanical philosopher Norbert Peeters (University of Leiden) will respond to her research. Powell’s upcoming book on Agnes Block will be published later this year by AUP. It will appear in the Book Series: Studies in Early Modernity in the Netherlands, which is a collaboration between AUP and the Amsterdam Centre for Studies in Early Modernity. Feike Dietz, chair of its editorial board of the book series, will reflect on renaming the successful book series, which has over 30 titles to its name, and present some plans for its future.

About the speakers

Catherine Powell is a postdoctoral researcher at Ghent University. Her book on Agnes Block will be published by Amsterdam University Press later this year in the book series: Studies in Early Modernity in the Netherlands.

Norbert Peeters is a botanical philosopher at the University of Leiden and has published on Dutch local botany and women scholars in Darwin’s time.

Feike Dietz is Professor of Global Dynamics of Dutch Literature at the University of Amsterdam. She chairs the editorial boars of the book series: Studies in Early Modernity in the Netherlands, which is a collaboration of Amsterdam University Press (AUP) and the Amsterdam Centre for Studies in Early Modernity (ACSEM).

Judith Noorman (moderator) is Associate Professor in Art History at UvA. She is also director of the Amsterdam Centre for Studies in Early Modernity, an interdisciplinary community of scholars within and beyond UvA.

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