Access over 150 additional episodes in our back catalog on Patreon! Join today at http://www.patreon.com/thatshakespearelife
Ulisse Aldrovandi is considered by many scientists, including Carl Linnaeus, the man who formalized the modern system of naming animals, to be the father of natural history studies. During Shakespeare’s lifetime, until his death in 1605, Aldrovandi collected a vast amount of specimens for his cabinet of curiosities, gathering over 7000 artifacts, organizing multiple expeditions to collect plants, and illustrating thousands of bizarre natural history phenomenon into at least 12 publications, some of which were compiled posthumously. Today, Aldrovandi’s work is preserved at the University of Bologna. However, in 2020, one painting was discovered that claims to be a lost Aldrovandi painting of a young girl that suffered from hypertrichosis, a condition that covers the body in excess hair. We have talked about this girl, Antoinetta Gonzales, on our show previously. That episode, we mentioned that paintings of the Gonzales family were often copied and distributed around Europe for inclusions in cabinets of curiosities, like the one that Aldrovandi compiled in Italy. Today, our guest, Daniel Dawson-Gordon, is here to talk about one such painting that belonged to Ulisse Aldrovandi, who at the time was one of the highest ranking members of Italian society. Daniel is here to share about Aldrovandi’s work, the painting of Antoinetta Gonzales, and the story of how it was discovered beneath another a famous art painting that been painted over the original of Antionetta.
Itunes | Stitcher | TuneIn | GooglePlay
Daniel Dawson Gordon is the owner of Norfolk Antique & Reclamation Center where he deals in a wide range of reclaimed materials from architectural structures to select fine objects. He is also the proprietor at “The Britannia Handmade Brick Company” that produces and sells traditional handmade bricks. Daniel has featured in few antique programs on national television in the UK and a full production four episode series about Daniel’s work called “the Antiques Yard” was featured on the channel more4 in the UK.
I’ll be asking Daniel Dawson Gordon about:
- Did Aldrovandi create the first natural history museum?
- What made you suspicious that there might be another painting underneath the top painting? What methods did you use to discover that there was an additional painting underneath the Madonna and child painting?
- Who was the artist that painted each of the paintings? Is it the same person that painted both?
- …and more!
Resources Recommended by Our Guest
1.The Marvelous hairy girls by Merry Weisner-Hanks.
2.Possessing nature by Paula Findlen
3. Ulissis Aldrovandi … Monstrorum Historia https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=AiDXDm-BJHcC&printsec=frontcover&redir_esc=y#v=onepage&q&f=false
Daniel’s Documentary on the discovery of his painting can be found here.
Ulisse Aldrovandi is credited with starting the first natural history museum
While Daniel points out that others before him likely had what we would call a natural history museum, Aldrovandi started a trend that continued for centuries afterwards.
His collection was vast, and celebrated.
“His collection went to the state, held in Bologna, the Museum, he has over 18,000 artifacts left, separate from the 7000 specimens of plants and botanicals that have been dried and sealed in books and scripts. On from that, he was known to create the first botanical garden.“
You can see Aldrovandi’s collection online at the University of Bologna here.
Aldrovandi was known for collecting specimens of various curiosities and natural wonders. Of particular interest to Aldrovandi was collecting what he called “monsters.”
He wrote about these people in his book, Monstrorum historia.
Aldrovandi commissions portrait of Antonietta Gonzales
As we have talked about recently on our show, with guest Merry Weisner-Hanks for an episode on the Gonzales sisters, the Gonzalez family suffered from hypertrichosis, a condition that left them covered in hair all over their bodies. As a result, the Gonzales sisters, in particular, were seen as a side show, a curiosity, and were kept as members of the royal court because of their unique attributes.
Portraits of the Gonzales sisters, and Antonietta in particular, were circulated around Europe. While the family travelled around for many years on display for their condition, after they retired to the country, the portraits of them remained in popular demand.
Aldrovandi was one such person who wanted a portrait of Antoinetta Gonzales for his curiosity collection, so he commissioned an artist to make him a replica of one of the most famous paintings in Europe.
Finding That Painting Accidentally
As an antiques dealer, Daniel routinely comes across paintings and furniture of value that he then resells. He never expected to uncover a lost painting commissioned by Aldrovandi. One day, his friend showed up with a delivery of antiques, inside which is a painting that caught Daniel’s eye. The original painting was done of a Madonna and Child, but after suspecting there might be something underneath the outer painting, Daniel recruited his friend to xray the painting. Xrays indeed revealed a hidden Aldrovandi portrait beneath the Madonna and Child. After further investigation, it turns out that the painting is not only a famous one, but it was a painting considered lost from Aldrovandi’s collection until now.
Comment and Share
If you like our show, please leave us a comment and a rating on the podcast platform you’re listening from today. Taking the time to rate us on Apple Podcasts or other platforms really helps our rankings and lets other people hear about the show. If you can drop us a rating and review, we’d really appreciate it!
If you’re listening right here in the show notes, please leave us a comment down below. We’d love to hear from you!
You can share this episode on social media to help more people hear about our show and the great history we talk about each week! Tweet this episode using this link or share the website on Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest or LinkedIN.
If you want even more episode of That Shakespeare Life, be sure to check out our Patreon page. There’s over 150 additional episodes there that aren’t available on public listening platforms. PLUS there’s some great bonuses just for patrons.
That’s it for this week! Thank you for listening. I’m Cassidy Cash, and I hope you learn something new about the bard. I’ll see you next time!
This truly is a most remarkable and important discovery, made possible by Daniel’s admirable determination and impressive research.
I look forward to reading his upcoming publication in regards, no doubt it will be greatly enlightening.
I hope we get to hear a subsequent interview for the other discovery Daniel mentioned.
Great interview questions, well done!
Thank you so much, Naomi!
My thanks to you, Cassidy, great content!