40 • A Landscape in Stone

40 • A Landscape in Stone

Tuscany, Italy
29 × 10 cm (unframed), Marble

Georg Eberhard Rumphius (1627 –1702) was perhaps 17th century’s most revered naturalist, producing two major works – The Ambonese Curiosity Cabinet (1705) and The Ambonese Herbarium (1741). He managed to produce these despite a litany of personal tragedy; including going blind due to glaucoma, losing his wife and daughter in an earthquake, losing his library and many of his illustrations to a fire, and losing an entirely finished manuscript when the ship transporting it was sunk. Despite which The Ambonese Curiosity Cabinet was eventually published posthumously in 1705 (in Dutch, it was only translated into English in 1999) and where we find the following appreciation of stones such as this one:

‘Nos. 3 and 4. show two outstanding pieces of so-called Nature stone, which are easily the finest ones among the stones in my possession; they come mostly from Italy and….those who have never seen them will not believe them; one will see in them deserts, mountains, rivers, ruins, cities, cloudy skies, and other rare sights.’
‘Nos. 3 and 4. show two outstanding pieces of so-called Nature stone, which are easily the finest ones among the stones in my possession; they come mostly from Italy and….those who have never seen them will not believe them; one will see in them deserts, mountains, rivers, ruins, cities, cloudy skies, and other rare sights.’
The Ambronese Curiosity Cabinet, G. E. Rumphus, 1705 © 1999 Yale University

In the example presented here the scene is one of sea-fronted moorland, with two cathedrals of stone sitting majestically and looking out across the ocean like pre-historic temples to nature. Shades of pastel suggest cloud, sea and heather as if brushed by watercolours; and to the touch it is cool, like a sea breeze rolling over damp moorland. It appears like a pre-historic polaroid, a landscape literally frozen in time.