Netherlandish Influences on the Visual World of the Royal Society

Sietske Fransen, University of Cambridge

This paper will discuss the many ways in which the visual world of the fellows of the Royal Society was influenced by Netherlandish visual and graphic practices. Not only were some of the most important London-based painters of Dutch descent (such as Cornelius Johnson and Peter Lely), the Royal Society was also intensely corresponding with scholars from the Dutch Republic, such as Antony van Leeuwenhoek and Christiaan Huygens. On top of that, the Society even had a Dutch patron, with the ascension to the throne of King William III in 1689, after the Glorious Revolution the year before.

By investigating closely the immediate visual environment of the Fellows of the Royal Society, in terms of painted portraits, printed and drawn images, this paper will look into the self-evidence of Dutch influences on the visual world of the Royal Society. It will ask questions about nationality and craftsmanship, as well as knowledge and geographical borders.

Jan Verkolje, “The Dutch physician and anatomist Reinier de Graaf in his study” (ca. 1670-1673). Measurements 220 x 201 mm. Brown ink and grey wash on paper. Image @ Museum Boijmans van Beuningen, Rotterdam.