Creating my own 2D Cabinet of Curiosities on Canvas

‘Like today’s museums, [cabinets of curiosities] attempted to categorise and tell stories about the wonders and oddities of the natural world’ (British Library, n.d.). I’ve been interested in cabinets of curiosities for a long time and after discovering Pinterest years ago I started collecting images of all kinds of curios as well as the cabinets themselves in my Pinterest board. I’ve just checked and I have 290 pins in my Cabinet of Curiosities board!

Wet specimens, including fish and mollusk
Tab.II: Wet specimens, including fish and mollusk
Frederik Ruysch .Ruysch, Frederik. 1710. Frederici Ruischii anatom. & botanices professoris .. Thesaurus animalium primus : cum figuris aeneis = Het eerste cabinet der dieren, Amstelaedami : Apud Joannem Wolters. Image source: Smithsonian Libraries

I visited Burton Constable a few years ago and saw William Constable’s cabinet of curiosities, ‘the most significant collection surviving in its original country-house setting’ (Historic Houses, n.d.).

William Constable’s cabinet of curiosities published by @Hull_Museums. Image source: Twitter

William Constable (1721 – 1791) not only had a passion for collecting but also the wealth and time required to create it. These cabinets communicated to those who visited them not only the wealth of the creator but also their ‘taste and inquiring mind’ (Lubar, 2018).

One day, while I was painting something completely different, I decided to create my own cabinet of curiosities using printed collage pieces of rare, unusual and intriguing objects I had collected on Pinterest (glued onto a canvas). I lacked the wealth that day to create a real one. I applied watered down acrylics over the top of the collage when it was dry to make adjustments to the curios and add in some darker tones to get some depth and shadows … I think it was the result of procrastination while painting but I was pretty pleased with the result…

‘Cabinet of Curiosities’ prototype by Gillian Hebblewhite 2021. Collage and acrylic on canvas. Attribution-NonCommercial 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC 2.0)

Cabinet of Curiosities by Gillian Hebblewhite 2021_closeup2
Close up of ‘Cabinet of Curiosities’ prototype by Gillian Hebblewhite 2021. Collage and acrylic on canvas. Attribution-NonCommercial 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC 2.0)
Cabinet of Curiosities by Gillian Hebblewhite 2021_closeup
Close up of ‘Cabinet of Curiosities’ prototype by Gillian Hebblewhite 2021. Collage and acrylic on canvas. Attribution-NonCommercial 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC 2.0)
Cabinet of Curiosities by Gillian Hebblewhite 2021_closeup3
Close up of ‘Cabinet of Curiosities’ prototype by Gillian Hebblewhite 2021. Collage and acrylic on canvas. Attribution-NonCommercial 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC 2.0)
Cabinet of Curiosities by Gillian Hebblewhite 2021_closeup4
Close up of ‘Cabinet of Curiosities’ prototype by Gillian Hebblewhite 2021. Collage and acrylic on canvas. Attribution-NonCommercial 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC 2.0)
Cabinet of Curiosities by Gillian Hebblewhite 2021_closeup5
Close up of ‘Cabinet of Curiosities’ prototype by Gillian Hebblewhite 2021. Collage and acrylic on canvas. Attribution-NonCommercial 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC 2.0)
Cabinet of Curiosities by Gillian Hebblewhite 2021_closeup6
Close up of ‘Cabinet of Curiosities’ prototype by Gillian Hebblewhite 2021. Collage and acrylic on canvas. Attribution-NonCommercial 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC 2.0)

I will be publishing some more about cabinets of curiosities and wonder rooms soon.

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