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The Pomeranian Cabinet of Philipp Hainhofer

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In 1617, the prolific Augsburg merchant, art agent, and diplomat Philipp Hainhofer wrote to his longstanding patron, Duke Philipp II of Pomerania-Stettin. He was reporting great news. The duke’s vast and ornately furnished cabinet of curiosities was finally finished after seven years. But now Hainhofer faced the unenviable task of explaining the high costs and lengthy production time. The eloquent, art-loving broker was unerring. He had succeeded in making ‘something princely and prestigious for such an art-savvy and art-loving prince’, to which other princely cabinets were ‘of no comparison’. Covered in cosmic iconography, filled with affective, powerful materials, and housing a distinct pharmaceutical section, the cabinet was intimately linked to the body: the body of its eventual owners; of the artisans who made it; and of the merchant who compiled it.

This paper focuses on the art cabinets produced by Philipp Hainhofer (1578–1647), whose ingenious and rare creations for princely clientele helped foster his reputation as an important cultural broker and diplomat during the first half of the seventeenth century. By examining notions of the macrocosmic and microcosmic universe and the perceived active properties of materials, this paper explores how bodily entanglements with materials influenced decision-making in the space of the cabinet. It argues that Hainhofer’s own experience of corporeal health shaped the ways in which his cabinets came into being, connecting the bodies of geographically, socially and confessionally disparate actors. By directing attention towards health, sensation, and medicine, the material basis of the Pomeranian Cabinet is brought into sharp relief.

This talk is part of the Cabinet of Natural History series.

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