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Wicked IntelligenceVisual Art and the Science of Experiment in Restoration London$
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Matthew C. Hunter

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780226017297

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: January 2014

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226017327.001.0001

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“Very Able, Very Sordid, Cynical, Wrong Headed and Whimsical”

“Very Able, Very Sordid, Cynical, Wrong Headed and Whimsical”

Chapter:
(p.1) Introduction “Very Able, Very Sordid, Cynical, Wrong Headed and Whimsical”
Source:
Wicked Intelligence
Author(s):

Matthew C. Hunter

Publisher:
University of Chicago Press
DOI:10.7208/chicago/9780226017327.003.0001

This chapter introduces the book by placing Robert Hooke, Christopher Wren and their experimental colleagues amidst a recent, interdisciplinary conversation that has stressed the direct, strongly symbiotic relations between early modern science and visual art. Seventeenth-century experimentalists needed visualizations acutely, it is claimed, since so few contemporaries possessed the expensive instruments and specialized skills required for performing the experiments privileged by the “new science” of the Royal Society of London. Reciprocally, we read, by appropriating techniques of detail-laden depiction perfected by early modern painters, experimental philosophers helped to disenchant visual art, which had long labored underdeveloped and shrouded in Protestant suspicion in the early modern British Isles. Mapping the concept of “wicked intelligence” and the book’s contribution to histories of art and architecture, science and visual studies, my introduction challenges this influential, amicable story of mutual reinforcement between scientists and artists. Instead, I thematize their testy, precarious crossings through a tale of cunning, cruelty and cold-blooded skulduggery told by Hooke—a figure then described as “very able, very sordid, cynical, wrong-headed, and whimsical.

Keywords:   Robert Hooke, visual art, cryptography, architecture, John Dee, wicked intelligence, painting, commerce, experimental philosophy, London

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