The Golden Age of Dutch Printing

In the seventeenth century, a period known as the Dutch golden age, Dutch book production led the world.

Atlas minor…noveau revue, et augmente / Gerardus Mercator (1512-94). Amsterdami, excusam in aedilus Judoci Hondii [1613]. RB 6113.1

Dutch dominance of European printing at this time can be attributed to two main factors: the Dutch Republic’s position as a centre of international trade, and its relative freedom of the press. This exhibition showcases some examples of fine Dutch printing held in Rare Books & Special Collections.

When: 18th March – 23rd September 2019

Where: Fisher Library, Level 1

Rare Renaissance Drawing Discovered in Library’s Rare Books & Special Collections



Giorgione’s sketch of the Madonna and Child and the inscription.
Credit: Sarah Lorien.

For the first time in centuries, in a copy of Dante Alighieri’s Commedia (Venice, 1497) owned by the University of Sydney Library’s Rare Books and Special Collections, Academic Liaison Librarian Kim Wilson discovered an inscription and sketch by Renaissance Artist Giorgione dating back to over 500 years ago in the back pages of the book.

The inscription confirms Giorgione’s birth year and exact date of death which has previously been unknown, and the sketch is thought to represent a first thought for Giorgione’s paintings Benson Holy Family and Virgin and Child.

An Italian Renaissance painter, Giorgione’s life was shrouded in mystery for centuries, with the exact date of his birth and death remaining unknown until now.

In the back pages of the 1497 copy of Dante’s Divine Comedy, is the red chalk drawing of Madonna and Child, a technique developed by Leonardo da Vinci fifty years earlier. The drawing is one of only two ever to be attributed to Giorgione.

An article in The Burlington Magazine March 2019, No. 1392 – Vol 161, written by Kim Wilson and  Professor Jaynie Anderson (Melbourne University), Professor Nerida Newbigin (University of Sydney) and Julie Sommerfeldt (manager of Rare Books and Special Collections) argues that Giorgione is the artist behind the drawing and potentially the owner of the rare copy of Dante’s famous text.

Little is known of the 36-year-old’s life, though historians have speculated the painter was illiterate.


Kim Wilson, Academic Liaison Librarian and Julie Sommerfeldt, Manager Rare Books and Special Collections. Credit: Sarah Lorien.

“It was a serendipitous finding that will allow art historians to rewrite Giorgione’s place in history, as one of Bellini’s apprentices” said Ms Wilson.

After discovering the drawing, Ms Wilson sought the expertise of Emeritus Professor Nerida Newbigin from the University’s Department of Italian Studies, to translate the inscription written in Venetian at the top of the page on which the drawing appears. [PIC]

Professor Newbigin confirmed the inscription read:

“On the day of 17 September, Giorgione of Castelfranco, a very excellent artist died of the plague in Venice at the age of 36 and he rests in peace.”

Professor Jaynie Anderson from the University of Melbourne, said, “Not only does this give the precise date of Giorgione’s death, but also indicates a birth date, providing bookends to his life. This is particularly significant given he was said to have had an ‘impossible biography’ for centuries.”

While the exact date the University of Sydney Library obtained the book is unknown, records indicate the book was a donation to the library sometime between 1914 and 1959.

The drawing may represent a first thought for The Holy Family, which resides in the National Gallery of Art in Washington or Adoration of Kings, which is in The National Gallery in London.

Giorgione (Venetian, 1477/1478 – 1510), The Holy Family, probably c. 1500, oil on panel transferred to hardboard

A copy of the book can be viewed online through the Library’s Digital Collection platform here.

Things don’t always make sense. Pre-booking does.

To improve customer service, from January 2019 we ask that all clients make a booking before visiting the Rare Books and Special Collections Reading Room. This ensures we have your items ready when you arrive, with no delay.

  • For University of Sydney cardholders, bookings to view material in the RBSC Reading Room can be made via the new Library Search portal
  • For now, all other clients will still use the current online booking form here

For more information, visit the RBSC page here

True to Type

If you have ever created a digital document, chances are you’ve come across the terms Italic, Roman, and Sans Serif.

This exhibition tells the story of these three enduring letter-form classifications, through early examples drawn from Rare Books & Special
Collections.

When: 25 October 2018 – 31st January 2019

Where: Fisher Library, Level 3  Corridor & SciTech Library, glass cabinets

Guided Exhibition Walk: Phyllis Kaberry and the Sepik

Phyllis Kaberry

The Phyllis Kaberry exhibition is on but we would like you to join us for a guided exhibition walk.

When: 4 July; 1 –1:45pm

Where: Fisher Library, level 3 and SciTech Library

Speakers: Dr Jude Philp, Senior Curator at University Museum and Nyree Morrison, Senior Archivist at University Archives

This guided walk will be conducted through the exhibition currently on display in the Fisher Library Level 3 and the SciTech Library. The exhibition was curated by anthropologist Diane Losche from the collections of Sydney’s Anthropology Department held by Rare Books and Special Collections, University Archives and the Macleay Museum. It focuses on Sydney anthropologist Phyllis Kaberry to commemorate the inscription of the Anthropological Field Research and Teaching Records, University of Sydney, 1926-1956 into the UNESCO Memory of the World Australian

Register here

More about Phyllis Kaberry and the Sepik:

In 1923 at a meeting of the international Pan-Pacific Congress at the University of Sydney the Australian government was urged to establish a Department of Anthropology and to fund urgent anthropological research in the region to counter the devastating effects of colonisation. The University of Sydney took up the challenge, instituting the first Department of Anthropology in the Australian-Pacific region with the appointment of AR Radcliffe Brown in 1926.

Many of the first generation of men and women who were taught at Sydney worked in isolation for periods of a year to eighteen months in areas where English was not spoken, in places not inscribed on maps, and with limited contact with people outside the community they were studying. For their work they were obliged to learn map making, linguistics and medical skills alongside their anthropological training.

The University’s Archives and Macleay Museum today look after the enormous wealth of information that these anthropologists produced from their interactions with Australian Aboriginal and Pacific peoples. For this exhibition we have focussed on the work of Phyllis Kaberry, the first female professional anthropologist to emerge from the Department.

This is a joint exhibition between Rare Books and Special Collections at the University of Sydney Library, University Archives and Museums to commemorate the inscription of the Anthropological Field Research and Teaching Records, University of Sydney, 1926-1956 into the UNESCO Memory of the World Australian Register.

The exhibition is being showcased on level 3 of Fisher and Sci Tech Libraries until August 2018.

Provocations: Avant-Garde Art in China in the 1980s

Cover image: Plate 18: Zhang Peili X? Series: No. 4 1987 Oil on Canvas; 31 1/2 x 39 3/8 in. (80 x 100 cm); private collection

An exhibition curated by Bingqing Wei and Minerva Inwald

Plate 18: Zhang Peili X? Series, 1986. Oil on Canvas; 31 1/2 x 39 3/8 in. (80 x 100 cm); private collection From Inside/out : new Chinese art / edited by Gao Minglu ; with essays by Norman Bryson ... [et al.].

Where: Exhibition Space, Level 2, Fisher Library

When: 31 August 2017- 15 July 2018.

or check out the Virtual Exhibition:

https://library.sydney.edu.au/collections/east-asian/provocations/index.html

The 1980s was a period of dramatic political, cultural, and economic change in the People’s Republic of China. During the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution (1966-1976), socialist ideology penetrated every facet of China’s social and cultural realms. After the Cultural Revolution concluded, the Chinese Communist Party shifted towards a policy of “opening and reform.” China’s cultural authorities loosened their control over the artistic sphere, ushering in a period of discussion, debate, and artistic experimentation. For thirty years, official cultural policy had demanded that artistic production “serve the masses” and “serve politics.” In the liberal atmosphere of the mid-1980s, a new generation of path-breaking artists emerged across China, forming “avant-garde” groups collectively known as the ’85 New Wave movement. Concerned with the future of China’s artistic culture, ’85 New Wave artists critically engaged with Western artistic and philosophical concepts and experimented with artistic form, expanding and diversifying the artistic field. Supported by a coterie of art critics, theorists, and curators, these avant-garde artists held provocative exhibitions and published iconoclastic manifestoes. In 1989, the government’s violent crackdown on student protestors brought a decisive end to this period of avant-garde exploration, extinguishing the optimistic spirit of avant-gardism that characterised the 1980s.

This exhibition introduces materials relating to China’s avant-garde held in the University of Sydney Library collections, including the East Asian Collection and the Schaeffer Fine Arts Library. Focusing on important Chinese fine art periodicals donated to the University of Sydney by Professor John Clark, this exhibition explores the artworks, exhibitions, and ideas that animated the Chinese art world of the 1980s. Supplementing these primary sources with important art historical texts, this exhibition seeks to demonstrate how materials in University of Sydney Library collections can be used to explore this dynamic period of art history.