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Genius before Romanticism: Ingenuity in Early Modern Art and Science

Final Report Summary - GBR (Genius before Romanticism: Ingenuity in Early Modern Art and Science)

The project team charted and examined in depth the culture of “ingenuity” in the early modern period (ca. 1450-1750) in four sequential strands: the language of ingenuity; conceptualizing ingenuity; ingenuity in the making; and ingenious images. It did so in several ways: through collaborative research leading to co-authored outputs (e.g. Marr et al., Logodaedalus: Word Histories of Ingenuity in Early Modern Europe, 2019); individual research on specific subtopics leading to single-authored outputs (e.g. Marr, Rubens’s Spirit: From Ingenuity to Genius, 2021); conferences and colloquia leading to co-edited outputs (e.g. Garrod and Marr, Descartes and the Ingenium: The Embodied Soul in Cartesianism, 2020; Oosterhoff, Marcaida and Marr, Ingenuity in the Making: Materials and Techniques in Early Modern Europe, 2021); collaborative research leading to co-produced resources (e.g. Marr et al., Ingenious Images: A Catalogue of the Visual Culture of Early Modern Ingenuity, 2019). The project hosted more than a dozen international research colloquia and conferences, sharing its findings with hundreds of researchers worldwide. Significant findings included the identification of hitherto unexplored connections between ingenuity and place, national identity, and race; the pivotal role of particular artists in the transformation of ingenuity into genius; and the synonymity of ingenuity with “nature” across languages in the early modern period. The project concluded that ingenuity retained its currency conceptually, in language and in culture much later than was hitherto thought, replaced only very gradually by genius, and in a staggered way across different geographical and cultural domains. There was no “paradigm shift” from ingenuity to genius. Rather, the latter emerged organically from the former, bound up with the development of increasingly strong notions of selfhood and character, which were themselves dependent upon the legacy of ingenuity.