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Russian Ethnography And The Visual Arts In The 1840s And 1850s

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Chapter Summary

The work of Fedor Solntsev reveals clearly the role of art within the tradition of the natural sciences and its applicability to ethnography in particular. Solntsev also applied the skills to visual ethnography, producing a unique set of 324 watercolors that depict the dress of the various peoples of the empire, The Costumes of the Russian State. From the early eighteenth century onwards, visual representation played an integral role in the efforts of the Russian state through its newly instituted Academy of Sciences to explore the vast territories under its control. The eighteenth-century tendency to downplay physical features soon gave way to a new wave in natural history, which, in the spirit of German naturphilosophie, sought the essence of identity in the totality of organic traits rather than a single distinguishing external feature.

Keywords: Blumenbach; eighteenth century; Fedor Solntsev; naturphilosophie; Nikolai Vtorov; Russian ethnography; Visual Arts



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