A Cabinet of Rarities Antiquarian Obsessions and the Spell of Death

Erik Desmaziéres, Patrick Mauriès


The manifestation of a collector’s appetite for discovering and mastering the world—represented by singular items of natural history, geology, art, or relics—cabinets of curiosities and rarities became popular in the Renaissance and were precursors to the modern museum. Largely inspired by seventeenth-century scientist and antiquary Sir Thomas Browne, whose esoteric writings have long appealed to scholars, this rare new work is a bibliophile’s delight. Erik Desmazières’s contemporary etchings present a cabinet of rarities portraying a collection of the recondite, rare, and bizarre, complete with emblems of the vanity of earthly life and intimations of mortality. Death and decay are favorite subjects: a skull recalls depictions of Sir Thomas Browne’s own, disinterred and displayed in a local museum until the 1920s. These abstruse objects and specters of death, subject matter once considered the preserve of specialists, have entered the cultural mainstream and have found a broad popular audience.


Erik Desmaziéres


Erik Desmazières, a member of France’s elite Académie des Beaux-Arts, is represented in numerous public and private collections all over the world.

Patrick Mauriès

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Patrick Mauriees is a Paris-based writer of many notable titles on fashion and design. Among his previous books are Maison Goossens: Haute Couture Jewelry, Jewelry by Chanel, and Androgyne, all published by Thames & Hudson.