Cabinets of Curiosities and Mad Men

Cabinets of curiosities and mad men.. where do I begin?!

Basically back in the day there were many many ‘mad’ men.. namely top scientists. I’d say most these days are even madder but that’s a story for another day. Thinking about how to present our laboratory is important as the project is focused on narrative within our 3D scene. So naturally a bit of research into some mad men and curiosities is the way forward!

I’ve picked out only two mad scientists to describe briefly, just to give an idea of the type of scientist’s lab we are hoping to depict/narrate.

Giovanni Aldini, Corpse Reanimator –

This guy was mad! Long story short he used batteries to ‘reanimate’ lifeless humans and animal carcasses. Aldini is said to have put on show his experiments in a type of circus act- sounds interesting but on the other hand.. there was something wrong there. For sure his work was inspiration for Mary Shelly’s classic ‘Frankenstein’ novel. As a group we discussed the idea of the scene depicting the after-math of an escaped experiment. Maybe we could have a large specimen/salt-water tank burst open with a clear path of destruction leading to the smashed window where scientists ‘monster’ had escaped.


Illya Ivanovich Ivanov – Artificial Insemination


Another crazy man, Russian and soviet biologist in fact who is famous for creating animal hybrids. Back in the day his specialised in the field of artificial insemination and has been involved in controversial attempts to create a human-ape hybrid (to use in war). Some great ideas for weird phenomena in the lab can be taken from this. Maybe creating a few strange skeletal sculpts of hybrids, strange creatures imprisoned in hanging cages.. the list could go on.

Moving onto the strange world of curiosity cabinets and how they can be of use in our project.

I first came across the idea behind curiosity cabinets after finding a strange book named ‘Cabinet of Curiosities’ by Guillermo Del Toro. I found it in an old book shelf in the art department of my last job at a high school. It was amazing to find a book that gathered information on strange artefacts which collectors had discovered during their travels whilst most often being accompanied with hand drawn illustrations. It has stuck in my mind since and now hopefully I can take some inspiration from it when thinking about assets for modelling.


Cabinets of Wonder, and wonder-rooms) were encyclopedic collections of objects whose categorical boundaries were, in Renaissance Europe, yet to be defined. Modern terminology would categorize the objects included as belonging to natural history (sometimes faked), geology, ethnography, archaeology, religious or historical relics, works of art, and antiquities” – Wikipedia

Painters from the renaissance era depicted these types of wonder rooms in their art. (see below)

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My thinking behind this research is based on creating strange oddities for the laboratory… as we are not focusing on a modern lab we can afford to dabble in times gone by and include ‘curiosities’ that you would more than likely see in a museum these days. These types of strange objects bring some character and personality into the scene. This type of theme is also quite fun when thinking about producing interesting work for my portfolio. I was hoping to maybe try sculpt a bust of an old greek scientist that could maybe have some sort of twist. Mad scientists have to look up to someone..right? Why not honour them with a sculpt? Only if times allows though.


Surprisingly Beatrix Potter was an avid collector of biological specimens whilst also having filled books of illustrations of fungi. Since her passing her collections have since been moved to London’s Natural History Museum…nice!

Some ideas for modelling..small jar of eyeballs, scientific globe/solar planet structure, jars and bottles, test tubes, animal skulls/bones, strange machinery, bulbs, candles, books, posers rolled etc..


References (2017). 9 Real Life Mad Scientists. [online] Available at: [Accessed 1 Oct. 2017].

The Paranormal Guide. (2017). Giovanni Aldini – Reanimating the Dead!. [online] Available at: [Accessed 1 Oct. 2017].

Toro, G. (n.d.). Guillermo del Toro cabinet of curiosities. (2017). 11 Wonderful Wunderkammer, or Curiosity Cabinets. [online] Available at: [Accessed 1 Oct. 2017]. (2017). Cabinet of curiosities. [online] Available at: [Accessed 1 Oct. 2017].

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