The classic cabinet of curiosities emerged in the 15th century, when affluent members of the aristocracy, the clergy, and the bourgeoisie from all over Europe began to collect objects, artefacts, and pictures, to display them in designated chambers for select visitors. The collectors pursued two main goals: On the one hand, exhibiting their riches and tokens of newly gained scientific insights provided them with an opportunity to demonstrate their power and wealth. The shows were indeed designed to amaze the audience and to exhibit one’s own quirkiness. On the other hand, the collections also strived to create a contained inner microcosm that would reflect the macrocosm of the exterior world. All the objects, whether they were natural or artificially made, were considered to be of equal importance. Yet, cabinets of curiosities were no mere collections. They also offered subjective visual reflections and lyrical interpretations on a personally created world.
Within these chambers, a fine web was spun, made up of both given knowledge as well as intuitive anticipation of the future. The invention of one-point perspective in the 15th century contributed significantly to the rise of the cabinet of curiosities. It made viewers aware of spatial arrangement and of how objects can be positioned deliberately to create context and make reference to each other. The whole world could thus be reflected within a finite space.
The christian worship of relics, which celebrates the collection and the mystically elevated display of objects, played a further role in the staging of the wonderous object. Chambers of curiosities can be considered the precursors of museums.