The research carried out in GEMS is marked by its focus on the early modern period, but also by a shared concern for methodological reflection. Central in this respect is the historical tension that we perceive between the early modern phenomena that we study and the late-modern theoretical framework by which our research is guided. The historical relationship between the object of investigation and the method of investigation is one of the central concerns of GEMS.

‘The pearl fishermen’ by the Florentine painter Allessandro Allori (1537-1607) offers an allegory of the mission that GEMS (‘jewels’) has set itself. The painting is a typical product of the early modern period, in which the return to the past is defined first and foremost as a preoccupation of and for the present. The period’s interest in the culture of Antiquity was a shaping force in the way in which early modern men and women defined themselves. Allori’s painting participates in this idea of a living tradition – not only in the way that its setting suggests (the Greco-Roman clothing in which the fishermen are adorned) but also on the basis of the very objects that these men and women are after: pearls that began to take shape in an age forlorn, whose very form (the product of a development) is defined by the passing of time.