In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, a self-consciously eclectic intellectual fashion with roots in antiquity was cultivated in northern Europe.1 Although often understood as a branch of philosophy, it was a more general method of thought that found many applications and made a deep mark on contemporary artistic theory and practice. The act of selection was the method's basis. A philosopher, for instance, could draw upon the strengths of several different schools or traditions, combining them in various ways to develop new ideas or improve older ones. The method's proponents called it unbiased and impartial, claiming that it allowed users to avoid the pitfalls of rigid discipleship...

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