Nicolaus Copernicus
Portraits

Ptolemy Ptolémée

Ptolemaeus

2nd Century A.D. - IIe siècle après J.C.


Galileo Galilei
Portraits

Iconography of Ptolemy's Portrait
Iconographie du portrait de Ptolémée

1660 Cellarius

Detail of Ptolemy on the Frontispiece of Cellarius Celestial Atlas, 1660, signature unknown, dimensions unknown.

Détail de Ptolémée dans le frontispice de l'Atlas céleste de Cellarius, 1660, signature inconnue, dimensions inconnues.

Collaboration from Robert H. van Gent

See Robert H. van Gent website

 

The Harmonia Macrocosmica (1660, 1661, c.1680 or later, 1708) of the Dutch-German mathematician and cosmographer Andreas Cellarius (c.1596-1665) is perhaps one of the best-known celestial atlases that was published in the second half of the seventeenth century. Its colourful and aesthetically appealing double-folio plates of the Ptolemaic, the Copernican and the Tychonic world systems, supplemented with numerous other cosmographical plates, have often been reproduced in the last few decades as illustrations in books and articles, posters, postcard sets, calendars, jigsaw puzzles and even as novelty wrapping paper, while the individual original plates are now-a-days sold for astronomical prices.

As in many astronomical and astrological publications from the 16th- and 17th century, the Harmonia Macrocosmica of Andreas Cellarius is embellished with an elaborate frontispiece depicting the most famous astronomers of the past.

The frontispiece, that measures 26 by 43 centimetres, was engraved by Frederik Hendrik van den Hove (1628/29-1698). He was born in The Hague and worked in Antwerp, Amsterdam and London. As was pointed out by Ashworth (1985), Van den Hoveís design for the frontispiece of the Harmonia Macrocosmica and the choice of the depicted persons was largely based on the frontispiece of the Tabulae Motuum Coelestium Perpetuae of Philips Lansbergen (1561-1632), published in 1632 by Zacharias Roman in Middelburg (Zeeland).

The upper half represents the celestial vault with a radiant Sun, a crescent Moon, the stars and a portion of the zodiac with the signs of Virgo and Libra as observed by a pair of putti with cross staffs while another pair of putti uphold an emblem of the heliocentric world view and a banner with the bookís title.

The depicted persons in the lower half can be identified as follows: seated in the centre with an armillary sphere on her lap and a ruler, a marinerís astrolabe and a quadrant at her feet is Urania, the muse of astronomy. Seated on the left is the Danish astronomer Tycho Brahe (1546-1601) with a celestial globe and a pair of dividers in his right hand, and on the right the Polish astronomer Nicholaus Copernicus (1473-1543) with a graphometer at his feet and pointing at an armillary sphere.

Standing in the background at the left is the Greek astronomer Claudius Ptolemy (c. A.D. 150), clad in a royal mantle and pointing to a passage in an opened book (the Almagest). Likewise clad in royal attire and standing to the right of Urania in the background is the Castilian king Alfonso el Sabio (ëthe Wiseí, 1221-1284), holding a model of the heliocentric(!) world view in his hands ñ an apparent error of the engraver as this properly belongs in the hands of Copernicus.

Although the person standing to the right and pointing upwards with a long stick to an emblem of the heliocentric world view somewhat resembles the Italian scientist Galileo Galilei, he is in fact to be identified with Philips Lansbergen. With the exception of Urania, all the earlier identified persons (and the emblem!) can be traced back to the frontispiece of Lansbergenís Tabulae Motuum Coelestium Perpetuae.

Thus far unidentified remains the person in the background standing behind Urania and apparently waving his hand to the viewer. He is the only person who, except for a closed book in his left hand, does not seem to have a distinctive feature that can identify him. Though he has tentatively been identified with the Islamic astronomer al-Battani (Ü 929), as he is also present on the Lansbergen frontispiece, the lack of distinctive Middle Eastern features suggests that he must be identified with someone else. Perhaps even, in style with Lansbergenís frontispiece or that of Keplerís Tabulae Rudolphinae (1627), with the author himself. Unfortunately, this hypothesis cannot be verified as no portrait of Andreas Cellarius is known to exist.

 

Collaboration

Robert H. van Gent, Utrecht.
 

Web

Robert H. van Gent, The Harmonia Macrocosmica of Andreas Cellarius (I): A Preliminary Inventory of Known Copies in Public Libraries and Collection.
Portraits of Nicolaus Copernicus, Nicholas Copernicus Museum at Frombork (Poland).
 
mise à jour le 28 janvier 2001

Nicolaus Copernicus
Portraits

Ptolemy Ptolémée

Ptolemaeus

2nd Century A.D. - IIe siècle après J.C.


Galileo Galilei
Portraits

Iconography of Ptolemy's Portrait
Iconographie du portrait de Ptolémée

web Robert DEROME