Flemish tapestry (Doornik?, c. 1500-1515) depicting the muse Astronomia with an astronomer (Claudius Ptolemy?), a scribe and shepherds gazing in awe at the heavens (Röhsska Museet, Göteborg).
INSPIRING ANGELS was a project I worked 2 years ago, dreaming about stars, sky maps, astrology and searching for the magic source of inspiration.
I posted them recently on FineArtAmerica (www.fineartameric.com) and really hope you will like them 🙂
My profile and works on FineArtAmerica: http://fineartamerica.com/profiles/daniel-reiiel.html
In modern astronomy, a constellation is an internationally defined area of the celestial sphere. These areas are grouped around asterisms (which themselves are generally referred to in non-technical language as “constellations”), which are patterns formed by prominent stars within apparent proximity to one another on Earth’s night sky.
There are also numerous historical constellations not recognized by the IAU or constellations recognized in regional traditions of astronomy or astrology, such as Chinese, Hindu and Australian Aboriginal.
The Garden of False Learning from a set of The Table of Cebes
Design based on a woodcut by David Kandel (German, ca. 1520–ca. 1596)
This needlepoint hanging depicts a scene from the Tabula Cebetis (The Table of Cebes), a treatise long wrongly believed to have been written by Socrates’ disciple Cebes that enjoyed great popularity as a Latin reader in Europe in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. The text describes a painting displayed in the Temple of Saturn in Thebes that showed the journey through life and the pathway to true happiness. This hanging depicts the penultimate episode in the journey: the protagonist is beckoned from his path by a woman representing False Learning. Elegant figures in courtly dress are distracted from true wisdom and happiness by dedicating too much energy to the pursuit of knowledge through debate, philosophy, geometry, astrology and alchemy, geography, astronomy, arithmetic, and music.
This hanging is one of a set of three (the others are in the Musée Jacquemart-André, Paris and the Metropolitan Museum). Their design was adapted from a woodcut illustrating The Table of Cebes made by David Kandel of Strasbourg in 1547. Notwithstanding the difference in scale (the woodcut is just over 12 by 15 inches), the designer of the embroidery borrowed the principal figures from the woodcut’s central scene, inventively adding a warm palette of greens, reds, and yellows. The whole is enclosed by an imaginative border of cavorting grotesques and includes the coat of arms of the De Fenis de Prade family surrounded by the collar of the Order of Saint Michael (upper left) and a second unidentified armorial enclosed by a widow’s cordeliere (upper right). With its monumental scale, this needlework is a rare surviving example of a fashion for embroideries that emulated the scale and appearance of tapestries, their more expensive woven counterparts.
With the construction of the west front, the cathedral obtained its earliest known display of astronomical time—one that the cathedral shares with many other large churches—the carved reliefs depicting the signs of the zodiac and the labours of the months in the bases of the statues flanking the right portal.
Occupations of the months and signs of the zodiac, west façade, right portal—May, Gemini; June, Cancer; July, Leo; August, Virgo.
Photograph © Ad Meskens, Creative Commons Licence
The most widely known of these astronomical displays of are the cathedral’s elaborate astronomical clocks. The 14th-century clock included a calendar, a mechanically driven stereographic projection showing the movement of the stars, and pointers showing the positions of the Sun and Moon. Atop the clock was an automaton of a cockerel, which crowed at noon, flapping its wings.
The 16th-century clock added to these elements a rotating celestial sphere on which were depicted all 1020 stars of Ptolemy’s star catalogue together with figures of 48 constellations, a disc showing the ecclesiastical calendar for 100 years, and depictions of all eclipses over an interval of 32 years. A stereographic projection of the stars, Sun and Moon, like the one in the original clock, was enhanced with additional pointers showing the positions of all the visible planets and the Dragon, or lunar node, which served to explain eclipses (Fig. 2). Elements of the case and display were incorporated into the current clock. Although the clock reflected the geocentric model of astronomy, its decoration included a portrait of Nicolas Copernicus.
Astrolabe planetary dial of the second astronomical clock. Detail from Woodcut by Tobias Stimmer (1574)
The 19th-century clock reflected Copernican astronomical concepts. The geocentric stereographic projection of the Sun, Moon, and planets was replaced by a heliocentric model of the visible planets, plus the Earth and Moon, in the solar system. It displayed both uniform civil time and the apparent time indicated by the daily motions of the Sun. The stellar globe now portrayed more than 5000 stars, extending down to faint sixth magnitude ones. In addition, the clock incorporated a perpetual calendar, computing the solar cycle of 28 years, the lunar cycle of 19 years, the date of Easter, and other calendrical parameters traditionally found in ecclesiastical computus.
The concern with time that we see in the cathedrals clocks also appears in its fourteen sundials, which date from the 13th to the 18th centuries. The oldest sundial, dated between 1225 and 1235, marks seven times of prayer in the course of the day, beginning at dawn and continuing until sunset. The 15th century saw the addition of three more sundials, dividing the day into twelve hours from sunrise to sunset. In the 16th century, five dials were installed at the platform level of the tower and three mathematical dials, designed by the builder of the second clock, were installed on the gable of the south transept. The builder of the 19th-century clock, Jean-Baptiste Schwilgué, installed a vertical meridian line inside the entrance to the south transept, marking local apparent noon to regulate the clock.
Astrologer with a sundial, south portal.
Photograph © Coyau, Creative Commons Licence
Three sundials on south gable: altitude/azimuth dial (left), vertical sundial (centre), and dial reading hours from sunrise and sunset (right).
Photograph © Jean-Marie Poncelet, Creative Commons Licence
The display of astronomical time was central to the cultural uses of astronomy in medieval Europe. Strasbourg cathedral, which was the ‘principal element of the nomination’ for the World Heritage Site Strasbourg–Grande Île, embodies these astronomical concepts in three ways. Symbolically, the cathedral’s sculptures bind the zodiac to the labours of the months; at a more direct practical level the cathedral displays astronomical time in numerous sundials; and—perhaps most famously—there is the historical sequence of its three great astronomical clocks.
Notwithstanding this, the description of the attributes of value of the property—both in the ‘justification of value’ from the State Party and in the ICOMOS evaluation—takes a classical heritage approach, elucidating this exceptional Gothic church in terms of the history of art, the history of structural design, the history of urban construction, and the history of medieval Christianity, but does not elaborate at all on the astronomical features of the place.