Painting the Heavens: Art and Science in the Age of Galileo

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Princeton University Press, 1999 - Science - 310 pages

The remarkable astronomical discoveries made by Galileo with the new telescope in 1609-10 led to his famous disputes with philosophers and religious authorities, most of whom found their doctrines threatened by his evidence for Copernicus's heliocentric universe. In this book, Eileen Reeves brings an art historical perspective to this story as she explores the impact of Galileo's heavenly observations on painters of the early seventeenth century.


Many seventeenth-century painters turned to astronomical pastimes and to the depiction of new discoveries in their work, yet some of these findings imposed controversial changes in their use of religious iconography. For example, Galileo's discovery of the moon's rough topography and the reasons behind its secondary light meant rethinking the imagery surrounding the Virgin Mary's Immaculate Conception, which had long been represented in paintings by the appearance of a smooth, incandescent moon. By examining a group of paintings by early modern artists all interested in Galileo's evidence for a Copernican system, Reeves not only traces the influence of science on painting in terms of optics and content, but also reveals the painters in a conflict between artistic depiction and dogmatic representation.


Reeves offers a close analysis of seven works by Lodovico Cigoli, Peter Paul Rubens, Francisco Pacheco, and Diego Velázquez. She places these artists at the center of the astronomical debate, showing that both before and after the invention of the telescope, the proper evaluation of phenomena such as moon spots and the aurora borealis was commonly considered the province of the painter. Because these scientific hypotheses were complicated by their connection to Catholic doctrine, Reeves examines how the relationship between science and art, and their mutual production of knowledge and authority, must themselves be seen in a broader context of theological and political struggle.

 

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Contents

15991602 First Reflections on the Moons Secondary Light
23
16041605 Neostoicism and the New Star
57
16051607 Mutual Illumination
91
16101612 In the Shadow of the Moon
138
16141621 The Buen Pintor of Seville
178
NOTES
221
BIBLIOGRAPHY
277
INDEX
299
Copyright

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Page 4 - He scarce had ceased, when the superior fiend Was moving toward the shore: his ponderous shield, Ethereal temper, massy, large, and round, Behind him cast; the broad circumference Hung on his shoulders like the moon, whose orb Through optic glass the Tuscan artist views, At evening, from the top of Fesole, Or in Valdarno, to descry new lands, Rivers, or mountains, in her spotty globe.
Page 9 - What if the sun Be centre to the world, and other stars, By his attractive virtue and their own Incited, dance about him various rounds...
Page 8 - But hoc posito, to grant this their tenet of the earth's motion ; if the earth move, it is a planet, and shines to them in the moon, and to the other planetary inhabitants, as the moon and they do to us upon the earth ; but shine she doth, as Galileo, 2 Kepler, and others prove, and then per consequens, the rest of the planets are inhabited, as well as the moon...

About the author (1999)

Eileen Reeves is Assistant Professor of Comparative Literature at Princeton University. She specializes in seventeenth-century scientific literature.

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