32. Galileo, the Medici and the Age of Astronomy the Renaissance Cosmos Surveyed
April 3, 2009 § Leave a comment
The tube looks as if it was constructed out of the inner part of a huge roll of paper towels, but it is one of two surviving telescopes Galileo used in Florence in the 17th century, when he reshaped the cosmos with meticulous observations and startling interpretations. Those astronomical investigations are now being honored with international celebrations on their 400th anniversary.
But by the time we reach that telescope and the imaginative gallery it introduces, we have seen things even more remarkable: ornately decorated quadrants of enameled brass, metal calipers, arcane charts, minutely inscribed maps, spheres within spheres like compass roses from other worlds, codexes and manuscripts, cylinders, dials, rings, rods and boxes.
Some of these are extraordinarily beautiful: finely wrought, elegantly constructed, sensuously formed. Like the telescope, some also have the aura of having once been handled for profound purposes: a set of brass compasses in a battered black case are said to have been used by Michelangelo.