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Personification of Astrology

circa 1650-1655
17th century
81 cm x 65.6 cm (31 7/8 in. x 25 13/16 in.)

Guercino (Giovanni Francesco Barbieri) (Cento, Italy, 1591 - 1666, Bologna, Italy) Primary

Object Type: painting
Artist Nationality: Europe, Italian
Medium and Support: Oil on canvas
Credit Line: Blanton Museum of Art, The University of Texas at Austin, Archer M. Huntington Museum Fund, 1984
            
               Accession Number:                1984.57             
            
Object Description: Guercino, the leading artist in Bologna during the mid-seventeenth century, simplified Cesare Ripa’s description of Astrology. Ripa describes her as a science “devoted to the contemplation of the celestial bodies,” wearing blue clothing and a starry cap. Guercino gives her these attributes but omits others mentioned in Ripa: her wings, a celestial globe, compass, and scepter. Instead, he paints her looking at a demonstrational armillary sphere with Earth at its center. The sphere consists of metal rings that represent the equator, tropics, arctic, and Antarctic circles, revolving on an axis. It is notable that Guercino spotlights this geocentric device rather than a heliocentric one about two decades after Galileo’s "Dialogue Concerning the Two Great World Systems" (1632) confirmed Copernicus’s theory that the earth revolved around the sun.

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