From Giovanni Bellini’s St Jerome Reading in the Countryside to Joseph Wright’s An Experiment on a Bird in the Air Pump, I love seeing works from art history which represent an active interest in scientific pursuits. Whether such information is front and center (Thomas Eakin’s The Gross Clinic) or a side note to the main attraction (Théodore Géricault’s Raft of the Medusa), it’s always neat to find artworks that visually incorporated scientific knowledge from their respective points in history.
Adam Elsheimer is noted for being one of the first painters to depict accurate constellations in his work. I recently happened upon an image of his Flight to Egypt, located in the Alte Pinakothek in Munich, and felt it would make an excellent installment for my Art for the Month of June. It should be noted that this is a small cabinet work (31 cm × 41 cm) painted on copper, so I'm sure it is quite stunning up close.
Studies have verified that Elsheimer’s celestial landscape faithfully represents the positioning of the stars and moon as they would’ve been seen over Rome in June 1609. During his stay in the city he was in contact with several astronomers, whom at that point were observing the heavens using the refracting telescope, invented in Netherlands just one year earlier in 1608.
Also, note his beautiful rendering of the Milky Way, which, in addition to the light reflecting off the moon, the campfire from the shepherds at far left, and the torch from the Holy Family in the center, give this work a total of four separate light sources.
Details behind the Cut: