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Schöner, Johann, 1477-1547

[Celestial globe]

Additional Title(s):

Brixen globes

[Germany], [ca. 1522]
Physical Description:
1 globe : paint and gesso over hollow wood sphere, brass (stand) ; 368 mm in diam.
Rare Books and Manuscripts
Globes Brixen Celestial
Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection
On view at the Yale University Art Gallery
Copyright Status:
Public Domain
Maps & Atlases (manuscript)
Restricted fragile material. Use requires permission of the Curator of Rare Books and Manuscripts.
Provenance: Franz Ritter von Hauslab; the Princes of Liechtenstein; Paul Mellon.
Prints and the pursuit of knowledge in early modern Europe, 17
Wood, C.S. "Print technology and the Brixen Globes" In Kunsthistoriker: Mitteilungen des Österreichischen Kunsthistorikerverbandes, 15/16 (1999/2000), p. 15-20
Mokre, J. Franz Ritter von Hauslab, pages 219-247
Oberhummer, E. "Die Brixener Globen von 1522 der Sammlung Hauslab-Liechtenstein", In Akademie der wissenschaften in Wien. Philosophisch-historische klasse. Denkschriften. 67. bd., 3. abh (1926)
Selected exhibitions: "Prints and the Pursuit of Knowledge in Early Modern Europe" (Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Harvard University, September 6, 2011-December 10, 2011).
One of two hand-painted globes--the other terrestrial--known collectively as the "Brixen globes." Both are hollow, built up of wood, and covered with gesso. The celestial globe differs slightly in construction, having a layer of felt or heavy paper between the wood and the gesso. Both are mounted in original (?) three-footed brass stands (bases mended), with horizon and movable meridian.
The pair of globes were probably made circa 1522. An inscription on the celestial globe notes that it was commissioned as a gift from Nikolaus Leopold to Sebastian Sperantius, Bishop of Brixen, in 1522. It may be deduced from this that Leopold gave the celestial globe to Sperancius as a mate to the terrestrial globe already owned by him, or that the terrestrial globe was made later as a mate to the celestial. That the globes are a pair is also strongly suggested by their identical measurements.
The globes have been previously attributed to Johann Schöner. Recent scholarship now suggests the text on the globe is not in Schöner's hand, based on analysis of Schöner's handwriting in his annotated copy of the 1482 edition of Ptolemy's Geography and his 1520 manuscript globe.
The inscription on the celestial globe reads (in translation): "Nikolaus Leopold of Innsbruck, Canon of Brixen, had this globe of [constellation-] figures made as a present for ... Sebastianus Sperantius, Bishop of Brixen, to whom he gave it in the year of salvation 1522." The constellation figures are after designs by Albrecht Dürer (the first state of these woodcuts were engraved in 1515). Sperantius himself appears on the globe; he is shown holding up an armillary sphere as he gazes at Urania, the muse of astronomy.
The celestial globe is painted in deep blue, in accordance with the directions of the Almagest of Ptolemy; the constellation figures are in shades of white upon this dark background. The axis of the globe corresponds to that of the Earth; from the poles radiate four gold lines dividing the sphere into four quarters, with a corresponding equator, graduated in degrees. A secondary axis is represented based upon the ecliptic line, with gold lines of celestial longitude radiating from the poles, dividing the sphere into the twelve zodiacal sections. The ecliptic is in gold, graduated in degrees. The stars are shown as is viewed from a point in infinite space, looking Earthwards, i.e. reversed left-right viewed from the Earth, as is generally found on such globes.
None of the new constellations found and depicted by Vespucci (e.g., the Southern Cross) are shown. Names of stars are given in Arabic form, but the constellation figures are purely classical in inspiration.
A table of magnitudes (1st-6th) is given, in the empty space in the southern hemisphere, with signs also for "Occulte" and "Tenebrose." Also on that hemisphere is the presentation inscription quoted above.
Sebastian Sperantius (elected prince bishop of Brixen in 1521, died in 1525) was born in the Franconian Free Imperial City of Dinkelsbühl and taught Latin in Nuremberg from 1499 to 1503. During this time he constructed a complicated astronomical sun dial (still existing today) on the wall of the Nuremberg St. Lorenz church and furnished the scientific data for a pair of manuscript star charts made in 1503, based upon earlier charts by Regiomontanus, who had also resided in Nuremberg. In this work, he collaborated with Conrad Heinfogel, who supplied the star positions for the Dürer-Heinfogel-Stabius charts of 1515. Moreover, the Dürer constellation figures are clearly derived from those drawn on the Sperantius-Heinfogel charts. These charts also bear, among the mythological figures in the corners, two later additions: the raven of Apollo and the eagle of Jupiter, which were executed by one of Dürer's later assistants, and which show that the 1503 charts were probably in Dürer's atelier when the 1515 charts were in preparation. The 1503 charts bear the arms of the Vienna "Poetenkollegium," an early humanist academy. They also bear a portrait of Sperantius, who holds up an armillary sphere as he gazes at the muse Urania, standing before a starry hemisphere.
That the Sperantius celestial globe was prepared from the earliest state of the Dürer designs, whether in woodcut or from original drawings, is proven by the form of the constellation Lepus (the Hare), whose forefeet are shown parallel, instead of crossed. If the earliest state of the woodcut is a proof, the connection of the globe with the atelier of Dürer becomes very close indeed, and may even indicate that its figures were executed by some person in the studio of Dürer. The actual globe construction and placement of the stars would probably not have been done there.
"Like the printed celestial globe [i.e., Dürer's gores, ca. 1517] it is a spherical copy of Dürer's celestial charts, but it delivers them in a more luxurious medium. It also elaborates on the charts slightly, labeling not only constellations but also individual stars, and even correcting some iconographic details ... The globe was most likely painted by a former student of Dürer or by an artist still active in his Nuremberg workshop. The constellations are copies of Dürer's, but their modeling has been re-envisioned by the painter, from the intricate links of Andromeda's chain to the massive curved hull of the ship Argo (Argonavis) ... Textures such as the soft feathers of Virgo's wings are vividly described ... The gold leaf not only animates an otherwise tenebrous surface, but also lends the stars a material presence not sensed in Dürer's charts ... The celestial globe, with its nebulous figures in procession around a dark yet twinkling sky, is less a working model than a vivid artistic reconstruction."--Prints and the pursuit of knowledge in early modern Europe.
Subject Terms:
Astronomy -- Charts, diagrams, etc. -- Early works to 1800.
Celestial globes -- Early works to 1800.
Sperantius, Sebastian, -1525.
Celestial globes.
Dürer, Albrecht, 1471-1528.
Leopold, Nicolaus.
Sperantius, Sebastian, -1525, former owner.
Hauslab, Franz Ritter von, 1798-1883, former owner.
Liechtenstein, House of, former owner.
IIIF Manifest:

Crafting Worldviews: European Instruments of Art and Science from Yale University (Yale University Art Gallery, 2023-02-17 - 2023-06-25) [YCBA Objects in the Exhibition]

Wilde Americk - Discovery and Exploration of the New World, 1500-1850 (Yale Center for British Art, 2001-09-27 - 2001-09-27) [YCBA Objects in the Exhibition]

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