Home » Painting the Heavens: Art and Science in the Age of Galileo by Eileen Reeves
Painting the Heavens: Art and Science in the Age of Galileo Eileen Reeves

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

Eileen Reeves

Published July 27th 1997
ISBN : 9780691043982
Hardcover
320 pages
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 About the Book 

Painting the Heavens is a joy to read. It is beautifully written, with clarity, graceful style, and subtle wit. It will be a revelation to historians of science and art, and should also be of great interest to students of Italian cultural historyMorePainting the Heavens is a joy to read. It is beautifully written, with clarity, graceful style, and subtle wit. It will be a revelation to historians of science and art, and should also be of great interest to students of Italian cultural history and the Counter Reformation.--Noel M. Swerdlow, The University of ChicagoThe 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 Copernicuss heliocentric universe. In this book, Eileen Reeves brings an art historical perspective to this story as she explores the impact of Galileos 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, Galileos discovery of the moons rough topography and the reasons behind its secondary light meant rethinking the imagery surrounding the Virgin Marys 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 Galileos 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 Vel zquez. Sheplaces 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.