`An Astronomer’ – Ferdinand Bol

by Ferdinand Bol (1619-1680), painted in 1652, 127 x 135 cm, Oil on Canvas.

I saw the above painting the other day and thought I’d share it here, as part of an occasional series of works of art. It can be found in the National Gallery in London.

It’s a fairly conventional composition and the style is clearly heavily influenced by Rembrandt, but this painting is beautifully done and has some interesting features all of its own. On the table is a celestial globe, and behind it a terrestrial one. The darkness surrounding the astronomer and his desk suggests isolation and introspection which, together with the pose of the figure and his abstracted manner, indicates that the painting may belong to the visual tradition of Melancholia, made famous by the work of Albrecht Dürer, in which it was suggested that a scholar’s research would inevitably lead him to an awareness of the futility of his endeavours in the face of death.

It’s being so cheerful that helps keep me going…

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