Galileo Galilei (1564-1642) by unknown

Galileo Galilei (1564-1642)


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Galileo Galilei (1564-1642) by unknown zoom

Galileo Galilei (1564-1642)

Italian reliquary pearwood bust of Galileo, the Pisan-born experimental natural philosopher and astronomer. He is shown head, shoulders and upper torso, in old age and slightly larger than life, looking to his left and dressed in a robe with a fur collar. At the back is a circular glazed recess containing a relic in the form of a piece of crimson velvet with a fringe, possibly (according to previous NMM notes) a piece of fabric from Galileo's academic chair. The carved socle consists of a group of astronomical and mathematical instruments round a flared square base surmounted by a globe, which has been carved back to leave a tilted equatorial band of the signs of the zodiac round it in high relief. This item has a received provenance from the Methuen Collection at Corsham Court, Wiltshire, and was subsequently in the Gabb Collection of scientific instruments (with a bronze bust of Galileo, then attributed to Pietro Tacca, SCU0022). The Gabb Collection was purchased en bloc for the Museum by Sir James Caird in February 1937. No other provenance details are yet known but it is possible that this bust was obtained by Paul Cobb Methuen while on the European Grand Tour in the 18th century, or was inherited by him from his father (an MP) or his diplomat cousin Sir Paul (d. 1757). The last bought Corsham for his cousin and heir and to house the art and furniture collection that he left him. Much was sold by the third baron Methuen (d.1932) though whether this was how the bust left Corsham is not known.

  • Image reference: D6806

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