Orbium Planetarum Terram Complectentium Scenographia
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Plate 3 – Orbium Planetarum Terram Complectentium Scenographia
From: Atlas Coelestis seu Harmonia Macrocosmica
Amsterdam: Schenk and Valk, 1708
Hand-colored copperplate engraving
36 1/2” x 32" framed
This generally descriptive, yet intricately etched plate offers a stunning visual representation of Ptolemy’s world system. Although Cellarius chose to ignore certain aspects of Ptolemy’s world system while designing this plate, he did so due to limitations of the medium. Cellarius worked with his limitations in a manner which gave more attention to visual concepts and a formal composition rather than to Astronomical theory, which would be impossible to accurately portray with this specific subject matter.
According to Ptolemy, ‘the thickness of orbital spheres varied greatly with no empty spaces, which would have been impossible to reproduce in a single plate.’ And rather than attempting to obviously reference the idea with a wide space varying dramatically between each orbit, Cellarius chose to make each Orbit subtly spaced slightly further from its previous counterpart.
In following the reference to Ptolemy’s world system, Cellarius portrays the planets Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn all orbiting the Earth. In between the Earth and Mercury is the Moon’s orbit, circling the earth, and in between Venus and Mars the Suns orbit also orbits around the Earth. Surrounding all the celestial orbits of the planets, the moon, and the sun, is a thick ring depicting the symbols of the zodiac sign.
In this plate and most of the plates in the Harmonia Macrocosmica, the visual in which the title represents consumes a vast majority of the paper; leaving approximately a quarter of the prints surface area for the title and embellishments. Often the decorative embellishments depicted on the plates of this series consist of cherubs, female figures, and nautical and astronomical devices.
Especially interesting elements in this plate are the miniature depictions of the Ptolemaic system in the bottom left circular diagram, and that of an alternative theory of the time; the world system according to Tycho Brahe, depicted in the bottom right. Brahe’s system is further detailed in plates 6,7, and 9. Surrounding each of the depictions of these two differing world systems are women educating young pupils.