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The Astronomer, Vermeer, 1668

18 apr 2024 7:11 pm


"The Astronomer" (Dutch: De astronoom) is a captivating painting completed around 1668 by the esteemed Dutch Golden Age artist Johannes Vermeer. Crafted in oil on canvas, its dimensions measure 51 cm × 45 cm (20 in × 18 in). During the 17th century, depictions of scholars held a special place in Dutch art, and within Vermeer's body of work, both this piece and the slightly later "The Geographer" stand out. Interestingly, it's believed that both paintings portray the same individual, potentially Antonie van Leeuwenhoek. A study conducted in 2017 revealed that the canvas for both works originated from the same source, solidifying their close connection.

In "The Astronomer," we witness a scene of scholarly contemplation as an astronomer gazes upon a celestial globe. The astronomer's vocation is symbolized by the presence of the celestial globe (a rendition by Jodocus Hondius) and the book laid open on the table, which happens to be the 1621 edition of Adriaan Metius's "Institutiones Astronomicae Geographicae." Symbolically, the book lies open to Book III, advising the astronomer to seek divine inspiration, while the painting on the wall depicts the Finding of Moses—a figure representing knowledge and science, reminiscent of being "learned in all the wisdom of the Egyptians."

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