Brueghel Painting May Shed New Light on Early History of the Telescope

October 14, 2009 · Print This Article

A 1617 painting by Jan Brueghel the Elder and Peter Paul Rubens is providing some technology historians with new hypotheses about the early history of the telescope, reports MIT’s Technology Review. Some historians assert that the painting, titled “The Allegory of Sight,” depicts a powerful, convex-lensed (Keplerian) telescope of a type not thought to have been built until at least 15 years after the painting’s execution. These historians further hypothesize that this may be because a telescope with similar capabilities was designed prior to Kepler’s by the Dutch lensmaker Hans Lippershey (who is himself credited with being one of the earliest inventors of the telescope) and given to the Archduke Albert VII of Habsburg. (Brueghel was the Archduke’s court painter). But for some reason, Lippershey’s telescope wasn’t recognized for the powerful advancement it represented. From the MIT article:

Although various writers in the 16th century describe glasses that can “recognize a man from several miles away,” the early exploitation of this idea is credited to the Dutch lens maker Hans Lippershey, who in 1608 applied for a patent for a device “for seeing things far away as if they were nearby.” However, his application was rejected, apparently because the idea was already well known.

Molaro and Selvelli, who have studied the telescopes depicted in five paintings by Brueghel, say that Lippershey is known to have given one of his earliest instruments to Archduke Albert VII of Habsburg, who had a keen interest in natural philosophy.

That’s significant because Brueghel was Albert’s court painter. Molaro and Selvelli say that the spyglass depicted in Brueghel’s “Extensive Landscape with View of the Castle of Mariemont,” dated 1608-1612, is the first painting of a telescope ever made. They go further and speculate that this instrument is the one given to Albert by Lippershey.

The earliest telescopes consisted of a convex objective lens and a concave eyepiece. But Johannes Kepler suggested in 1611 that a better design would have a convex eyepiece. The advantage is a larger field of view and greater relief for the eye, which needn’t be placed so close to the eyepiece. The disadvantage, which astronomers eventually came to live with, is that the image is inverted.

Kepler’s design wasn’t built until much later. The first reference to such an instrument appears in 1631. But here’s a mystery: Molaro and Selvelli speculate that a telescope in “The Allegory of Sight,” a collaboration between Brueghel and Pierre Paul Rubens dating from 1617, is actually Keplerian.

(Read the full article here). Who doesn’t love a good mystery, especially when its clues are hidden in a work of art? (Brueghel died of cholera in 1625, so the anachronism can’t simply be the result of a misdated painting). Maybe it’s time for the Brueghel scholars to weigh in. (Via Boing Boing).

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Jan Brueghel the Elder and Peter Paul Rubens; "The Allegory of Sight," c. 1617

Keplarian telescope

"The Allegory of Sight," detail of telescope.

Tuesday’s Video pick| Abstraction in Photography

October 13, 2009 · Print This Article

This week’s pick is a long one. Susan Rankaitis, James Welling, and George Baker take the gloves off and  throw down over abstraction in photography.

via the UCLA:

From the beginning, abstraction has been intrinsic to photography, and its persistent popularity reveals much about the medium. Artists Susan Rankaitis and James Welling and UCLA Associate Professor of Art History George Baker debate a host of approaches to the abstract photographic experience in this panel discussion moderated by Lyle Rexer, the author of The Edge of Vision: The Rise of Abstraction in Photography.”

Winner of the Chicago Public Library “Sound Off” Music Contest Announced

October 12, 2009 · Print This Article

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Psalm OneThe grand prize winner of the CHIPUBLIB “Sound Off” Music Contest has been announced. The winner is Englewood’s own Christalle Bowen better known as Psalm One. A mp3 of the winning song “My Bucket Song” can be heard in it’s entirety above.

She will be performing the winning song along with a set of her other music, live at the CHIPUBLIB Sound Off concert at Pritzker Park, located at 344 S. State Street across from the Harold Washington Library Center, on Thursday October 22nd; doors open at 5 p.m. and admission is free.

Judge & Chicago-based Alarm Magazine publisher Chris Force called Psalm One’s entry a “shoulder-shaking salute to her hometown of Chicago,[that] stood out among the surprisingly creative and talented submissions to the Chicago Public Library’s “Sound Off” contest.”

BAS Halloween Watch: See Frankenstein Performed by The Hypocrites at the MCA

October 12, 2009 · Print This Article

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Ah, bloody ladies and their fucked-up bloody baby dolls. I’m still counting down the days to Halloween, and if I can find a babysitter of my own, I am so going to see this woman (actually, Stacy Stoltz as Elizabeth) up close and in person when The Hypocrites perform their version of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein at the MCA Chicago from October 21 – November 1. It will be enacted “in promenade,” which means that performers intermingle with audience member on the same stage. Blurbs the MCA:

Just in time for Halloween, acclaimed Artistic Director Sean Graney and The Hypocrites take on Mary Shelley’s classic novel for an adventurous retelling of Frankenstein. Graney’s world-premiere production is performed in promenade, which places the audience onstage amidst the actors, and combines his inventive and poetic adaptation with the famous 1931 film starring Boris Karloff.

Inspired by the vast scope of Shelley’s novel and the ideas of inventors like Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Edison, and J. Robert Oppenheimer, Graney draws from a variety of literary sources for his adaptation, including Macbeth, Prometheus Bound, Doctor Faustus by Christopher Marlowe, and ‘Tis Pity She’s a Whore by John Ford. Graney’s adaptation combines several historical versions of the gothic tale to craft a contemporary literary monster that captures the pure horror and chilling philosophy of creation carried out in the name of human advancement.

It’s like a high art version of Tony & Tina! But seriously, it’s always fun when audiences get a chance to wander around onstage while the performers do their thing–although I always wind up feeling weirdly embarrassed for the actors when I stand too close to them.  At any rate, you can watch a video of Hypocrities founder and Frankenstein director discussing his ideas about how theater relates to Frankenstein below; tickets are $20-25, for MCA members they’re $16-20, and the student rate is $10.

Martine Syms | HIGHLIGHTS / NY ART BOOK FAIR

October 9, 2009 · Print This Article

Bad at Sports is pleased to have Martine Syms of Golden Age as a guest blogger with her picks from last week’s New York Art Book Fair. “Martine Syms is a conceptual entrepreneur based in Chicago, Illinois. You can usually find her doing “research” (reading blogs) in the back office at Golden Age or watching television shows on DVD. Golden Age is a concept shop, founded in 2007, that sells publications, music, apparel and other editioned works created by artists. Golden Age makes a statement about an alternative mode of making and selling art; that it can be straightforward, accessible, and moderately priced.”

This year Printed Matter’s NY Art Book Fair claimed all three floors of P.S.1 to present over 200 international booksellers, galleries, and independent publishers/artists including art luminaries Dexter Sinister, Peres Projects, Electronic Arts Intermix, and E-Flux. Unlike most commercial art fairs this year, the NY Art Book Fair managed to escape the shadow of the recession. Everyone seemed to be having fun amongst the many DIY initiatives that have been doing so much with so little for so long. However, similar to most art fairs, NYABF was incredibly overwhelming and I couldn’t possibly see everything. Here are some highlights from last weekends event, if you want to link to projects that I missed, please do so in the comments.

A Modest Proposal For A Serving Library – Dexter Sinister

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A Modest Proposal For A Serving Library - Dexter Sinister

A Modest Proposal For A Serving Library, Nick Relph and Oliver Payne Dexter Sinister [http://dextersinister.org] (designers Stuart Bailey and David Reinfurt) presented a very heady not-so-modest proposal for taking over an abandoned library in Los Angeles that is also the site of the newest video by Brits Nick Relph and Oliver Payne. In the video, books are chroma-keyed onto shelves, and the librarian’s serve red wine. Over the weekend the Serving Library also hosted a screening of Truffaut’s Fahrenheit 451 with an introduction by my favorite Dot Dot Dot contributor Rob Giampietro.

The Werkplaats Typografie

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Werkplaats Typografie

The Werkplaats Typografie, a Dutch post-graduate design program, brought all 17 students to New York for the fair. Across from a wall displaying their most recent graphic output, the students set up studio in which they would bootleg any of the Werkplaats’ catalogs for a mere $5.

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A print by John Baldessari in the exhibition Learn To Read Art: A History of Printed Matter.

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Friendly Fire | Work from Lauren Anderson, Paul Cowan, Alana Celli, and Derek Chan on Golden Age’s wall.

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The wall from LA’s Ooga Booga, featuring Amy Yao, Raymond Pettibon, Sara Clendening, Mended Veil, Slow and Steady Wins the Race, Max Krivitzky, and more.

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The print-on-demand workshop of NY-based creative studio The Holster.