I wish I’d taken my own photo of this Ptolemaic armillary sphere when I saw it in Florence, it’s amazing. Antonio Santucci built it for the Uffizi Gallery in the late 16th Century, but it’s now in the fantastic Museo Galileo around the corner from the Uffizi.
It’s a massive series of interlocking rings designed to move simultaneously on different axes to track the movements of celestial bodies. Seeing it up close is something else entirely, it’s huge and completely dominates the room it’s in.
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An official description of this manuscript claims that this detail is an opening historiated initial depicting 10th-century astronomer and mathematician Abūʾl-Wafāʾ holding an armillary sphere and discoursing with a scholar, but we know it’s actually showing a 13th-century basketball coach spinning a ball on his finger while discussing the upcoming game with an assistant coach.
Pictured: Detail of a page from Ptolemy’s Almagest (HM 65), Southern France, 1279, manuscript. The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens. GIFed by The Huntington’s tumblr.