armillary-sphere

Armillary Sphere, Indian copy (19th cent.) of Persian original (1285), brass and silver, Musée du Louvre, Paris

So while Europeans were mucking about in hair shirts, burning witches and embarking on inadvisable crusades for their puerile sky-god, Persians and Arabs were making enormous strides in science, because they thought it would be a good idea to not burn all of their books that weren’t gaga for Jebus. Here we have an example of an armillary sphere, a complex device used to make celestial calculations. This apparatus is a delightful example of the intersection of art and science, as the positions of the stars are not simply recorded on the sphere, but given life with fine engravings of the constellations and signs of the zodiac. These black and white photographs bring out the detail of the engravings.

This armillary sphere happens not to be original, but a 19th century Indian copy. When you were a kid you collected Pokemon cards, your parents maybe collected baseball cards or small glass animal figurines (well, my parents did). Wealthy Indians in the 19th century had a taste for Islamic scientific instruments.