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SUArt Galleries opens ‘Celestial Images: Antiquarian Astronomical Charts and Maps From the Mendillo Collection’
SUArt Galleries opens ‘Celestial Images: Antiquarian Astronomical Charts and Maps From the Mendillo Collection’January 08, 2007David L. Princedlprince@syr.edu
The SUArt Galleries, located in the Shaffer Art Building, will celebrate the Golden Age of astronomical charts with its newest exhibition, “Celestial Images: Antiquarian Astronomical Charts and Maps From the Mendillo Collection,” beginning Tuesday, Jan. 16. The exhibition, which includes more than 80 antiquarian star charts, is free and open to the public through March 4.
Some of the world’s earliest artistic images, illustrations of cosmologies and heavenly phenomena, entered into a new and lively phase during the Renaissance. The invention of printing in the 15th century improved the means of disseminating scientific knowledge; advances in astronomy in the 16th and 17th centuries led to the portrayal of new information. This fortuitous conjunction created printed astronomical charts of surprising accuracy and delicate beauty. Celestial cartographers combined their scientific quest with a keen aesthetic sense — each chart was meant to be an object of beauty, as well as a repository of information. These charts were a celebration of aesthetics as well as scientific knowledge.
Like the twins of Gemini, art and science walked hand-in-hand for more than 100 years. By the late 19th century, this unified way of seeing had split into the two cultures of art and science that we know today. Overwhelmed by a vast amount of data, astronomical charts of the 20th century eventually changed into functional, unadorned tools intended for specialists.
Tucked away in libraries, museums and private collections, however, are splendid remnants of a bygone era. Assembled here from the Mendillo Collection of Antiquarian Astronomical Charts and Maps are examples of some of the finest celestial cartography. There are star charts (maps of the constellations and the full celestial sphere), charts of planetary systems (cosmologies) and a smaller third category, charts of celestial phenomena (such as nebulae, comets and eclipses). Together, they pay homage to a time when simple systems explained the universe and humankind held friendly commerce with the skies.
The exhibition was supported, in part, by the 2006 Syracuse Symposium on “imagination,” an intellectual and artistic festival hosted by College of Arts and Sciences for the entire Syracuse community.
The SUArt Galleries is located in the Shaffer Art Building and is universally accessible. The exhibition is open Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday-Sunday from 11:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m., and Thursday from 11:30 a.m.-8 p.m. Gallery space is closed on Monday and during major religious and national holidays. Daytime parking for the exhibition is available in SU pay lots. Weekend and evening visitors may park in the Q4 lot and should notify the attendant they are visiting SUArt Galleries. Parking is on a space-available basis and may be restricted during events held at the Carrier Dome. For more information, call 443-4097 or visit http://suart.syr.edu.