Friday, March 30, 2007

Galileo Watercolors Authenticated

The University of Padua has unveiled five watercolor illustrations in Galileo's own copy of his 1610 work Sidereus Nuncius ("Starry Messenger"). The drawings, on pages 8-10 of the book, "show the moon with ochre and light-brown shadings, highlighting its craters and valleys. They do not feature in any other copy of the book."

A team of experts including William Shea (Galileo chair in the history of science at the University of Padua), Horst Bredekamp (head of the Art History Institute at Humboldt University in Berlin), Antony Griffin (an art historian at Princeton University) and folks from the National Library of Florence have worked to authenticate the drawings, which they originally believed were forgeries. Bredekamp told the press "when I realised after close examination and tests that they were authentic, I was overcome with emotion."

The location of Galileo's copy of Sidereus Nuncius has been unknown for centuries, hence the high level of surprise at this discovery. Shea told the press he was contacted by New York dealer Richard Lan, who will say only that the book came from a South American collection.

The Italian paper Corriere della Sera has published the illustrations, and reports that the University of Padua is hoping to buy the book from Lan.

Quite a find indeed!

[h/t Shelf:Life]