Attributed to the Arsenius workshop at Louvain, circa 1570. Unsigned and undated. International Checklist No. 562

Attributed to the Arsenius workshop at Louvain, circa 1570. Unsigned and undated. International Checklist No. 562
The throne is attached to a curved bar that is screwed to the limb. At the centre is a shield with the arms of Reichhofrat and Vizekanzeler Jacob Kurtz von Senftenau: double eagle in chief, red/white/red bars (Austria), two goats facing below. This section slides upwards to reveal a magnetic compass, intact with glass covers, engraved with the directions 'Mer: occi: Sep: ori:'. The magnetic needle with arrow head North, other end disc with crescent 'bight'. Declination no more than 10 East. The supporters are two reclining satyrs, male and female; the lower parts of the bodies end in scrolls. Above is a shackle and ring. On the reverse is a sun burst, and above is the motto 'NEL TROPO LVME SVO VIEN A CELARSI'. Below the ring is a 6-petalled rosette.

The mater is composed of a plate fitted by 14 rivets to the limb. The limb is divided in degrees, 0-90 in quadrants, subdivided in half degrees, numbered every 10. Also divided in twice twelve hours. The centre of the mater is engraved with a quadratum nauticum, which gives the directions of the thirty-two winds, named in Dutch and Italian.

To fit into the mater are three plates, covering five latitudes, 39 to 51. They have the usual azimuths at 5, almucantars at 2, and Houses of Heaven.

Plate 1A: 39
1B: 42
Plate 2A: 45
2B: 48
Plate 3A: 51
3B: tablet of horizons; shadow square; equal to unequal hours diagram.

On the back is a universal stereographic projection, with 14 stars positioned and named. The edge is divided in degrees, 0-90 in quarters, subdivided in half degrees. The regula is present, but the cursor and brachiolum are lacking.

Star Names on the Back

Eridani extremum Cor

Oculis tauri Extra cau vrsae ma

Hircus Arcturus

Orionis sin. pes Lra

Canopus Aquila

Canis maior Cauda cgni

Canicula Postrema aqua fu

The rete is in the familiar Flemish 'tulip' pattern, with pointers for forty stars, each with governing planet(s) and magnitude. Zodiac and calendar are on the ecliptic circle; 1st point of Aries nearly 21. Signs are numbered in roman: Aries I; Pices XII. there are scratched numbers on the back identifying star pointers, and these are the same as on many other Arsenius astrolabes.


Cauda ceti Arcturus
Venter ceti Bootis .in: humerus
Medusae caput Lanx boreae clarior
Per.ei latus dex. Coro: .eptentrional.s
Nare ceti Cor Scorp
Oculus Caput Hercu:
Hircus ophiu: capu.
orio: .in: pes Caput draconis
orio: .in: humerus Lra
orionis dex: humus Aquila
Canis maior Cau: cg
Canicula Cephei dex. hum.
Hdrae clara Cauda capricorni
Cor Pegasi rictus
Vr.a maior [7 pointers] Dexter hum.
Crateris fundus Crus aquar
Dor.um [Leo] Pega.. crus.
Cauda leonis Pega.. hume
Corui ala dex: Pega.. vmbil.
Spica virginis Pega.. extrema ala

The pin is fixed to the regula, passes through the alidade, and is held by a wing-nut. the alidade has a pair of sights, with a notch at the top edge, small and large pin-holes. One arm of the alidade has a solar declination scale, the other two hour scales: Horae ortus 1-10, Horae occasus 12-2 (hours from the rising and setting of the sun).
7 in. (18.5 cm.) diam.
Rothschild inv. no. AR1793.
1903 Theresianumgasse Inventory, p. 88, no. 205.
1905 Theresianumgasse Inventory, p. 42, no. 173.
G. Egger, Theatrum orbis terrarum: Die Erfassung des Weltbildes zur Zeit der Renaissance und des Barocks, Vienna, 1970, p. 58, no. 53.
E. Zinner, Deutsche und niederlndische astronomische Instrumente des 11.-18. Jahrhunderts, Munich, 1956, p. 239.

Lot Essay

A fine example of Renaissance Flemish craftsmanship, this astrolabe is one of the smallest known amongst the output of the Arsenius workshop that was conducted by Gualterius Arsenius from the mid-1550s until his death in 1580. Of considerable importance in the discussion of the present astrolabe is the date of the 1st Point of Aries, which is 21 March. This means that the ecliptic circle, which has both the calendar and Zodiac, was modified after 1582, when the Gregorian Calendar was introduced. However, the rest of the instrument is by Arsenius from comparison with the engraving of the letters and numbers on his signed instruments. The ecliptic circle was partly re-engraved after 1582. On the ecliptic circle, the region giving the months of the year has been carefully ground down, and the names of the months re-engraved, by a less expert hand, 10 further round. The Zodiac and five shoulders with stars and pointers are left in their original state. The re-engraving of another Arsenius ecliptic circle to accomodate the calendar change is known.

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