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Leon Battista Alberti, “On Painting,” in Opuscoli Morali (Venice, 1568)

Moral Essays

This anthology of the works of Alberti, a humanist scholar, contains the printed edition of his treatise, “On Painting,” a work he originally dedicated to the architect and artist Brunelleschi.

Alberti’s window,” a technique of painting as if the canvas were an exact replica of a window, helped to solidify artists’ understanding of true geometrical linear perspective. Alberti’s technique made it possible to draw objects in foreshortened sizes, anywhere on the canvas, with reference to a central point of perspective. 

It was also possible to paint the inside of a long, closed “perspective box” so that a viewer looking through a peephole at one end would see little worlds, expansive scenes, within the box as if one were looking upon the vistas of nature itself.

Additional essays included in this anthology are devoted to art, architecture, mathematics, literature and the first printing of Alberti’s foundational work in cryptography, written in 1467.

Galileo's World Exhibition Location

Source: History of Science Collections

Section: Galileo and Perspective

Section Number: 1

Object Number: 6

Subject Area(s): Art, Mathematics, Literature, Architecture

Time Period: 16th Century

Region(s): Europe, Italy

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Exhibit Gallery OERs

Art and Astronomy Walking Tour

Art and Astronomy Walking Tour

“What was it like when art and astronomy were intertwined?”

Leonardo da Vinci, Albrecht Dürer, Lorenzo Sirigatti, Galileo... what joins them together?  Why is Galileo's Starry Messenger (1610) displayed alongside Giorgio Vasari's Lives of Eminent Painters and Sculptors

Galileo’s scientific discoveries occurred in the context of a specific artistic culture which possessed sophisticated mathematical techniques for drawing with linear perspective and handling light and shadow.

Do you know someone who received a telescope for Christmas? There's no better way to begin looking through a telescope than to ponder the way Galileo's professional training as an artist prepared him to make his astronomical discoveries.

In the Galileo’s World exhibition, four galleries took their point of departure from Galileo’s Starry Messenger (Sidereus nuncius, 1610):  
• Galileo and Perspective Drawing  
• Galileo and the Telescope   
• The Moon and the Telescope   
• The Sky at Night

These distinct but overlapping galleries were on physical display in different places and combinations during the course of the Galileo’s World exhibition, most notably at the National Weather Center and the Fred Jones Jr. Museum of Art.  Various books from these galleries are part of the current Rotating Display and the "The Sky Tonight reprise" gallery, including Galileo’s Starry Messenger itself.

Use this handout to aid you in you as you walk through the 2017 Rotating Display and The Sky at Night reprise gallery.


Pythagorean Solids: Five Regular Solids

Pythagorean Solids Learning Leaflet

Can you identify the five regular solids? 

Throughout history the regular solids were studied with keen interest by astronomers, mathematicians, artists, architects and philosophers. The Pythagoreans proved that there are only five regular solids: the cube, triangle, octahedron, dodecahedron, and icosahedron.