Armillary sphere, Gauthier Arscenius

Armillary sphere, Gauthier Arscenius
Leuven (Belgium)
Brass ; H. 38,5 cm
Inv. 8948

Armillary spheres (from the Latin armilla, referring to the rings they are made of) are models of the celestial globe. In olden times, they were used in cabinets of curiosities to represent the universe physically and indicate the movement of the stars.

Before 1543, when Copernicus first demonstrated the true nature of the solar system, astronomers adhered to Ptolemy's geocentric model, according to which the Earth was immobile at the centre of the universe. The armillary sphere by Arscenius, which still exemplifies this Ptolemaic vision, is one of four extant spheres of this type. The central globe represents the Earth. The first two circular bands, moving outwards, reproduce the orbs of the Moon and the Sun. The outer rings show the position of the constellations as a function of the months of the solar year.


Discover this masterpiece in our gallery Precision instruments, on the online museum catalogue Carmentis and in the book Masterpieces of the Cinquantenaire Museum.