A Philosopher Giving a Lecture on the Orrery
Wonder, curiosity, and deep thought: the audience in this mezzotint, after a painting by Joseph Wright of Derby, models a range of possible responses to science. At center, a brass orrery--a device used to model the arrangement and rotation of the solar system--is operated by a lecturer. A candle has been placed to represent the sun, allowing the lecturer to demonstrate the mechanics of an eclipse, and allowing the painter to make use of deep chiaroscuro shadows for dramatic effect. Highlights and reflections illuminate the faces of those listening, from the contemplative young woman in pearls at left, to two playfully attentive children at center, to a young man at right who shades his gaze with one hand as if lost in thought.
Wright's paintings of scientific lectures, experiments, and emerging technologies have led many to name him a "painter of the Enlightenment." His paintings typically represent "new" or up-to-date apparatuses and practices that showcase changes in scientific understanding. Wright was a member of the Lunar Society of Birmingham, an informal learned society consisting of chemists, physicians, artists, engineers, and other amateur researchers interested in natural philosophy.
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Pether, William. “A Philosopher Giving a Lecture on the Orrery.” Paper. John Boydell, May 20, 1768. Science History Institute. Philadelphia. https://digital.sciencehistory.org/works/37720d47z.
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