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World’s Oldest Star Charts at Sotheby’s Auction Block


Albrecht Dürer's maps of the Northern and Southern skies

Albrecht Durer’s maps of the Northern and Southern skies

Stargazers with some spare change lying around may want to check out the auction at Sotheby’s later this month when the oldest printed maps of the cosmos go on sale. Woodcut prints, drawn by German Renaissance artist Albrecht Durer, which show the northern and southern skies teeming with the creatures of the zodiac, expected to fetch up to £180,000 ($292,000) at Sotheby’s sale.

The maps were created in 1515 and are in excellent shape likely due to being stored folded in a book and kept away from light. Because very little was known about the view from the southern hemisphere, that portion of the maps is spare at best, but the northern section is decorated with forty-eight constellations identified by Ptolemy as well as an image of Ptolemy, sporting an improbable top hat for second-century Alexandria, along with the Greek, Islamic and Roman astronomers Aratus, Al-Sufi and Marcus Manilius.

Only 10 other examples of the 1515 charts are known, all in academic or museum collections, and only three with contemporary hand colouring such as these. Their provenance is unknown for centuries before they were bought by the present owner from a French dealer, who kept them for decades at his home. They will be sold on Wednesday 30 March, along with other Dürers and works by Rembrandt, Edvard Munch and Paul Gauguin. [Sotheby’s]

Albrecht Durer's maps of the Northern skies
Albrecht Durer's maps of the Northern skies
Albrecht Dürer's maps of the Southern skies
Albrecht Dürer's maps of the Southern skies

 

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