Stefano della Bella created this etching to serve as the frontispiece for the posthumous edition of the work of Galileo Galilei (1564–1642): A stage curtain opens to permit us to view the female personifications of mathematics (with compass in hand), astronomy (with the crown of stars) and optics upon their thrones. Galileo, portrayed as an old man, sinks to one knee before these patronesses of science and presents a telescope, one of his most important inventions, to the personification of optics. At the same time it alludes to the discoveries that he made with the help of this instrument. In the heavens, the Medici coat of arms shines brightly and, simultaneously, serves as a stylized version of the heliocentric model of the solar system, with the planets Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Saturn, and Jupiter – as the crowning zenith, surrounded by its own moons (the Medicea Siderea) – orbiting around the sun. An adherence to the heliocentric worldview, which had been condemned by the Church, is here confirmed under the guise of a loyal gesture of reverence toward one’s sovereign.


  • Title: Frontispiece for the "Opere di Galileo Galilei"
  • Creator: Stefano Della Bella
  • Date: 1656
  • Physical Dimensions: w14.8 x h20.3 cm
  • Type: Etching
  • Medium: Etching
  • Inv.-No.: 856-48
  • ISIL no.: DE-MUS-018511
  • External Link: Kupferstichkabinett, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin
  • Copyright: Photo © bpk - Photo Agency / Kupferstichkabinett, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin - Preußischer Kulturbesitz / Volker-H. Schneider │ Text © Staatliche Museen zu Berlin - Preußischer Kulturbesitz
  • Collection: Kupferstichkabinett, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin - Preußischer Kulturbesitz
  • Artist Place of Death: Florence, Italy
  • Artist Place of Birth: Florence, Italy
  • Artist Gender: Male
  • Artist Dates: 1610.05.18 - 1664.07.16

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