"Armillary Sphere"

 

David Normal:

 

"Plesiosaurus is playing with the Armillary Sphere". Try speaking it yourself out loud. Don't you think there is something immensely satisfying about these words? No, not like that . . . you have a dirty mind!

Perhaps "armillary sphere" is nice to say because it refers to the entire cosmos and the evolving human effort to understand it. The earliest Armillary spheres were made by the ancient Chinese. If you have seen a Chinese New Year parade than you may have noticed that the dragon always pursues a golden orb on the end of a baton wielded by a dancer who effectively leads the dance. This orb is meant to symbolize a pearl, and it is fitting that the drama of the painting revolves around the pursuit of this armillary sphere -  a cosmic golden pearl - by the Chinese Dragon. As though the cosmos were a pearl of technology evolving from the prehistoric primordial sea to become a contest between East and West.

 

Image taken from page 114 of 'Bibliothek geographischer Handbücher. Herausgegeben von ... F. Ratzel'  Collection of the British Library.

View illustration on British Library's Flickr Photostream

 

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