ANIMAL ART OF THE DAY for Appreciate a Dragon Day: A tale of two Dracos (and four Ursas)

For #AppreciateADragonDay, here are two versions of an illustration depicting Draco the dragon with the Ursa Major and Ursa Minor bear constellations.

The first is from a medieval Carolingian illuminated manuscript known as the Leiden Aratea:

Aratus (Leiden Aratea), MS Voss. lat. Q 79, f. 3v. Carolingian, c. 830-40. Leiden University Library. [Wikimedia Commons]

Centuries later, Dutch humanist Hugo Grotius (1583-1645) acquired this manuscript and proceeded to publish his own version, featuring engravings by Jacobus De Gheyn II (c. 1565-1629) based on the original illuminations:

Syntagma Arataeorum, fol. 3v. Leiden, 1600. [Wikimedia Commons]

Here is more information about the direct, if not well-known, connection between these two manuscripts, from the Linda Hall Library‘s online exhibition Out of This World: The Golden Age of the Celestial Atlas:

After the initial edition of 1499, the Phaenomena of Aratus, along with its three classical commentaries, was regularly reprinted, but usually as part of a package that included Hyginus’s Poeticon, the Sphere of Proclus, and other ancient astronomical writings. But in 1600 Hugo Grotius published a beautiful edition of the Aratea alone. His book was the direct result of his acquisition of an exquisitely illuminated ninth-century manuscript of Aratus, in the Germanicus Caesar version. Grotius called on the notable engraver Jacobus De Gheyn to convert the manuscript paintings into engravings, and these were incorporated into the printed book. Not only are these the finest constellation figures printed to date, but they would have a long-lasting influence on celestial iconography, since De Gheyn’s engravings served as inspiration, and occasionally as explicit models, for many of the constellation figures in Bayer’s Uranometria.

Many modern commentators seem unaware of the role played by the ninth-century manuscript, for it is often said that the De Gheyn illustrations were based on the woodcuts in the 1482 edition of Hyginus, and this is simply not true. The Aratus manuscript owned by Grotius survives to this day; it is one of the treasures of the Reijksuniversitet in Leiden, and it is known to scholars as MS Voss. lat. Q79.

[Linda Hall Library]
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