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Astrolabe

Astrolabe

  • Place of origin:

    Iran (made)

  • Date:

    1667 (dated)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Isfahani, Muhammad Khalil (maker)
    Yazdi, Muhammad Mahdi (engraver)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Engraved and chased brass

  • Credit Line:

    Clarke-Thornhill Gift

  • Museum number:

    M.38-1916

  • Gallery location:

    Islamic Middle East, Room 42, The Jameel Gallery, case 9W

This astrolabe was made in Isfahan in 1667. It could have been used in scientific enquiry. It might have served religious purposes, such as telling the times of the five daily prayers or establishing the direction of Mecca. Astrolabes were also used in astrology, for example to cast horoscopes.

For centuries, the astronomers of the Islamic Middle East led the world in their knowledge of the heavens. Astronomical instruments such as globes and astrolabes were produced in large numbers to a very high standard.

Like the celestial globe, the astrolabe was inherited from Greek and Roman astronomy. It shows the relative positions of the sun and stars on a flat surface. The solid plates are engraved for different latitudes. To use the astrolabe, astronomers placed one plate in the casing (mater) under the openwork disc (rete). The rete is a star map with pointers showing the position of the stars. They moved it to the correct position once an observation has been made with the sighting device (alidade).

Physical description

Brass, pierced and engraved. Signed as made by Khalil (Muhammad) son of Husayn 'Ali, and decorated by Muhammad Mahdi son of Amin of Yazd.

Place of Origin

Iran (made)

Date

1667 (dated)

Artist/maker

Isfahani, Muhammad Khalil (maker)
Yazdi, Muhammad Mahdi (engraver)

Materials and Techniques

Engraved and chased brass

Dimensions

Height: 18.6 cm including suspension ring

Descriptive line

Astrolabe, Iran (Isfahan), dated 1667.

Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)

p.13
Tim Stanley (ed.), with Mariam Rosser-Owen and Stephen Vernoit, Palace and Mosque: Islamic Art from the Middle East, London, V&A Publications, 2004

Labels and date

Jameel Gallery

2–3 Astrolabes
Like the celestial globe, the astrolabe was inherited from Greek and Roman astronomy. It shows the relative positions of the sun and stars on a flat surface.

The solid plates are engraved for different latitudes. To use the astrolabe, one plate is placed in the casing (mater) under the openwork disc (rete).

The rete is a star map with pointers showing the stars’ position. It is moved to the correct position once an observation has been made with the sighting device (alidade).

2 Astrolabe
Iran, Isfahan
Dated 1667
Brass, cast and sheet, pierced and engraved.
Made by Muhammad Khalil Isfahani and engraved by Muhammad Mahdi Yazdi Museum no. M.38-1916
Given by T.B. Clarke-Thornhill

[Jameel Gallery]
ASTROLABE
Brass, pierced and engraved.
Signed as made by Khalil (Muhammad) son of Husayn' Ali, and decorated by Muhammad Mahdi son of Muhammad Amin of Yazd.
PERSIAN; third quarter 17th century.
Clarke-Thornhill gift. [Used until 10/2002]

Materials

Brass (alloy)

Techniques

Engraving (incising); Chased

Categories

Images Online; Science

Collection

Middle East Section

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