Image of Gallery in South Kensington
On display at V&A South Kensington
Islamic Middle East, Room 42, The Jameel Gallery

Astrolabe

1667 (dated)
Artist/Maker
Place Of Origin

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).


object details
Categories
Object Type
Materials and Techniques
Engraved and chased brass
Brief Description
Astrolabe, Iran (Isfahan), dated 1667.
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.
Dimensions
  • Including suspension ring height: 18.6cm
Styles
Gallery Label
  • 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)
Credit line
Clarke-Thornhill Gift
Summary
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).
Bibliographic Reference
Tim Stanley (ed.), with Mariam Rosser-Owen and Stephen Vernoit, Palace and Mosque: Islamic Art from the Middle East, London, V&A Publications, 2004p.13
Collection
Accession Number
M.38-1916

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record createdNovember 12, 2002
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