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Harvard College Observatory History in Images

This is a personal project collecting and documenting early images of Harvard College Observatory, focusing on the site at Observatory Hill (previously Summer House Hill). Buildings, instruments, people, and observations.

Disclaimer: all content here is solely my own views, and in no way represents the views of my employer, or anyone else. Also, I'm documenting things as I learn about them, so expect frequent errors. Corrections will occur without notice and without a changelog at this point.


This page shows a list of all images related pictures in the same group.

[link]1636 Portrait of Galileo Galilei

Image Credit: William Tolman Carlton, after Justus Sustermans

Earliest source: "Galileo Galilei (1564-1642), after Justus Suttermans [sic]." Harvard Portrait/Clock Collections. Harvard Libraries, HUAM311240

I'm not generally including images for background notes that are not directly related to Harvard, however in this case this portrait is actually at Harvard, on display at the Observatory. The image is a copy of a famous portrait by Justus Sustermans, which is on display at the Uffizi Gallery in Florence Italy (where Galileo was under house arrest while sitting for the portrait in 1636).

This painting has been extensively copied, and googling for Galileo and Sustermans yields a vast array of copies of varying quality, often attributed directly to Sustermans. Harvard owns two of these copies, this one by William Toman Carlton (incorrectly attributed as "Carleton" in some sources) was given to the Observatory in 1890 after the artist's death. The other copy was previously owned by E. C. Pickering, and bequeathed to Harvard in 1919.

If you do search on google, you might notice that you find two distinct families of copies of the Susterman portrait. There are those like this one, of a disembodied head looking off to the side, and another series of him seated, eyes forward, holding a telescope. And looking even more grumpy. The original of that portrait is from Palazzo Pandolfini in Florence and is currently somewhere at the Royal Museums Greenwich. It is likely also painted by Justus Sustermans himself, perhaps around 1640 or perhaps after Galileo's death in 1642. If it is by Sustermans, it's not clear if it was based on a later sitting, or if Sustermans simply copied and expanded on his earlier work.rmgblog

One related image not shown

[link]1636 Portrait of Galileo Galilei

Image Credit: Unidentified artist, after Justus Sustermans

Earliest source: "Galileo Galilei (1564-1642), copy after Justus Suttermans[sic] (1597-1681)." Harvard Portrait/Clock Collections. Harvard Libraries, HUAM299708

Copy of Sustermans' Galileo portrait, owned by Edward Pickering and bequeathed to the Observatory in 1919.

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