Created almost four hundred years ago as an enigma, the Linder Gallery is a remarkable painting that brings the worlds of art and science into collision. Executed in oil on copper, the painting depicts the interior of a picture gallery with a collection of paintings by Flemish, Dutch and Italian artists, an assortment of sculpture and an impressive selection of astronomical and mathematical instruments. The gallery, with a vaulted ceiling, looks out over a formal garden with a fountain. In the foreground is a bearded old man with a young woman lying in his lap.
Who is the old man? What’s his relationship with the woman, who holds paintbrushes and a palette? What is the significance of the paintings on the walls? Are we looking at a real or imaginary collection of objects? What about the very carefully painted scientific instruments? What is the significance of the books on the green table? Why is there a drawing of the different possible systems of the universe in the centre of the painting with the intriguing Latin phrase “ALY ET ALIA VIDENT” – “Others see it yet otherwise”? Who was the artist? Why was this painting created? What is it saying about the relationship between art and science in the years just prior to Galileo’s Inquisition Trial?
These are some of the questions explored in the new book A Mysterious Masterpiece: The World of the Linder Gallery, edited by Michael John Gorman and published on the occasion of the exhibition Galileo. Images of the Universe from Antiquity to the Telescope at the Palazzo Strozzi in Florence. This book based on a conversation between specialists and generalists including Lawrence Weschler, Pamela Smith, James Bradburne, Alexander Marr, Ron Cordover and Michael John Gorman about this intriguing work.
This website has been developed to extend the conversation in the book and stimulate further exploration of this remarkable document of art and science in the seventeenth century. There is a great deal that we still don’t know about this extraordinary painting. As further discoveries are made we will announce them in the blog about the Linder Gallery, and we invite you to join us in the search.