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Paper: Padua and the Stars: Medieval Painting and Illuminated Manuscripts
Volume: 441, The Inspiration of Astronomical Phenomena VI
Page: 111
Authors: Canova, G. M.
Abstract: In the Middle Ages, the University of Padua was one of the most prominent centre for astrological studies in Europe. The Paduan doctor and philosopher, Pietro d'Abano, who lived in the first decades of the 14th century, was the main figure in this field. At the end of the 13th century, during a long stay in Paris, he got in contact with the new astrological doctrines flourished after the translation into Latin of Ptolemy's and Arab's works in Spain. Thus, when he went back to Padua, he published several studies on the influence of celestial bodies on human life and human physical characteristics and psychology. These ideas deeply affected the Paduan society of the 14th century and, consequently, the most important painters chose or were asked to evoke the images of stars, planets, and their properties. This adventure began with Giotto who shows a surprising interest in celestial bodies in the Scrovegni Chapel where he represented a comet, and soon after he produced a cycle of astrological paintings on the vault of the Palazzo della Ragione in the Public Palace of Padua. Unfortunately, in 1420, these paintings were destroyed in a fire, but the magnificent cycle of astrological frescoes realized soon after on the walls of the same room gives us some clues on Giotto's work and shows us the complexity of the Medieval astrological science. Other astrological paintings, still preserved, were realized by the painters of the Carrarese Court such as Guariento, who painted the planets and their influences on human ages in the church of the Eremitani, and Giusto dei Menabuoi who represented a superb zodiac around a realistic map of Earth in the Cathedral Baptistery. So Padua really became the capital of astrological painting in Europe. Other evidence of the astrological image in the Veneto Region, between the 14th and 15th centuries, can be found in the manuscripts illuminated in the milieu of the University of Padua and in the first books printed in Venice.
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