Tycho Brache and Emperor Rudolph Surrounded by Astronomy Instruments

This beautiful oil painting shows the Danish astronomer Tycho Brahe and the Emperor of Prague, Rudolph II. The painting was painted by an artist called Eduard Ender in 1855. However, the event it is showing happened in about 1600. Tycho was one of the most famous astronomers of his day and he is known to have moved to Prague, which at the time was one of the most important places of culture and learning in the whole of Europe.

In the painting Tycho is showing a celestial globe to the Emperor. The globe that Tycho has his hand on is very decorated and has a mechanism below it to make it turn once a day. The Emperor seems to be listening carefully to what Tycho is saying, which may have been something about astronomy or even astrology. However, Rudolph may be a little put off by his dog at his side, which wants his attention. Rudolph is holding a paintbrush and an artist's paint palette. He has a canvass for a painting just to his left as well, which seems to suggest that he may even be painting a picture of Tycho (we know he was interested in art as well as science).

The Emperor was very interested in maths and owned many expensive mathematical instruments. The instruments shown in the painting are all mathematical instruments used in astronomy. Most of them are used to measure the positions of stars very accurately.

As well as the clockwork globe, lots of other mathematical instruments are shown in the painting. On the floor on the left hand side is an armillary sphere. Tycho had used a bigger version of this armillary sphere at home in Denmark to measure the positions of the planets and the stars. Also on the floor are a quadrant (which would have been very valuable) and a pair of dividers. On the table is a sort of triangular instrument made of three rods joined together at their ends. This is a very special type of mathematical instrument for astronomy called the 'parallactic instrument'. The large instrument on an ornate stand at the right of the painting is another quadrant. It is used for measuring the positions of planets and stars. This quadrant is more complicated than most quadrants because it has a system of cogs which move pointers and give readings on dials of star positions. Unfortunately the artist has made a bit of a mistake by putting this quadrant in the picture because it was only invented in the 18th century - 200 years after both Tycho and Rudolph died - so they couldn't possibly have known about it !

Most of the instruments in this painting are measuring instruments just like most of the instruments in The Measurers painting. However, instead of showing the importance of maths to ordinary people and everyday problems this painting is supposed to show that maths is fit for a king and that it is something that important and rich people should also do.