For the first time, the NMM has incorporated exhibition labels into an online gallery. The new web pages for ‘Turmoil and Tranquillity‘ include the on-site gallery labels from the exhibition. Now visitors to the website can view the objects alongside the gallery labels. These labels will appear in conjunction with in depth descriptions. This new and exciting achievement means that we are able to deliver a multi-layered interpretation of the exhibits that feature in ‘Turmoil and Tranquillity‘ online.
The exhibition pages, which accompany our summer show ‘Turmoil and Tranquillity‘, are available on our website now. ‘Turmoil and Tranquillity‘ brings together artworks from the National Maritime Museum’s unrivalled collection of 16th and 17th century Dutch and Flemish maritime paintings and charts the emergence of the seascape as a genre. Visit the exhibition pages to gain an insight into the show and enjoy a journey through the development of the seascape between 1550 and 1700.
Tour the exhibition by exploring our new online gallery which allows you to: view the exhibits; delve into the themes within the galleries and enjoy the descriptions that accompany the items. Use the zoom function to zoom-in on the images. Can you find the figure standing on his head in one of the paintings in the ‘The Rise of the Seascape‘ gallery? Learn more about the turbulent nature of seafaring in the Low Countries during the late 16th and 17th centuries and discover the hidden meanings in these paintings.
‘Turmoil and Tranquillity‘ is on display in the Queen’s House from 20 June 2008-11 January 2009. Open daily 10.00-17.00.
Celestial table globe (GLB0095)
On the Upper Deck there is one object that never ceases to catch my eye. Look for item no. 50 – a celestial globe (GLB0095) displayed a little higher than the other objects in one of the long showcases.
Made of copper, the surface of the globe has stars punched through its surface. If you look closely, the sphere is engraved with figures from the zodiac. It consists of two hemispheres connected through the first points of Gemini and Sagittarius, while the equator and ecliptic are graduated. The cartography is Latin. The tropics are labelled but not drawn. This sphere was intended to sit on a table. A candle was placed inside, which projected light out from the centre of the globe, creating a miniature planetarium that charted the skies above. Although far humbler than our planetarium here in Greenwich, the effect would still be capable of taking your breath away. However, since becoming an object in a museum, the globe operates in the very opposite way. The stars no longer project outwards – instead the light shines inwards through the star perforations, drawing our attention into the object.
One of the many fascinating things about mapping the stars is the ways that human beings have attempted to make sense of what goes beyond the limits of our understanding. Celestial spheres encapsulate belief systems. In this example, predicated on the systems of the universe described by Ptolemy, mythical beasts create a network for stars. This sphere is not an original; it is an early copy made after Caspar Vopel (1511-1561) and is thought to have been made some time after 1546. Vopel was a German mathematics teacher, scholar and master craftsman, making his objects ideal for the amateur to copy. Although the names and styles of the depicted constellations are identical to the original, this is a rougher version with some misspellings and incorrect labelling.
I am endlessly intrigued by the way that this object puts the notion of accuracy second place to craft. These failings draw attention to the ways that, as our knowledge of the universe increases, notions of ‘truth’ can become superseded by new understandings of the world – a process that privileges matters of concern over matters of fact. This study of material cultures is the very way in which the collections of the National Maritime Museum challenge and ask questions of the assumptions that we use to understand our place in the world.