The Astronomers' Club

This painting, called 'The Astronomers' Club', shows a group of men presumed to be attending a meeting of a generic astronomers’ society rather than one which has been specifically identified. It none the less typifies a scene common in the late 18th and early 19th century, and it is a consciously historical piece since the dress of the men appears to be early rather than from the mid-to-late 18th century. One member is looking through a large telescope, facing another, presumably taking notes. A third man is looking through a smaller hand-held telescope. Smirke was a popular artist in his day, best known for his depictions of scenes from Shakespeare's plays. He was a member of the Royal Academy, although his democratic and republican views meant that George III refused to ratify his election as keeper of the Royal Academy in 1804.

There is a printed label on the back of the mahogany panel which reads:

Royal Dublin Society
Exhibition of Fine Arts, 1861
71E [in manuscript/ MS] Received from 201 [in MS]
Name: Mr Sotheby [in MS)
Address: Wellington Street [in MS]

Mr Sotheby is almost certainly Samuel Leigh Sotheby (1805-61, see Oxford DNB) - from a family of auctioneers and booksellers based in Wellington Street. The label in all probability refers to Sotheby's role as dealer of this piece. However, the Royal Dublin Society have no record of this painting being exhibited by them in 1861.

Object Details

ID: ZBA4409
Collection: Fine art
Type: Oil Painting
Display location: Display - QH
Creator: Smirke, Robert
Date made: 1770-1845; late 18th or early 19th century
Credit: National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London
Measurements: Frame: 380 mm x 345 mm x 70 mm;Overall: 2 kg;Painting: 235 mm x 190 mm

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