Galileo Galilei (1564-1642)

Head-and-shoulders bronze bust of Galileo, the Pisan-born experimental natural philosopher and astronomer, purchased for the Museum as part of the Gabb Collection of scientific instruments by Sir James Caird in 1937.

Galileo is shown in classical philosopher style, the shoulders fully robed round, the sitter’s head facing slightly to his left. The bronze is finished by light chiselling and was previously gilt, traces of which remain, and stands on a square brown marble socle.

The bust is Florentine and the received attribution when it entered the Museum was to Pietro Tacca, about 1608. This was given to it by the British collector Max Rosenheim (d. 1911), who discovered the bust in use as garden ornament in the west of England about 1906, purchased it and confirmed it as showing Galileo. How it reached England is not known but subsequent work has shown it is based on a plaster prototype by Giovanni Caccini, about 1612, which has been in Trinity College, Cambridge, since 1759. It is probably one of two such bronze busts - the other now untraced - made by Lodovico Salvetti for Galileo's disciple and posthumous champion, Vincenzo Viviani, about 1666. Salvetti, a minor Florentine sculptor, was an apprentice of Giambologna and Tacca (who worked together as master and assistant) and was later assistant to Tacca. Rosenheim's previous attribution of it to Tacca, probably on stylistic grounds, was therefore both close and understandable.

Object Details

ID: SCU0022
Collection: Sculpture
Type: Bust
Display location: Not on display
Creator: Tacca, Pietro; Salvetti, Lodovico
Date made: circa 1666
People: Galilei, Galileo
Credit: National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London, Caird Collection
Measurements: Overall: 790 mm x 700 mm x 330 mm x 66 kg

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