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Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Coronelli: Prince of Globe Makers

Probably one of the most famous map and globe makers in history is Vincenzo Coronelli (1650-1718), Franciscan monk, tailor's son.

Coronelli showed his talent early, publishing his first work at the age of sixteen. Vincenzo Coronelli's talent covered both the arts and sciences. He was a superb illustrator as evidenced by this portrait he did for Wignacourt, Grand Master of the Knights of Malta in 1707:

Wignacourt, Grand Master of Malta 1707


Aside from being a talented artist, Coronelli was also an astronomer and mathematician (cartography and globe-making demands precise calculations) – he excelled in astronomy and Euclid.

Art and science meld in the making of terrestrial and celestial globes. After all, places in a terrestrial globe are expected to conform to their observed coordinates. And the constellations in a celestial globe should be where they are expected at any given time (barring any major shakeup in the heavens).

Coronelli's Masterpiece

Coronelli is best remembered for the pair of huge (12.6 feet across) terrestrial and celestial globes he made for Louis XIV in 1681 to 1683. These weighed about two tons each and could fit 30 men inside at one time (there are doors built into the globes).

To give you a feel for the beauty and scale of these globes, here is a picture of the two of them, exhibited at the Grand Palais.


Here they are in another exhibition:

Louis XIV globes by Vincenzo Coronelli
photo by Alain Téoulé
Note the framed hatches where people can enter the globe (the first ones brought lighted candles, I imagine).

One must go closer to fully appreciate their beauty:


Another detail of Corinelli's celestial globe for Louis XIV
Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 2.0 Generic License  by   


Louix XIV celestial globe by Coronelli (detail)

Both scientists and artists of the time must have turned green with envy.

If Coronelli made only these two globes, his fame would still have been assured (the International Coronelli Society for the Study of Globes, formed in 1952, is another tribute to his name). He was highly sought-after by the leading European princes of his time. But he made many more globes and maps alike (check out some of his maps at Swaen).

Here is a map of Africa, made around 1692:


And here's another celestial globe of his (at the Austrian National Library State Hall):


To give you an idea of the kind of work (excluding the illustration and coloring) that went into the making of these globes, here are two YouTube videos of a Coronelli globe (circa 1692) being rebuilt by Nicolangelo Scianna:





Of Coronelli himself, there are several portraits of him available on the web:

Vincenzo Coronelli portrait engraving 01

Vincenzo Coronelli portrait engraving 02

Vincenzo Coronelli portrait engraving 03

Vincenzo Coronelli portrait engraving 04

Vincenzo Coronelli portrait engraving 05

 In all the portraits available of him, a Puckish smile shines through. This must be a man of exuberant, even youthful, sense of humor. If they ever make a movie of him, I know just the right guy for the role:

Jack Black as a monk in Nacho Libre

Globes that raise your spirits

At Ultimate Globes, we also have globes worthy of the artistry and impish sense of humor evident in Coronelli: Bar Globes.
Tuscany Bar Globe (opened)
Tuscany Bar Globe
These are also Italian – classic terrestrial globe outside, celestial globe inside – holding a spirit surprise guaranteed to make you smile impishly like a Coronelli.

Cheers to the prince of globe makers!
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