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Paolo Molaro

Osservatorio Astronomico di Trieste, Italy

"The mysteries of the telescopes in the Jan Brueghel and P.P. Rubens's paintings"

ABSTRACT: Jan Brueghel the Elder, sometimes in collaboration with Peter Paul Rubens, depicted four "telescopes" in paintings spanning the period between 1609 and 1621 while being court painter in Brussels at the court of the Archduke Albert VII and Isabella Clara Eugenia. We have investigated the nature and the origin of these telescopes with respect to the invention and the early development of the telescope. An optical "tube" that appears in a painting dated 1608-1612, and probably reproduced also in a painting from 1617, represents the earliest documentation of a Dutch spyglass. This instrument could tentatively be attributed to Lippershey, one of the possible "inventors" of the telescope and prior to those made by Galileo. Another two instruments which appear in two paintings from 1617 and 1618 are made of several draw-tubes and are too sophisticated for the period. We argue that the shape of the tube and of the eyepiece suggests that they may represent early examples of Keplerian telescopes. It is rather intriguing that this mounting became of use only about two decades after the paintings have been made.