The Astronomer

The Astronomer is a painting finished about 1668 by the Dutch painter Johannes Vermeer. It is oil on canvas and is on display at the Louvre, Paris

 This picture is taken from

Portrayals of scientists were a favourite topic in 17th century Dutch paintings. There is no certain evidence of who posed for the astronomer. Vermeer himself was proposed as a model but it was possibly the scientist Anton van Leeuwenhoek. He is believed to portray the same man in both The Astronomer and The Geographer. Van Leeuwenhoek was a merchant who sold cloth and Dutch inventor of the microscope and he was born the same year as Vermeer.  

                                                                                                                                      Ver imagen en tamaño completo           



The Astronomer







Ver imagen en tamaño completo  



 The Geographer










Some Scholars said that the man with straight nose and full lips, posed for both paintings. However, none of the models who posed for Vermeer’s interiors have been identified. As a result, other scholars have supposed that the majority of Vermeer’s characters were members of his family especially his wife and his younger daughters.

As you can see in this painting The Astronomer harmonizes space, colour, and light to convey a single human activity, a unified moment in time. Perfectly staged, the scene is a subtle composite of interlocking diagonal, rectangular, or elliptical fields and has no empty or undefined surface. The composition is not narrative but rather forms the context of a sole figure, frozen in a pose of profound preoccupation.

Another important characteristic of this painting is the meaning of the Globe. This globe presents different and complex constellations. In the centre we can see that Dragon and Hercules and to the right, Lyra. However, on the upper half to the left is the great Bear. This globe reflects the 17th century human fascination for astronomy and science.

Vermeer was well known for painting women. He was a painter of women Male figures have always played a supportive role in most of his paintings, representing a Suitor or a Musical Instructor.  It is only in The Astronomer and The Geographer in which men are portrayed as main figures.

Like many Vermeer characters, the astronomer is placed near a window on the onlooker’s left, which casts a glow on the man of science, revealing youthful freshness, sudden insight, and nervous anticipation. Expressive hands define the geometric space between the sympathetic figure and the celestial globe and drive the forward movement of the body. The desk, framed by a thick tapestry, holds an astrolabe (precursor of the sextant) and a book. On the wall is a circular figure with radial lines.

As a conclusion, I might say that The Astronomer is a true masterpiece that depicts not only a single man but the drawing of a new era and logical thought and scientific revolution. This painting represents the human fascination with the complexities of a world.


A story inspired in Vermeer’s


 This is the story of his life. He was about 20 when he started to go crazy. He had always been interested in astronomy and he dreamed of becoming an astronomy teacher so that everybody could learn to appreciate the universe. However, his passion led him into madness.

 Roger was born in a little town in the north of Germany. He came from a poor family so he had to start working when he was a child. He and his mother were beaten by his alcoholic father. He spent an unhappy childhood and astronomy provided him a way of escaping from his problems. Whenever he was not working, he was locked in his room looking for the constellation in the globe. He liked imagining a new planet with no sadness and poverty. Nevertheless, every morning when the sun was rising he had to return to his real life.

 Years had gone by, and his fascination for the astronomy was increasing. All he knew to speak about was the magnificence of the universe and the constellations. As his interest for astronomy was growing he was becoming a solitary man and he started to go mad. He was now 18 and his mother took him to a mental hospital so that he could get better. Every day, his mother went to the hospital to visit him. She spent most of the day there trying to help Roger to recover his sanity but all her efforts were futile. He was immersed in his own dream. Psychologists were attempting to understand what Roger was thinking about but they found it impossible. He was actually completely mad. One day his mother took him a picture in which he was looking at the globe carefully. Afterwards, she never came back again.

 Roger was travelling through different constellations. He had ended up living in a hard reality in order to enjoy an imaginary world full of love and happiness. His first stop was the Little Bear. There, he discovered what friendship was. He made lots of friends who helped him to adapt himself to their habits and lifestyle. He enjoyed talking to them, learning from their experiences and anecdotes. He felt safe and pleased in that new place he was living in. He realised how lovely people can be when they are not surrounded by poverty. Moreover, he understood that life can be funny and beautiful if you spend it with the appropriate people. He was happy though. He stayed in the Little Bear for two years but one day he woke up and he dicovered that he was not there any longer.

 It was midday exactly as he left the room and walked towards the lift. It was hot and sticky. He did not know where he was and he thought with a mixture of nostalgia and melancholy about life, being away from his friends in the Little Bear. But he pressed the button to call the lift and waited. He must have sighed loudly because the woman came up behind him as if he was concerned about him, even though we had not met. He looked relaxed and confident and I turned to her and nodded. The lift arrived and he waited politely to let her enter first. They both got in the lift when suddenly it broke down. The woman started talking and told him about everything that went wrong in her life. Roger was astonished. He did not understand what was happening in his life but he was trying to comfort the woman. Just like that they got stuck more than two hours. Roger told her about his life too. He told her that this morning he woke in that place and that he did not know where he was. She explained him that he was now in the Great Bear, 1.864 miles away from the Little Bear.

 All of a sudden the lift worked again and the doors opened and they walked into the street. Roger was bewildered. He had never experienced before this feeling of love so he suggested going for a coffee. They spent a great time together and that sentiment started to be reciprocal. They met many times again. Roger was completely in love, a feeling that he has never experienced during his life in Germany. However, once more, everything changed.

 It was 3rd of May when he woke up in huge colourful flat in the centre of somewhere. Once again he was perplexed. He went out and he asked to an old vagrant which was the name of that place. “Lyra”, he replied. “It is a small constellation next to the Great Bear. Roger was amazed. He did not know what was happening in his life. He began walking when he found a lottery stand. He went there and he bought a ticket in order to talk to somebody.

 Days had gone by when he realised that he had won the lottery. Roger was now a multi-millionaire but people on the street could not guess it. He washed his hair with bad quality shampoo and his jeans and trainers were bought in a sale. Everything about Roger reflects his hard life. He thought that there was no point of wasting money and still not achieving the quality of life he really wanted. His life was not about spending less or more money but spending in a way that reflects his values.

 Suddenly Roger started to tremble and sweet. Psychologists came to his room in the mental hospital and they tried to keep him calm. However, they could not save him. Roger was death. His life came to the end and everybody in the clinic was feeling sad. Roger had become an important person in their life because of his sensitivity.

 As psychologist said, Roger was travelling through an imaginary world in order to experience feelings he could not achieve in the real life. Throughout this unreal journey he had experienced three of the most important values for the Human Beings; Friendship, love and health. Thus, he was now ready to rest in peace.




11 responses to “The Astronomer

  1. The Astronomer, himself, reveals his identity within the picture. He points to it with, not an index finger, but a THUMB. The thumb, in common usage, is a phallic symbol of the era, which Vermeer revealed in his picture “The Lady and Her Maid”. The thumb being larger by a knuckle than reality would have it. Her other hand had no such problem. But, I digress, to introduce the Astronomer’s thumb as symbol and its placement on the celestial globe as significant.
    The thumb rests on the Aquarian symbol of the water bearer. Thus, the approximation of January to February is clearly indicated. The painting-within-a-painting of Moses being taken from the water by the daughter of Pharoah, which, incidentally, is the meaning of the name, Moses -”taken from the water”, aligns perfectly with this astrological speculation as well as the Name of the Astronomer. Who is HE? One need only count the full gestation period of a human from “the conception” (THUMB)to “the delivery”, which is painted for us in the dead centre of the globe, albeit below centre, to ascertain the month of birth which is indicated by the Scales of LIBRA – the month of OCTOBER – the same Month that our hero was baptised. VERMEER, whose name means “OF THE SEA”!

  2. Sorry, -The last line, above, should read:
    “…Vermeer, whose name means “of the LAKE”, or, “taken from the lake”.
    This does not change the meaning, of course.

  3. The Astronomer –
    Another important discovery, which has just come to light, is in partial contradiction to my original assertions above. The THUMB, as indicated above and identified as a rather gross and bawdy symbol of the male phallus, is NOT, as I had indicated, on the Aquarian “waterbearer” exactly. Re-investigation has revealed that the thumb rests precisely on a close and adjacent constellation called “PHOENIX”. The dark shape, which Vermeer touches on the celestial globe, is the flying bird identified in many mythologies as the bird that dies in a self-made funerary fire from the ashes of which it’s off-spring – a new phoenix rises to new life.
    In 1667, only one year before Vermeer painted this Astonomer (self-portrait), he was honoured in the book “Beschryvinge der Stadt Delft” a history of Delft honouring her citizens achievements and published by an extraordinary seventeen-year-old – Dirck Evertszoon van Bleyswijck. The publisher of the book, Arnold Bon, composed a poem with a last stanza relating the rise of Vermeer as a Masterpainter in the wake of the untimely death of Carel Fabritius in the tragic explosion of a gunpowder munitions storage, as follows:

    “Thus did this PHOENIX, to our loss, expire,
    In the midstand at the height of his powers,
    But happily there AROSE OUT OF THE FIRE, Vermeer, who masterfully trod in his path.”

    The importance of the Astronomer’s thumb, in relation to his identity, is tied to the known history through this published poem. The discovery of his pointing to the Phoenix is a pictorial allusion that connects, in another fascinating way, the Astronomer to none other than Vermeer himself.
    It is known that Antony van Leeuenhoek was born on October 24th – on the cusp of Scorpio, but possibly in LIBRA, because dates did shift. But, why would Vermeer paint Leeuenhoek with his thumb precisely on the PHOENIX? No. All points to te artist as the model as well as the Master!

  4. My SINCERE APOLOGIES in reference to the Phoenix constellation in relation to Vermeer’s coception dating in the above writings. The constellation on which his thumb rests is AQUILA, the EAGLE, which does not have the significance that a PHOENIX would have had! The Phoenix ,as I now discover is a constellation in the southern hemisphere. Again my apologies for my error.
    The placement of the THUMB and the span of his fingers would be the earliest date of conception and a span of possible dates thereafter. The extent of the lack of knowledge which Vermeer and the world of van Leeuenhoek wrestled with (and the reason for the span of the Astronomer’s fingers) in relation to the actual means of conception, scientifically, is enlightening and will surprise many who read the following:
    The span of his fingers makes logical sense realizing the level of knowledge available to Vermeer. It may also explain the “pie” shape in the chart hanging on the closet behind him.

  5. The Eagle Aquila disappointed, in that it was not the constellation Pheonix which had a direct correlation to Vermeer. The Pheonix constellation is, however, found in the Aquarian slice of the star-map, but under the right foot of the water-bearer figure of Aquarius in the southern sky.
    The THUMB rests on the northern wing of the Eagle. In the painting the wing is made with two dark shapes, having a thin, dark, vertical line between them, which is the Arrow (Sagitta), that is a small constellation crossing the wing-tip of Aquila. Within the seventeenth century, 1690, AFTER the death of Vermeer, Astronomer Johannes Hevelius identified a “new” and faint constellation, and invented it as the FOX and the Goose (Vulpeculum cum Anser) or the FOX (Vulpeculum). Just north of Sagitta and just south of the Swan (Cygnus) and just above the THUMB, that new constellation was realised. Too new to have been showing on the Hondius globe; it was a fox with a goose in its jaws. It is strange that Vermeer’s Astronomer is seeming to discover the “flying” FOX constellation, twenty-two years prior to its discovery by another Johannes. Also, that his father’s name was VOS (FOX), Reynier Vos, later changed to Vermeer, and the tavern he owned was called “Vliegend Vos” – the FLYING FOX!

  6. Vermeer’s Orthogonals and Other Visual Aids
    Often, Vermeer used alignments of straight lines as tactical directionals to strengthen the composition and to use orthogonals as means for ends other than the perspective of rooms and objects. The converging orthogonal lines of The Milkmaid, for example, do not find a single point on a horizon line, but are scattered like buckshot behind her right arm. The Luteplayer has similar problems with the lines of the window glass frames. One of those lines is askew. As in The Glass of Wine, verticals and lines off the vertical are alternated: window to wall, to picture frame, to chair legs, in a tottering rhythm, I think, to suggest inebriation in the young woman being seduced. This back-handed disrespect of our seeing (conscious perceptions), as compared to an abiding respect for our brains capacity to SEE (unconsciously and subliminally, if I can use those terms in reference to a seventeenth century painter) is evident in the purposeful adjusting of these straight lines, and many other aspects of his painting. The Astronomer is a case in point.
    It is a simple procedure to use a PAINT program; to acquire a copy of the painting and, with as much accuracy as the eye and hand permit, to draw and extend straight lines of a visible colour along the lines Vermeer provides. In the Astronomer, some of the orthogonals will converge to a point on the sleeve of the extended right arm. Some will not. a number from the top of the window will, instead, go to a point in the centre of the “X” in the date painted on the door of his closet. The line extended from the carved capital shape, in front of the stained glass’s central circle, meet at the tip of the man’s middle finger. Whereas, the window pane divider, beside this capital(two lines), extends to the tip of the upraised index finger at the globe. The window’s ledge has a carved edge, three lines of which converge at the tip of the THUMB resting on the globe.
    The closet has a carved top on which books are stored. The orthogonal of this cornich angles down the side of the cupboard toward the vanishing point of the perspective, but misses quite considerably to the left and touches the tip of the thumb of his left hand.
    The picture on the wall of Pharoah’s daughter holding Moses, aside from its symbolism is used by Vermeer as a directional device. The cross-corner angle line from top right to bottom left touches the head of the standing figure and the side of the maid seated by the water. extending the line, it is found to follow the direction of the left upper arm of the astronomer giving it visual strength. The astronomer’s chair orthogonals all meet at the vanishing point, except one. The top line of the back of the chair is significantly misaligned along the extended right arm to the globe and, NOT so significantly to the spot where the FOX constellation was later found.

  7. Vermeer’s straight lines in the Astronomer are found to be inconspicuous arrows to reveal points of particular interest requiring interpretation in the context of the work. There are a few more of note. From above, a line on each side of the window curtain extends on their angles almost in parallel. The right one touches the globe at its top/centre. Both lines, if extended, lie on either side of the scales of Libra at the mid-bottom, centre of the globe. A book (Bible?), with red died pages, lies angled at the left of the globe. The bottom line of this book extends to the scales and precisely to a light POINTILLE between the two pans of the scales, which is on the vertical midline of the globe. This pointille, like the pointille of the “Girl Reading a Letter by a Window”, is a “constantia” point for dividers or a compasses. A straigt line, extended from the Pie shape in the large circle, goes to the astronomer’s forehead at the hairline. The bottom line of the “birthchart”, (as I refer to chart on the closet), will extend to the paintings right edge. The paintings edge has cropped the painting-within-a-painting at the penis of the Moses child. The line from the birthchart does likewise. This, I propose is a secondary constantia point. A third is found in the centre of the “X” of the date on the closet door.
    As previously posited, the scales of Libra, as a birthdate, are indicated by the THUMB at the onset of Aquarius, the point of a conception. The baby Moses, taken from the water, as his name translates, would relate to the name, VERMEER, meaning “of the lake” or “from the lake”. Aquarius is the “water-bearer”. If Leewuenhoek is considered a “Libra” being born October 24, and baptised November 6th, 1632, then Vermeer is more so, being baptised on October 31st. This Astronomer is the Pheonix rising! Go to the GEOGRAPHER and use his dividers as a key. Insert the key into the pointille of the scales. The pointille between the scales will add circles to the straight lines. Scribe its “labore” point from both radii of the large circle on the birthchart – at the points where the “PIE” lines meet the circle. Scribe one line past the tip of the Astronomer’s nose and watch as the circle is drawn. The other point from the pie will pass at the hairline of his forehead at which the other radii pointed. Continue and mark wheere the line passes (the white shirt, for instance). Start again, at the top left corner of the birthchart, glancing off the circles circumference and around to his earlobes edge and highlight. Start at the tip of the left radius of the little circle that is well-lit. draw to the back edge of his ear and continue down low, to the tip of a leaf – one of two – on the carpet hanging. Then scribe from the chart’s right corner to the highlight at the crown of his head continuing to the tip of the other leaf at the bottom. Now, change the constantia point to the middle of the “X” in the date on the door and place the labore point at the lower radius point on the large circle. Draw the new circle to his eye; to his thumb and finger tips!
    The key has opened the lock. The Geographer and the Astronomer are VERMEER!

  8. The poem, in the Bleyswijck book on heroes of Delft’s history, which was composed by Arnold Bon, it’s publisher, includes this verse:

    “Thus did this PHOENIX, to our loss, expire,
    In the midstand at the height of his powers,
    But happily there AROSE OUT OF THE FIRE, Vermeer, who masterfully trod in his path.”

    I reintroduce the words of this poem for its inferred chronology of times alluded to by the writer. The “Phoenix”, as stated, is referring to Carel Fabritius; Rembrandt’s finest student and a newly adopted son of Delft in the early 1650’s. Here is a self-portrait and, also, his “Goldfinch”, that was painted in the year of his tragic death:

    Bon’s respect for the the giftedness of Fabritius and Vermeer over other fine painter’s, such as De Hoogh may be evident, but another reason for honouring Vermeer’s name in his poem would seem to be suggested beside the youth and promise and their separate fates on a day of disaster in Delft. In using the lives of these two painters as illustration, Bon, at once relates the unreasonable and wasteful loss of one third of their town, but punctuates with promise a future for Delft that the Hand of God has sustained! The Phoenix is not only a picture of a kind of death and resurrection of a town in these men, because of the baton placed, in Vermeer’s pecil and paint, but it points to the heavens in an astrological way. Fabritius was baptised on February 27, 1622. His birthdate, therefore, could easily be within the Aquarian slice of the year, ending on February 19, of the modern calendar. Vermeer pointed to the Aquarian sky with his thumb, which contains the Phoenix constellation, indicating his date of conception. The inexorable deadly date of the munitions magazine explosion written in Delft stone was on October 12, of 1654, when Vermeer was completing his twenty-second year. The closeness of the tragedy to his birthday and the fate of friends as opposed to his continued life, would have been a haunting to Vermeer and his family and neighbours. Perhaps October 12, was his birthday. To Arnold Bon it was! Not that stars rule our fate, but that though evil happens with swift and unchangeable results, good can be brought from the ruin in time, especially with trust in a loving God who will heal circumstances with new life and love.

  9. Pingback: “Los milagros del arte”(o que nos queda) en La elegancia del erizo | Club de lectura BiblioTea·

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