Influences: Art, Optics, and Astrology in the Italian Renaissance 9780226922850

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Influences: Art, Optics, and Astrology in the Italian Renaissance

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Illustration by Cesare Cesariano for Vitruvius, De architectura (Como: Gotardus de Ponte, 1521), fol. xi (verso). Courtesy of the University of Chicago Special Collections Research Center.

Influences Art, Optics, and Astrology in the Italian Renaissance

Mary Quinlan-McGrath e University of Chicago Press Chicago and London

Mary Quinlan-McGrath is professor of art history at Northern Illinois University. e University of Chicago Press, Chicago 60637 e University of Chicago Press, Ltd., London © 2013 by e University of Chicago All rights reserved. Published 2013. Printed in the United States of America 22 21 20 19 18 17 16 15 14 13

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isbn-13: 978-0–226-92284–3 (cloth) isbn-13: 978-0–226-92285–0 (e-book) isbn-10: 0-226–92284-7 (cloth) isbn-10: 0-226–92285-5 (e-book)

Publication of this book has been aided by a grant from the Millard Meiss Publication Fund of the College Art Association. Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data Quinlan-McGrath, Mary Influences : art, optics, and astrology in the Italian Renaissance / Mary QuinlanMcGrath. pages


Includes bibliographical references and index. isbn-13: 978-0-226-92284-3 (cloth : alkaline paper) isbn- 10: 0-226-92284-7 (cloth : alkaline paper) isbn-13: 978-0-226-92285-0 (e-book) isbn-10: 0-226-92285-5 (e-book) Renaissance—Italy.

1. Art, Renaissance—Italy.

2. Astronomy,

I. Title.

n6915.m42 2013 709.45'09024—dc23 2012021912 is paper meets the requirements of ansi/niso z39.48–1992 (Permanence of Paper).


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Preface ix Introduction 1.


e Study of the Heavens Is Holy: e Cosmos, the Creator, Vision, and the Soul



Let ere Be Light: Rays in the Macrocosm



Celestial Rays and the Earthly World of Change



e Physical Nature of Vision, the Material Image, and the Soul



Early Modern Ecosystems: e City, the Building, the Person



Architectural eory and Astrological Foundations: ree Case Studies


e Hidden Power in a Picture: How Celestial Rays Are Trapped in Images


Look, Reflect, Be Changed: e Great Astrological Vaults of the Italian Renaissance




Conclusion 195 Acknowledgments 201 Notes 203 Bibliography 255 Index 273

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his text investigates why art patrons of the fi eenth and sixteenth cen-

turies in Italy came to believe that celestial forces could operate through

their works of art and architecture. By the end of this text, I hope to persuade the reader that, given the evidence, there was a logical basis to this belief, even to the claim that the artwork affected the mind of the viewer in physical ways. is understanding gives a new meaning to the seductive power of art.

* Any sentient person who experienced a sunburn, or anyone who lived near the sea and noticed that the tides were correlated with the motions of the Moon, had some understanding that the heavens predictably influenced the things of Earth. Ancient Greek travelers had reported that the regions of the Scythian North, where the Sun was weakest, produced people as white skinned as their snows and that the strong Sun at the equator had blackened the Ethiopians. Celestial rays flowed in, and the heavens changed the Earth in observable paerns. e predictable change of the Earth by the heavens was the subject of astrology. Over the centuries, a very sophisticated astrological discipline emerged, convincing even to the greatest astronomers, including Regiomontanus, Copernicus, Kepler, and Galileo. If the great scientists from ix



Ptolemy through Kepler disparaged some of the details as incorrect and some of the practitioners as sloppy or unethical, the science itself was considered a reliably developing field. e macroconcepts concerning the unity and variety of the cosmos—its shared maer and shared force or energy as well as how these could be described mathematically—lay behind astrological study and still guide scientific inquiry today. Intellectual astrologers were part of this lineage. e Italian Renaissance also saw an efflorescence of visual arts related to the heavens. In past publications, I have considered specific questions of meaning in artworks having astronomical and astrological themes. But behind these studies loom the bigger questions. What did these artworks mean in the metaphysical and physical world inhabited by patrons and their audiences? How did the precepts of natural philosophy anchor a deeper understanding of the artworks? In what ways, beyond communicating ideas, did Renaissance intellectuals consider the artworks efficacious? I will argue that the most astrologically devout believed that visual culture itself could be animated by celestial forces and that the study of light radiation linked astrology, optics, and art. When properly treated through astrological practices, urban plans, architecture, and images were thought to participate in the convergence of celestial powers and to focus the radiation of the heavens on the city as a whole, its buildings, and its residents. is combination of art and astrology might sound like a belief in magic were it not a logical consequence of the finest Aristotelian and Neoplatonic natural philosophy of the time. is logic and a sense of discovery lay behind these practices and the arts produced within this context. In addition to examining the philosophical and scientific precepts, my work in this book also underscores a second point. We know that our experience of art is highly subjective. What we believe affects both what we see and how we perceive it. I suggest here that an understanding of urban plans, architecture, sculpture, and paintings that were believed to be infused with protective celestial powers made these works of human hands differently perceived by their original audiences. ese works were considered alive in ways that we miss. Using the ancient model of macrocosm to microcosm, I have organized the chapters from the larger concepts to the more particular. Chapter 1 treats metaphysical principles behind these beliefs. Chapters 2–4 focus on physical principles. ese chapters on early science move from the simplest (the structure of the universe and its relation to the horoscope map) to the most complex (the relation between radiation, vision, and the soul). Chapter 5 explains



astrological conjecture in early modern treatises on geography and then sets out the resulting understandings of the astrological relations between cities, buildings, and patrons. Chapter 6 turns to architectural treatises popular in the Renaissance that had astrological principles at their base and then considers three exemplary case studies—a city, a church, and a private residence—that demonstrate how the concepts in the geographic and architectural treatises were put into practice. Chapter 7 explains the rationale for the participation of two-dimensional artworks, especially paintings, within astrological protocol. Chapter 8 analyzes important astrological fresco cycles as efficacious “astronomical images,” thought to trap and transmit celestial rays, changing the viewers, or even those “in the vicinity,”1 both intellectually and physically. Briefly put, this text traces a certain understanding of light radiation— radiation that moves from the orb of the universe to the orb of the eye.

A Note on Capitalization and Terminology ere are several terms that have a common meaning to us but that had technical meanings for the natural philosophers we will be studying. I have capitalized these terms—for example, Form, Species, Qualities, Maer, and (a er these are defined in their most technical sense in chapter 3) Rays—in order to remind the reader that they are not to be thought of in our sense. Maers of definition: I will o en refer to a lover of the knowledge of nature, a philosopher of nature, as a scientist, a less cumbersome term. I will normally refer to what is popularly called a talisman as an astronomical image. I will use demon for a fallen angel but daemon for the term as Ficino used it.

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No lesson of psychology is perhaps more important for the historian to absorb than this multiplicity of layers, the peaceful coexistence of incompatible attitudes. There never was a primitive stage when all was magic; there never happened an evolution which wiped out the earlier phase. e . h . g om b ric h


n 1497, the year before he was executed, the great opponent of judicial astrology, Girolamo Savonarola, wrote with frustration that many now

trusted more in astrologers than in God.1 Although the claim was rhetorical, it

is certainly true that astrological beliefs permeated the culture of Renaissance Italy from the highest levels of political and intellectual power to the lowest. A glance at recent research in this area turns up the names of Popes Julius II della Rovere, Leo X Medici, and Paul III Farnese, the intellectual leaders Marsilio Ficino and Giovanni Pontano, the brilliant mathematician and astronomer Regiomontanus, rulers of state such as the Sforza and the Este, and the entrepreneurial giant Agostino Chigi.2 From astrological formulas it was believed that one could predict the




weather and related harvests or famines, foresee the advent of plagues and devise medical remedies, avoid the disasters of war, unmask rebellious citizens, and beer control the daily issues of one’s life and fortunes. Condoieri set their marches by the stars, and popes convened consistories according to their rays. With such promise, and with a substructure securely grounded in state-of-the-art mathematics and astronomy, it is no wonder that astrology mesmerized the poor and the rich, the educated and the uneducated alike. Knowledge of the future has long been sought.3

Terms We make a distinction today between astronomy, the province of cuing-edge mathematicians and physicists, and astrology, o en considered the realm of a demimonde. By contrast, in the Renaissance, the terms astronomy and astrology were typically used synonymously, sometimes inversely to our meaning, and, when a distinction was made, astrology was o en thought the more important of the two.4 e ancient scientist Ptolemy, who was both astronomer and astrologer, distinguished between the two disciplines, but most people who practiced the one also practiced the other, as did Ptolemy. Precise mathematical tracking of the heavens, part of astronomy in our sense of the term, was necessary as a technical base for the interpretive study, astrology.5 If one made the distinction, astrology was based on the theoretical physics and protochemistry that related the heavens and the Earth in precise ways and was credited with the application of celestial knowledge for altruistic goals. Astronomy had both the benefits and the limitations of its essential mathematical purity.6 While astronomy and astrology were generally used interchangeably in the fourteenth and fi eenth centuries, two other concepts should be distinguished since these had different fates in the intellectual controversies over astrology. Predicting the future required judgments or interpretations. As long as those judgments concerned macroevents such as the changes in seasons and weather paerns or the sudden disruption caused by earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, air pollution, or ensuing plagues, the validity of astrology was rarely doubted, even by its most acerbic critics.7 But predictions applicable to the individual seemed to threaten free will and, therefore, posed a different set of problems, both ethical and scientific.



Controversy and Astrology: Nature and Free Will While the long history of the debates over astrology is beyond the scope of this inquiry, a couple of points that are relevant to this book as a whole might be noted. It is a commonplace in the history of astrology that the practice ran afoul of religions because predictions were perceived to interfere with free will.8 While this was a common complaint of religious authorities, the emphasis on free will without further contextualization can be misleading. If the case of free will were simple, it would be hard to explain why intellects and canonical saints, such as Albert the Great and omas Aquinas, both of whom will figure in central ways in this text, believed astrology to be a valid and even beneficial science. When preachers inveighed against charlatans and the destruction of free will, as clerics from Augustine in the fi h century to Savonarola in the fifteenth did, it is because they had already decided against astrology for at least one larger reason. e discipline did not convincingly follow the laws of nature. If it had, it would have been understood as the Creator’s will, and that would have ended the discussion. But was that set of stars known as “Leo” a constellation made by God or an artificial construct of the human imagination? Were the mathematical measurements used in astrology those of nature or thirty degree limits set by human convention? e role of nature in the debate will be a central question throughout this text. In short, the controversies over free will were largely controversies over what was caused by nature and what was only imagined to be so caused.9 Astrological principles were ultimately subjected, we will see, to the most rigorous Aristotelian and Neoplatonic scientific scrutiny. In this introduction, however, I would like to take just a moment to note the larger qualifiers that modify the discussion of free will and nature. First, it was understood that nature by itself did determine many things but that the human soul was still free. For reasons that will be made clear in chapter 2, the celestial bodies were considered important participants in natural generation. No one doubted then (or now) that one’s natural generation, resulting in one’s birth, had already determined many features of one’s life: one’s family, gender, social status, biological and psychological health or “complexion,” talents, and many other characteristics. ese issues clearly limited one’s life choices, even in certain ethical ways. e choice to take someone’s life, for example, was considered ethically different for a ruler than for a peasant. Different birth temperaments were also understood to require different degrees of



self-control.10 But theologians did not see these naturally determined issues as infringing on free will any more then than now.11 Citing Ptolemy, Arab natural philosophers such as Abū Ma’shar, and others, the medieval scientist and cleric Roger Bacon noted that astrologers “do not maintain that there is an absolute necessity in things below due to the influence of the heavens, because free will is not subject to the things of Nature.”12 In general, celestial radiation was understood to affect bodies, including human bodies, but not the immaterial rational intellect, in this period considered the site of the immortal soul. In other words, the intellectual soul was above the material determinations of nature in the hierarchy of God’s creation and should triumph over it. How one behaved when confronted with fate was always a maer of personal will. e stars “inclined” because of their physical influences, but this did not determine the choices one made. Further, only the foolish would take any prediction as absolute and follow it blindly. Serious astrologers pointed to the many issues that made predictions likely approximations rather than certainties. In the case of an individual, the nature of the parents, the location of birth, and other equally important conditioning factors had to be considered when a judgment was made on a newborn.13 Apart from these material factors, there were methodological problems that precluded certainty. Astrological understandings were based on a correlation of historical skies with events witnessed at that time, but that same sky would not return in anyone’s lifetime. Others additionally argued that, even though astrological principles were correct, the mathematical knowledge had not yet been developed that could sufficiently measure the radiation of the heavens in a way that reliably predicted precise outcomes. Further, incompetent and sloppy practitioners o en misused the celestial data in their computations. For these and similar reasons, the most educated astrologers expected astrological information to be carefully interpreted and taken seriously, but one was not to assume that it determined one’s fate. Balanced against these concerns over free will, inexact science, and imprecise mathematics, theologians could yet see many positive features in the study of astronomy and astrology. In chapter 1, I point to ways in which the study of the heavens led early thinkers to essentially religious conclusions on the existence of a creator and the nature of the immortal soul. In addition, the beauty and order of the celestial world aracted people to the study of the heavens in what we might consider a mystical sense. e benevolence of the Sun, the majesty of the stars and planets undimmed by our light pollution, these seem to have made people feel intimately connected with the larger order—kin with



the cosmos, microcosm to macrocosm. Such a beautiful order was seen as an aribute of the Creator, and, given that fact, the steady movements of the celestial bodies could be appreciated as markers of truth. Anyone who has read Dante’s Paradiso or the simple prayer of Francis of Assisi, the “Canticle of the Sun,” will understand this. Further, since both ancient and early modern scientists viewed nature as purposeful and directed toward a goal, it also seemed unlikely to them that the great power of the heavens was simply beautiful or existed as a mathematical paern.14 e Sun, the Moon, and the stars functioned—a point that was obvious for the Sun and the Moon and presumed to be the case for the other celestial bodies. eir function was part of their awesome beauty. is inevitably led to the altruistic uses of the science that were regularly considered to be astrology’s raison d’être. e Creator had intended its use for societal and personal benefits that ranged from agriculture and navigation to marital choices and medical treatments. For both mystical and moral reasons, then, the pursuit of astrology was, arguably, a theological pursuit. In general, the problems with astrology in any theological sense were not problems with the larger natural philosophical principles of the science or even with the issue of free will. Rather, the devil was in the details.15 Some astrological practices were, at the very least, bad behavior, even if not absolutely unethical or immoral. Take the practice of predicting someone’s death. Although Scripture made it clear that the person should always be spiritually prepared for death since its time is unknown, most of the learned believed at least part of the scientific rationale for the practice of predicting the time and type of death. Because it was generally assumed by the educated that the individual’s bodily constitution, or complexion, was influenced by the inflowing of celestial rays at the moments of the person’s conception or birth, the study of astrology had become fundamental to the medical curricula.16 It follows that this inborn complexion or personal constitution—what we might today consider one’s genetic makeup—could account for biological as well as temperamental health. As such, this could affect everything from one’s length of life to the proper time to administer medicines that worked with that individual’s constitution. is logically led to astrological predictions on illnesses, life expectancy, and the circumstances that might aend one’s death. At its most benign, this astrological practice was no more pernicious than our practice of giving a person with a life-threatening disease some sense of its likely progress. Preventive strategies or appropriate acceptance would follow. But the practice took a different turn when the prediction of death was applied



to one’s enemies.17 Here, a gleeful note, or a degree of vengeful fantasy, can be detected. In addition to this ignoble schadenfreude, such prophecies could be particularly incendiary, emboldening the violent to carry out God’s work. Astrology had a bloody as well as a sublime side. For instance, astrologers claimed as validation of their science the fact that Pico della Mirandola, the outspoken opponent of judicial astrology, still died according to the time predicted by his horoscope. Others believed, however, that Pico’s sudden death was due to poisoning, mooting any natural astrological causes. Savonarola, equally scornful of the science, also died according to signs that could be seen in his birth horoscope. But his public execution according to these signs would also seem weak evidence as proof of astrology’s legitimacy. One might more readily see in this act the violent accomplishing what they took to be God’s will.18 Less dramatic problems with astrological detail resulted from the ambiguities in ancient astrological literature, which claimed to record relations between historical events and the configuration of the sky existing at the time of the event. ere was no doubt about the great debt owed to two thousand years of mathematical records on the movements of the celestial bodies. But the ancient reports on the events themselves were of uneven quality and questionable validity. is literature contained internal conflicts, yet it was this ancient record on which astrologers relied for a detailed understanding of the “natures” of the planets, stars, decans, faces, and other astrologically potent areas of the heavens. Scholars could not easily jeison ancient witnesses derived from the cultures of Egypt, Babylon, India, Greece, and China. ese revered texts o en referred to yet older books that were no longer extant. Even when the learned viewed some of the information skeptically, they rarely dismissed it altogether. As the scientists saw it, they needed to work harder to understand the natural laws underlying this ancient testimony and to map the astronomical mathematics onto the witnessed accounts more accurately.

* Given the data and the prevailing theories then available, it is easy to sympathize with diametrically opposed views on astrology in the early modern period. When two Dominicans such as Albert the Great and Girolamo Savonarola face off across the centuries, who could guarantee the winner given the available evidence? Albert saw the critique of astrology as an aack on the intellectual gi s given to people by the Creator. From his deeply learned viewpoint, ignorant naysayers were destroying a great discipline, one that was based on centuries of astronomical observations and historical testimony and that was



still developing. Why would the divine have granted people the ability to track the planets and stars if not to use and improve that knowledge for worshipful and altruistic purposes? Far from inhibiting free will, in his view astrological study helped one make the best-informed life choices.19 is was using Godgiven intelligence. Meanwhile, Savonarola could author a persuasive diatribe against astrology, noting, among many convincing arguments, that astrological prognostications were read subjectively, that people remember only the anomalous coincidence and quickly forget all the other erroneous predictions, and, further, that scapegoating the planets was, ultimately, immoral—it was not Mars that created wars but the greed and luxury of princes.20 When this debate spilled over into the Reformation, Protestant thinkers were equally divided. Melanchthon took the approach of Albert the Great, while others echoed the arguments of Savonarola. e learned controversy over astrology in this era is fascinating because the evidence was in many ways inconclusive. One can find the basic issues outlined in Savonarola’s small book Contra l’astrologia divinatrice. I suggest here only a glimpse of the debate’s parameters. But this must suffice, for I do not wish to distract my reader from the central questions of this book—why the learned believed in astrology and how art participated within its practices. e great nineteenth-century historian and critic of astrology Auguste Bouché-Leclercq was quick to censure what he saw as intellectual eclecticism within astrological concepts. Certainly, one can agree that astrological theories emerged from disparate early speculations on the nature of the universe, some of which contradicted each other.21 By the Renaissance, the best of these authorities had been integrated. Further, perhaps we should more generously admit that the culling of what were perceived to be the best of the earlier sources is still the normal practice in many disciplines. Renaissance thinkers acknowledged that the truth had a variety of origins. Where these did not conflict, the best parts of each were extracted. Where conflict remained, interpretations were advanced to adjudicate and synthesize the conflicting evidence in a developing discipline. is is still the way knowledge grows. Jacob Burckhardt knew astrology to be pervasive in Renaissance Italy, though he thought it perverse within humanist culture.22 However, he never looked into its logic and, thus, could not understand how those whom he admired could have been duped into its practice. We have a different opportunity.

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The Study of the Heavens Is Holy The Cosmos, the Creator, Vision, and the Soul

None of the accounts now given concerning the Universe would ever have been given if men had not seen the stars or the sun or the heaven. p l ato Who could know heaven save by heaven’s gift and discover God save one who shares himself in the divine? m a r cus m a n il iu s


n October 14, 1573, a painter waited in Rome for an order from Cardinal Alessandro Farnese to set out for the family estate at Caprarola, about

thirty miles north of the city. ere, this painter would undertake the design and decoration of the villa’s main audience hall in one of the most beautiful palaces of Italy (fig. 1; plates 1–3). e visitor to this room now looks up through the oval framed ceiling, ringed by painted clouds, and into the sapphire blue (plate 1). ere, the great constellations of the heavens, from the Lile Bear in the north to the Altar in the south, from Canis Major to the Charioteer, charge the skies as the zodiacal constellations weave between them. All these constellations, recognizable from their personifications and myths, are yet further 9


Chapter One

1. View of the Sala della Cosmografia, Palazzo Farnese, Caprarola, ca. 1573–75. © SEAT Pagine Gialle S.p.A.

distinguished by the golden stars that shimmer at their points of light. Two interlopers are camouflaged among them—the single planet Jupiter and a charioteer falling from the sky (plates 2 and 3, respectively). From the upper le , Jupiter hurls his lightning bolt, striking Phaeton across the ceiling at the lower right. ere Phaeton, his chariot, and his team of four white horses spin into free fall.1 is vault and a decorative zone connecting it with the walls feature the heavens that were related to the cardinal’s birth horoscope and, through the planet Jupiter, particularly to the date and time found in that birth chart when he was to be made a cardinal at the age of fourteen years, two months, and fi een days (fig. 2). e next day, a special courier arrived with the order from the cardinal, and the painter began his journey. Why had the cardinal’s painter been asked to wait? We will probably never know with certainty, but the evidence suggests that, just as condoieri, ship captains, and merchants waited for the right celestial moment to begin a campaign or commence a trip, the cardinal’s painter was asked to wait for the elected astrological time to set out.2 At least we do know with certainty that important members of the Farnese family, among

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them this cardinal and his even more learned grandfather, Pope Paul III, were immersed in astrological precepts and practices. We also know from the correspondence concerning the delay that the cardinal was finicky about every detail of this frescoed hall. He was seeking a decoration based on sound “doctrine and practice” and good authors (the astrological poet Hyginus alone is named). Part of best practice for the creation of an astronomical image was the selection of the most propitious celestial rays under which to embark on the mission. is special sky was found through the construction of an election horoscope.

2. Horoscope of Cardinal Alessandro Farnese. From Luca Gaurico, Tractatus astrologicus (Venice: Curtius Troianus di Navò, 1552), fol. 36r. Courtesy of e Newberry Library, Chicago. Call no. Case B 8635.328.


Chapter One

In fact, this vault itself may have been understood by the cardinal as a functioning astronomical image—one that aracted, held, and then passed on celestial rays to the viewer or even to casual visitors. We will return to the cardinal’s painter at the end of this book. But it should be noted at the outset that the learned Farnese were far from alone in their devotion to astrology in early modern Italy. In later chapters, I will add to the Farnese patrons such others as the Della Rovere, the Chigi, the Sforza, and the Medici, all of whom also funded astrological works of art and architecture.

* Today, few would think of astronomy and astrology as fields related to theology. Fewer still would consider that physically absorbing celestial rays could have been considered a spiritually beneficial exercise. But early modern scientists o en drew theological and altruistic conclusions from a study of the heavens. Without this religious subtext, one tied to the scientific laws of the Creator’s natural world, it would be hard to explain why educated religious people such as the Farnese and others patronized artworks centered on astrological themes and practices. It is symptomatic of the intimate relation between science and theology in this area that I will rely on natural philosophers such as Plato and pagan poets such as Manilius to make the theological case for astrology in this first chapter. en I will turn to theologians to explain the scientific principles in the chapters devoted to science.3 e relations between vision, epistemology, astrology, and theology that are central to the argument of my text are all found, in nuce, within Plato’s Timaeus. In this text, four closely interrelated points are salient. (1) e study of the heavens had convinced ancient natural philosophers that there was a unified cosmos, and this suggested the work of a single creator. (2) is study had led to a corollary belief that the Creator had given people, alone among all animals, a share in the divine intelligence, this share being the immortal part of the soul or psyche. Without this sharing of the divine intelligence, people would neither have noticed the cosmic paerns nor have been able to track and understand them. (3) Vision served as the threshold for the study of the heavens. (In this chapter, we will see how the premise has a philosophical basis, and, in chapters 3–4 and 7–8, we will see the ways in which vision and the visual arts were understood to interact with the heavens in physical ways.) (4) Finally, a corollary of the previous points, the study of the heavens was itself considered spiritually beneficial. It provided insight, especially of a

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mathematical type, into the created universe. is, in turn, led to a marveling at the cosmic order and from that to awe and reverence for its creator. is process was considered spiritually formative for the immortal part of the soul, preparing it for its return to the Maker at the death of the body. is therapeutic aspect of celestial observation gave spiritual purpose to both the science and the art. Following the logic of the ancient philosophers and poets, it is not surprising to find that an intellectual cardinal, Pierre d’Ailly, living and working in Italy in the fi eenth century, could call astrology “natural theology.”4 In this chapter, I provide a snapshot of these four concerns, tracking a select group of ancient and early modern authors who were admired by Renaissance astrologers—Plato, Manilius, Ptolemy, Albert the Great, Roger Bacon, and Marsilio Ficino. While these four points will be acknowledged as philosophical concerns in this chapter, in subsequent chapters we will see that all four also had physical consequences. In those physical consequences, the aetherial descends to the earthy. However, both the larger metaphysical concepts and their physical corollaries grounded the belief in astrology and did so in ways in which the visual arts were understood to participate.5

See the Unity—a Single Maker At an observational level, the intricately repeating paerns of the heavens and the apparently purposeful and beneficial relations of these paerns to days and nights, to the seasons, tides, climates, and geographic diversity, had led philosophers to speculate that the universe was not random and accidental but rather a purposeful, interrelated, and beautiful order. Such beauty and harmonious operation suggested the work of a single benevolent mind—a creator of that integrated whole. is observed connectedness of the cosmos was a basic understanding on which both the theory of a creator and the theory of astrology were grounded. e observations of mathematical astronomy supported the protochemical and physical connections understood to be part of astrological theory.6 In Plato’s Timaeus, the eponymous speaker is introduced as “our best astronomer [who] has made it his special task to learn about the nature of the Universe.” Timaeus then provides the probable account of the creation of the world, an account that seems to have grounded the relation between vision, astronomy-astrology, and the curative nature of the heavens for Renaissance astrologers: “None of the accounts now given concerning the Universe would ever have been given if men had not seen the stars or the sun or the heaven.


Chapter One

But as it is, the vision of day and night and of months and circling years has created the art of Number and has given us the notion of Time but also means of research into the nature of the Universe. From these we have procured Philosophy in all its range, than which no greater boon ever has come or will come, by divine bestowal unto the race of mortals.”7 In Plato’s account, observation of the heavens and reflection on their logic lead to the development of all the intellectual disciplines, which he summarizes. First among these is mathematics, or “Number.” But the further mention of “research into the nature of the Universe” suggests pre-Socratic understandings of the elements, the proto “chemistry,” “physics,” and “physiology” that are featured in the Timaeus. Finally, the study of the heavens procured “Philosophy in all its range” as celestial observation leads to considerations of the nature of the universe, of the divine, and of the place of the person in the cosmos. is observation of and reflection on the physical, Timaeus notes, had thus led to theories of the metaphysical, “Philosophy,” and ultimately to the theory of a beneficent creator of this world, Plato’s Demiurge.8 Teachings of later Platonists, especially Plotinus (d. 270 CE), were central to theologians in the monotheistic traditions, Augustine being the most notable Christian example. Plotinus interpreted Plato’s theory of a unified cosmos in a way even more appealing to these religious traditions. He theorized that the created world was an extension of the Maker, an emanation from the One.9 According to this theory, a succession of entities flowed forth from the One, each becoming more material as it existed at a greater distance from its immaterial divine source. Within this hierarchical descent, where each superior level governed its successors, the stars and planets occupied an intermediary position between the One and the terrestrial world. e celestial world was the most rarified part of the material world and carried within it all the Qualities of the lower earthly entities. At the farthest remove from the One was the Earth. ough sullied by its materiality, it was still connected to the divine. Plotinus’s emanation theory, as it was developed by late antique and early modern scientists, grew to include physical consequences, especially in relation to the physics of light rays.10 By the thirteenth century, the natural philosopher and bishop of Lincoln Robert Grosseteste, whom we will meet in later chapters, and the fi eenth-century scientist and priest Marsilio Ficino could rely on Plotinus’s understanding of Plato for a highly refined theory relating to light, universal causation, and vision that Ficino further connects to practices within astrology and the visual arts.11 Turning from the philosophical to the ancient poetic tradition, these four

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themes found in the Timaeus are also common. e Roman poet Marcus Manilius’s Astronomica is the source for several Renaissance astrological artworks and provides a poetic parallel to the Platonic logic.12 Appreciated by Renaissance intellectuals and art patrons alike, Manilius probably owed his popularity in this period to his theological speculation. His text is so laced with religious feeling that one forgets at times that it is a work of astrology. In book 1, Manilius asserts that the beautiful cosmic order is evidence of a divine reason and creator: “For my part I find no argument so compelling as this to show that the universe moves in obedience to a divine power and is indeed the manifestation of God, and did not come together at the dictation of chance. . . . If chance gave such a world to us, chance itself would govern it. . . . Why are the summer nights and the nights of winter ever made beautiful with the selfsame stars? . . . [A]ll of this is not the result of chance, but the plan of a God most high.”13 is ancient tradition on the relation between nature and the divine was seamlessly joined in early modern religious thought. In a long passage defending astrology, Albert the Great discussed the “great wisdom” found in the judgment of the stars and characterized it as a study that links physical and metaphysical disciplines. is knowledge of the cosmic order and its interconnections, especially the natures of the celestial bodies and the changes that these cause in the earthly world, is for Albert “one of the primary proofs that there is only God, glorious and sublime in heaven and on earth.”14

Understand the Unity—the Divine Soul e outward observation of a beautiful and interrelated cosmic unity, with its intimation of a single creator, had led to an important inner corollary on the nature of the human soul. If the Creator had not only made the world but also given people, alone among the animals, the ability to observe and understand this order through the discovery of mathematical laws and then to record and pass on this knowledge for the development of mathematics and other intellectual disciplines, it was reasoned that this human intellect could exist only because the Creator had shared some of the divine intellect with people, distinguishing the human race from all other animals. is share came to be considered the immortal part of the animal soul. Without this, what was merely seen as animals see would never have been understood.15 is divine gi , it was further reasoned, could be neither material nor mortal and would, therefore, return to the Creator at the death of the body. is theory of the soul had a physical development in Plato’s Timaeus and


Chapter One

became central to astrological theory.16 e Demiurge fashioned human souls out of the divine intelligence and then sent the souls down through the celestial regions. Although the details in the Timaeus were vague (as a “probable account” the dialogue was not intended to be definitive), the text suggested that the Demiurge had delegated the creation of the physical bodies for these divine souls to the planetary regions or deities. Later theoreticians, following Plato’s lead, assumed that the physical planets or planetary deities had invested these divine souls with physical characteristics during their descent. Depending on the configuration of the heavenly bodies at the time of the soul’s passage to Earth, the individual souls acquired particular Qualities that determined physical characteristics, temperaments, talents—in sum, much of a person’s future. e late antique author Macrobius (fl. ca. 430 CE) developed this Platonic theme of the descent of the soul through the planetary spheres in his Saturnalia and Commentary on the Dream of Scipio, texts that were popular in Europe into the eighteenth century. In these, he speculated on the kinds of psychological traits that were picked up in the different planetary realms, characteristics that could be described as martial, jovial, saturnine, and so forth, as well as on the portals through which the soul passed on its descent from the Creator to the Earth. According to him, the soul was warmed at birth as it passed through its entry portal at the Tropic of Cancer and then cooled at death as it returned to its celestial home via the Tropic of Capricorn.17 In artworks, the most obvious application of this theory is found in the subject of the planetary children. In these series of images, the progeny are grouped with the planetary deity responsible for bestowing their specific gi s. In figure 3, for example, the children of Mercury busy themselves with talents he has given. Depictions of the planetary children can be found in the Italian Renaissance in a wide range of media from luxury manuscripts to modest woodcuts as well as in fresco cycles such as that in the Vatican’s Borgia apartments.18 When, in his Lives of the Artists, Giorgio Vasari reported that Michelangelo was born under the happy influences of Mercury, Venus, and Jupiter, this was but another example of the commonplace that Mercury dispensed artistic talent, supported in this case by the two “beneficents,” Jupiter and Venus.19 Details on talents, physical and psychological characteristics, or portals of entry and egress were folksy applications of Plato’s larger understanding of the nature of the soul. Turning again from the philosopher Plato to the poet Manilius, this theme

3. Mercury’s Children, Baccio Baldini, engraving, ca. 1460. Courtesy of the Museo Civico del Castello Visconteo, Pavia.


Chapter One

of the divinely created soul that becomes recognized by meditating on the heavens is similarly found: [Who] can doubt that a link exists between heaven and man . . . into whom alone indeed has God come down and dwells, and seeks himself in man’s seeking of him? Who could know heaven save by heaven’s gi and discover God save one who shares himself in the divine? Who could discern and compass in his narrow mind the vastness of this vaulted infinite, the dances of the stars, the blazing dome of heaven, and the planets’ everlasting war against the signs, had not nature endowed our minds with divine vision, had turned to herself a kindred intelligence, and had prescribed so great a science? Who, unless there came from heaven a power which calls us heavenward.20

is soul “calls us heavenward” both to the study of the heavens and, at death, to the divine. Later still, in book 4, Manilius repeats this theme: “Can one doubt that a divinity dwells within our breasts and that our souls return to the heavens whence they came? . . . Why wonder that man can comprehend heaven, when heaven exists in their very beings and each one is in a smaller likeness the image of God himself?”21 is astrological hymn to the beneficent Creator who had given mortals both the beauty of the heavens and the divine intellect to understand and appreciate them must have seemed again a natural theology to early modern intellectuals. Marsilio Ficino, an admirer of Manilius, repeats these same points with ever more hyperbolic extension in a discussion of astronomers both ancient and Florentine. He considered their achievements in mastering the knowledge of the heavens to be proof of their semidivine status. “Since man has understood the order of the celestial spheres—from whence they are moved, where and in what measure they proceed, what they produce—who can deny that he is nearly of the same genius as the author of the spheres, and that he could, in a certain sense, make the heavens if he could obtain the instruments and the celestial maer? Because now he is able to produce them, though of a different maer, but in a similar order.”22

Vision Is the reshold to the Knowledge Acquired by the Soul It is well-known that Plato considered vision fallible, but one should also recognize through the Timaeus the important epistemological position that Plato accords it. Vision lay at the base of the astonishing advances in science. Without vision, there would have been no discovery of the beauty and the silent

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paerns of the heavens. Without this discovery, the mathematical disciplines would have been inhibited. Without mathematics, the physical disciplines would not have developed. Lacking those other disciplines, philosophy itself would have been stymied. Ancient natural philosophers knew that, without vision, the silent movements of the cosmos and much of the knowledge that developed from the observation thereof would never have been understood—a point noted by modern historians of science as well.23 (Our extension of vision through microscopes and telescopes continues to aest to its importance in the development of knowledge.) We have seen Timaeus/Plato assert: “None of the accounts now given concerning the Universe would ever have been given if men had not seen the stars or the sun or the heaven.” He states in his next sentence: “is I affirm to be the greatest good of eyesight.”24 Vision, then, is for Plato a critical component in the human acquisition of knowledge. e vision of the heavenly movements had led to the recognition of their mathematical order and on to the contemplation of larger metaphysical questions. It is important to note, however, that Plato adheres to a principle of vision held by ancient students of optics—healthy human vision is always connected with thinking. People who merely see the heavens and do not contemplate them are not fully human. In Plato’s belief, when these individuals are reincarnated, they come back as birds, capable only of simple sensual observation without consideration of the cosmic relations, mathematical paerns, or the philosophical consequences.25 is understanding, that vision is necessarily completed in the mind through reason, was the norm for ancient, medieval, and early modern students of vision, as we will see in subsequent chapters. For Plato, the completion in the mind includes the comprehension of the celestial mathematics.26 is understanding of vision and the mind eventually became central to a theory of the intake of celestial rays via images, a theme of my later chapters. is connection of themes concerning vision, knowledge, and the heavens can be found in other ancient texts as well. Plato’s pupil Aristotle had great respect for vision, and, while his aitude toward astrology was generally negative, medieval and early modern astrologers depended on his scientific observations and theories for their astrological rationale. Indeed, they considered him among their great authorities.27 Aristotle wrote that sight, “queen of the senses,” made learning possible and that the vision of the heavens was the gateway to deeper knowledge. Aristotle begins the Metaphysics with the statement: “All men, by their nature, desire knowledge. An indication of this is our esteem for the senses . . . and most of all the sense of sight. . . . [O]f all the senses sight


Chapter One

best helps us to know things, and reveals many distinctions.” He continues by explaining that the beginning of all philosophy comes from wondering “about the greater maers, about the changes of the moon and of the sun, about the stars and about the origin of the universe.”28 Scientists of the early modern period commented on this. Roger Bacon writes: “Aristotle says in his Metaphysics, Book One, that vision reveals to us the differences among things, since by means of vision we experience everything in the heavens and on earth.” He then turns immediately from vision to its seat in the brain and continues: “To discover what is required for vision, we must begin with the parts of the brain and the powers of the soul.”29 For Plato, Aristotle, Bacon, Ficino, and others, gaining true knowledge about the universe and the human person is one of the ultimate purposes of life and one of the most important ethical goals. is goal begins with seeing and thinking about the cosmos. In the poetic tradition the same is found. e Stoic Manilius discusses the place of vision in the discovery of knowledge in a long passage concluding book 4 of the Astronomica: God grudges not the earth the sight of heaven but reveals his face and form by ceaseless revolution, offering, nay impressing, himself upon us to the end that he can be truly known, can teach his nature to those who have eyes to see, and can compel them to mark his laws. Of itself the firmament summons our minds to the stars, and in not concealing its ordinances shows that it would have them known. Who then would deem it wrong to understand what it is right for us to see? Scorn not your powers as if proportionate to the smallness of the mind: its power has no bounds. . . . [T]hus the tiny pupil of the eye takes in the whole of heaven, and eyes owe their vision to that which is so very small, whilst what they behold is so very large; thus the seat of the mind . . . exercises from its constricted abode dominion over the whole body. . . . [R]eason is what triumphs over all. Be not slow to credit man with vision of the divine.30

is broader understanding of vision’s role in the discovery of knowledge is commonly found among educated astrologers of the early modern period. e Arab philosopher and scientist al-Kindi, on whom Bacon, Pecham, Ficino, and others relied, begins De radiis stellarum, his astrological treatise, with praise of vision, especially among the wise, who can observe and discern the hidden laws of the universe.31 Many of the most important students of astronomy and astrology also wrote treatises on optics. Following the tradition of Ptolemy, who had writ-

e Study of the Heavens Is Holy


ten the most important ancient text on vision, al-Kindi and Westerners such as Roger Bacon, John Pecham, Marsilio Ficino, Luca Gaurico, and Kepler fit this paern. ey all investigated the interrelated fields that required an understanding of the radiation of light and its mathematics. At the most basic level, if one could not see—and, at the more sophisticated level, if one could not see with the understanding of the ways in which light travels and can be mathematically tracked—one could not be a good astronomer-astrologer.32 e close relation between astronomy, astrology, and vision was obvious at several levels. is theme in Plato and others of the importance of vision is suggestive of later developments in the role of the visual arts within astrological practices. Vision was the threshold for the intellectual understanding of the heavens, and, within the later astrological tradition, it also served as a physical conduit channeling both natural and artificial celestial influences through the eyes and into the soul.

Vision and Contemplation of the Heavens Form the Soul A subtext—that therapeutic benefits are to be gained in studying the heavens— has been part of all three of the preceding themes. e astronomer Timaeus teaches that such study prepared the immortal part of the soul, the “divine part within,” for its return to the Creator. e passage on vision from the Timaeus quoted above continues to this conclusion: “God devised and bestowed upon us vision to the end that we might behold the revolutions of Reason in the Heaven and use them for the revolvings of the reasoning that is within us . . . and that through learning and sharing in calculations which are correct by their nature, by imitation of the absolutely unvarying revolutions of the God we might stabilize the variable revolutions within ourselves.” is is mirrored at the end of the dialogue: “[A]nd for the divine part within us the congenial motions are the intellections and revolutions of the Universe. ese each one of us should follow, rectifying the revolutions within our head, which were distorted at our birth, by learning the harmonies and revolutions of the Universe, and thereby making the part that thinks like unto the object of its thought, in accordance with its original nature, and having achieved this likeness aain finally to that goal of life which is set before men by the gods as the most good both for the present and for the time to come.”33 Not only is vision the point of entry to disciplinary knowledge; owing to its connection with cognition, it is also a portal to the soul. Ideally, through the proper celestial study, the soul is formed and


Chapter One

prepared for its return to its original perfection. e immortal part of the soul can be shaped and purified through the study of the cosmic mathematical patterns. is theme is present in several chapters below. is immortalizing benefit to mathematical astronomy was not lost on astronomer-astrologers from Ptolemy on.34 By the first century CE, Plato’s and Manilius’s association of the study of the heavens with the recognition of a beneficent creator seems to have been taken for granted by learned astrologers. Ptolemy couched his work on mathematical astronomy and astrology within the assumption of a divine order and pointed out the human benefits in the application of astrology as well. Early modern astrologers repeated this validation for their study. e scientist and (later) saint Albert the Great assured his thirteenth-century readers that the study of astrology leads to a greater understanding of creation and of God and that this, in turn, “more intensely provokes men to love God.”35 A compact theological point could be derived: See the heavens, reflect, understand. In Plato’s Timaeus, this observation and reflection made “the part that thinks like unto the object of its thought, in accordance with its original nature.”36 at original nature had come from the divine, and the study of the heavens would now refine the soul and prepare it for its return. Astrologers additionally linked this theological substrate to practical and altruistic applications. As Albert the Great had argued, why would God have given astronomical and astrological knowledge if one were not to use it for the beerment of others? By the Italian Renaissance, this beneficially formative effect in studying the heavens had become a commonplace.37 Among the most memorable examples is one in the Paradiso where Dante completes the circle suggested in the Timaeus, a work that he duly cites.38 As the soul ascends through the celestial orbs, it is purified through contemplation of the heavenly spheres and the deity that made them. Underlying these texts, one senses that the great beauty of the heavens called forth in its viewers a deep theological response. Marsilio Ficino developed the theme in his Platonic eology and could suggest that the study had even gained heaven for several pagan philosophers. In the proem to book 3 of De vita, he finds that the ancient exploration of the connections between the elemental world of change and the heavenly influences that caused them (a theme of the chapters to follow) had produced great benefits for these thinkers: oughts of this kind profited them, as it seems, first of all for this present life; for Pythagoras and Democritus and Apollonius of Tyana and all who have made

e Study of the Heavens Is Holy


this their special study have, by using the things they knew, aained good health and long life. Such thinking was also of advantage for their future life, both to prolong it by spreading their fame among posterity and to enjoy it in eternity with God, since from the wondrous order of the whole universe they ultimately came to know its Helmsman and, once they knew Him, they loved Him above all things.39

By our period, the link between vision and the study of the heavens could be extended even to the study of artificially made images of the heavens. In this vein, in De vita 3.19, Ficino could encourage a viewer to look long at and reflect on a painting of the heavens. He envisions this as a curative process that reverses earthly fragmentation and restores in the soul a sense of the unity of the cosmos. A er this contemplation, the person will return to daily life renewed, carrying the painted image in his mind, noting, not “the spectacle of individual things” (a fragmentation to be avoided by Platonists), but “the figure of the universe.”40 For Ficino, even the artificial heavens have the power to move the student toward a purer understanding of the One. Art historians have periodically argued Neoplatonic themes in Renaissance paintings, but perhaps one of the most obvious, Boicelli’s Saint Augustine (see plate 4), has been overlooked. e painting is a virtual book illustration of these Timaeus passages. Boicelli made it for the Vespucci family and almost certainly for Marsilio Ficino’s close friend Giorgio Antonio Vespucci, a fellow Florentine Plato scholar and astronomer.41 In the painting, Augustine stares transfixed as he looks at what Ficino calls, in a key passage of De vita 3.19, an artificial image of the universe—an armillary sphere. Golden rays of light flow through the sphere and enter the eyes of the saint, who is surrounded by timekeeping instruments and texts illustrating “Number and . . . the notion of Time but also the means of research into the nature of the Universe.” As Plato had wrien, this is the chief reason why the Creator gave people eyes. e person sees and, a er study, comes to understand the great cosmic order. is understanding forms the soul for its return to the divine, as we have seen: God devised and bestowed upon us vision to the end that we might behold the revolutions of Reason in the Heaven and use them for the revolvings of the reasoning that is within us. . . . [F]or the divine part within us the congenial motions are the intellections and revolutions of the Universe. ese each one of us should follow, rectifying the revolutions within our head, . . . learning the harmonies and revolutions of the Universe, and thereby making the part that thinks like


Chapter One

unto the object of its thought, in accordance with its original nature, and having achieved this likeness aain finally to that goal of life which is set before men by the gods as the most good.

In subsequent chapters, I will point to ways in which the formation of the soul occurred both through a study of the real heavens and a study of their artificial images. is study of artificial images was not considered simply an intellectual or philosophical shaping but was thought by some to be a physical one as well.42

* Today, we might think that astrology and theology were odd soul mates or even inimical disciplines, as Savonarola considered them. But this was far from the understanding of serious astronomer-astrologers like the devout Kepler, far from the minds of Renaissance churchmen like the Farnese. ey considered viewing and understanding the heavens, including understanding its connectivity through radiating influences, a purifying and holy pursuit. Vision-astronomy-astrology-theology.

≤. .

t wo

. .≥

Let There Be Light Rays in the Macrocosm

It is clear that every higher body, in virtue of the light [lumen] which proceeds from it, is the form [species] and perfection of the body that comes after it. . . . The form [species] and perfection of all bodies is light, but in the higher bodies it is more spiritual and simple, whereas in the lower bodies it is more corporeal and multiplied. r ob e rt g r os set e st e


f early modern intellectuals read the ancient philosophers and poets such as Plato and Manilius as though they were pre-Christian theologians, they

also turned to their own theological texts and commentaries in order to ponder the physical world. From these parallel traditions in science and Scripture they hypothesized a nature and structure of the universe. Insofar as these theories supported a belief in astrology and what were once the related concepts of vision and epistemology, they will be the subject of this and subsequent chapters. e creation story in Genesis acquired rich scientific interpretations

through a substantial body of commentaries on the six days of creation known as the hexameral literature.1 According to Gen. 1:1–5, the universe began when God called Light into existence. e influential medieval scientist Robert 25


Chapter Two

Grosseteste (d. 1253) considered the natural world to have come into existence when God inserted a “dimensionless point of light” into a “dimensionless point of maer.”2 One hears in Grosseteste’s theory a hint of the big bang as well as ancient Greek hypotheses on Form and Maer. Form and Maer are, we will see in subsequent chapters, the essential components in the debate over whether astrology actually followed the laws of nature.3 Grosseteste, absorbing the work of Arab astrologers such as al-Kindi and Abū Ma’shar, and influencing later scientists such as Roger Bacon and Marsilio Ficino, explained further in his short treatise De luce.4 Just as by its nature light shoots out instantly and spherically in all directions from a single point of origin (think of lighting a match in a dark room), the Creator’s insertion of a point of Light into a dimensionless point of Maer caused that Light to radiate in all directions, pulling Maer with it, and generating a spherical universe.5 is prime Light, at maximum rarefaction when it had completely actualized all the potential in the Maer, resulted in the outer spherical limit of the firmament. is became the sphere of the fixed stars. e lumen of the firmament then shone back inward toward the center.6 In so doing, this lumen immediately condensed the slightly denser Maer of the region below it, and the planet Saturn, now a union of this Form and Maer, was born in its planetary sphere. Gathering Maer, lumen in quick succession produced the inner planetary spheres of Jupiter, Mars, the Sun, Venus, Mercury, and the Moon. Enclosed within the sphere of the Moon, the terrestrial elemental world also had a succession of four spheres, each succeeding sphere accumulating greater density. First the sphere of Fire came into being. It surrounded the sphere of Air, which surrounded Water, and, at the dense center of the universe, the heaviest element, Earth, seled (fig. 4). Intellectual artists such as Michelangelo understood this principle in the biblical commentary tradition on Light, and it is for this reason that he frescoed the creation of Light in the Sistine ceiling in a panel that precedes the subsequent creation of such secondary lights as the Sun and the Moon (plate 5).7 In De luce, Grosseteste glosses several principles of physics, variations on which we will meet in astrological logic. Light is the active force and first corporeal Form of the universe. It unites all Maer and exists in all Maer. rough Light, the cosmos is both unified and hierarchical. While all bodies participate in the same Light, each body has a unique essence owing to its place in the created hierarchy. us, the great celestials such as the Sun will always predominate over the more material and therefore less active Earth

Let ere Be Light


4. e cosmos with orbs of the stars, planets, and elements. From Peter Apian, Cosmographia (Antwerp: Joannes Bellerum, 1584), 6. Courtesy of the University of Chicago Special Collections Research Center.

at the center of the universe.8 We will also see why Light is always inherently mathematical. is notion of Light as a basic Form and unifying activity or force in the world is o en found in later Platonic natural philosophy.9 It was closely related to Plotinus’s and later Platonic emanation theory, mentioned briefly in chapter 1. An elegant outline of the early physics, chemistry, and mathematical structure of the universe, it lay at the core of astrological theory.10 Grosseteste’s model is useful in this chapter as background for understanding the structure and mapping of the cosmos—especially the role of radiation in the horoscope


Chapter Two

chart. In the next chapter, it lies behind the discussion of the early chemistry and physics of radiation, and, in chapter 4, it guides the understanding of light rays as these were processed by the eyes and minds of viewers. Let us look first at the universe’s spherical structure and mapping, now not as commentary on Scripture, but as it had been derived from ancient observation. It will be clear that Grosseteste was using this same ancient understanding of cosmic structure, to which he and others had added theoretical propositions.

e Structure of the Universe Many centuries before natural philosophers like Grosseteste considered the composition of the world, Greek philosopher-scientists had observed that both the Earth and its surrounding universe appeared to be spherical. As one could see in the night sky, the outermost sphere, consisting of the “fixed” stars, slowly circled around the celestial poles. When we turn to mapping, we will see that this slowly rotating outer sphere served as a background against which the planetary movements could be ploed.11 Within this outer sphere, an inner system of seven planetary spheres existed.12 e order of these spheres was determined from largest to smallest, according to the time it took a planet to complete its journey around the central and spherical Earth. Since slow-moving Saturn took approximately thirty years to complete its orbit, its sphere was considered the largest and most distant. e fast-traveling Moon, which could circle the Earth in approximately twenty-eight days, occupied the smallest sphere, the one that immediately enveloped the Earth and its atmosphere. On the basis of their orbital times, Jupiter, Mars, the Sun, Venus, and Mercury—in that order—were considered to inhabit the spheres between slow Saturn and the nimble Moon. By ca. 150 CE, when Claudius Ptolemy wrote the Almagest, much more than this simple spherical structure had been charted. Babylonian observations of the heavenly bodies had been accumulating since around the eighth century BCE.13 ese and other records had been collated, analyzed, and edited by Greek scientists, most important among whom were Hipparchus in the second century BCE and Ptolemy in the second century CE. Both astronomer-astrologers produced catalogs of the stars. Ptolemy’s Almagest (the Greatest, or, as translated from the Greek, the Systematic Mathematical Treatise) provided the foundation of Western astronomy for the next fi een hundred years.14 is work mapped the coordinates of the 1,022 fixed stars of the outer sphere. Among

Let ere Be Light


these stars, the most astrologically influential were generally considered those of the twelve zodiacal constellations from Aries to Pisces. ese twelve formed the background for the ecliptic, the yearly path of the Sun through the stars and the line near which all the planets appeared to move. e movements of the seven planets—all traveling in complex but predictable paerns and all but the two luminaries (the Sun and Moon) appearing to stop periodically and reverse themselves in retrograde motion—had also been mathematically described with great accuracy in the Almagest. is Ptolemaic understanding of stellar and planetary location and movement was not seriously challenged until Copernicus (in the sixteenth century), and Copernicus’s work was not widely accepted until a er the period under study here.15 e mapping of the stars and planets had naturally been accomplished by astronomers who stood on the central Earth. us, the celestial and terrestrial locations were interrelated. Ptolemy’s Geography, completed a er the Almagest, mapped the known Earth in relation to celestial coordinates of latitude (climas) and longitude (meridians).16 Subsequent to Ptolemy’s work, the knowledge of celestial movements was periodically updated to account for modifications caused by the precession of the equinoxes. e updates through the Alphonsine tables were those preferred by the best astronomer-astrologers of the early modern period. Such tables were necessary, not only for their convenience, but also because actual sightings were o en impossible, owing to daylight, weather, mountains along the horizon, and other visual obstructions. In addition, in astrology, many horoscopes were drawn up years a er the event, making any actual observation out of the question. Tables were necessary, and the beautiful order of the heavenly movements made them as reliable as the mathematician constructing them. By the early modern period, the relations of the stars to the Sun moving over the Earth could also be much more quickly found with an astrolabe in hand. is excellent “computer,” with its classical past, was developed in the Arab world and had become available in Europe by the eleventh century. University students could make astrolabes out of paper or parchment following textbook paerns, while luxury instruments in precious metals were also produced (plate 6).17 By the late fi eenth century, with the dissemination of printed tables (fig. 5), finding the locations of the planets and stars relative to a point on the Earth for any time of day or night had been further simplified and made available to a broader segment of the population.18 Virtually any astrologer with

5. Renaissance ephemerides. From Regiomontanus, Ephemerides (Venice: Erhard Ratdolt, 1481), n.p. Courtesy of e Newberry Library, Chicago. Call no. Inc. 4381.5.

Let ere Be Light


basic mathematical skills (addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division) could now find the positions of the stars and planets at all times of the day or night, using published tables of houses and ephemerides to find the stellar and planetary positions. e best of these were produced by Renaissance astronomers such as Regiomontanus, who published his computations to help practitioners in medicine, astrology, navigation, agriculture, and other fields. Renaissance handbooks o en give worked examples with explanatory directions, a sign that the books were intended for readers who lacked either mathematical confidence or confidence in their ability to read the directions. With the printing agenda of scientists like Regiomontanus and the wider availability of such instruments, the quality of the astronomical information necessary for astrology, and its dissemination, increased dramatically. e mathematics for finding the positions of the seven intricately moving planets and 1,022 known stars, all in continual motion around the Earth, was now in the hands of anyone who had access to such tables or instruments. Basic numeracy was still necessary, but the casting of a simple horoscope could now be taught to an intelligent illiterate in a short time. is will be explained below.

Astronomical Mapping for Astrological Purposes

e Heavens Stopped and the Horoscope Diagram To scientists trying to understand how the Sun, Moon, other planets, and stars caused predictable effects in the earthly world, it was obvious that both time and place maered. Celestial influences did not affect all points on the Earth in the same way. e Sun created certain effects near the equator and very different ones in the frozen North. Even at a single location it had different effects at sunrise, noon, and sundown. e movement of the Sun and the relative strength of its light and heat that followed from this positional change predictably created day and night and seasonal change relative to a given location. e regular and changing positions of the Moon also correlated with the tides in different locations at different times. Given the unity and harmony of the cosmos and the overwhelming power of the Sun and Moon over the terrestrial world, it was thought that the inflowings from the other celestial bodies must also depend on the positions of those bodies relative to the place on the Earth where an event requiring astrological study occurred. How could all these moving objects, with their varying strengths, be


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mapped for a particular place and time so that they could be studied for interpretation? e mathematically mapped relation between the place on the Earth where the event occurred and the heavens—now “stopped” for analysis at that moment—is what we see in a horoscope chart (see fig. 6 below).19 e horoscope provides the celestial information that the astrologer will need to interpret predictable effects of this radiation entering the Earth at the time and place in question. Since we tell time from the movements of the celestial bodies, the particular placement of these in the sky gives us a particular moment in time. Because this is so, one can move back and forth between the two sides of an equation: one can know a time and find the configuration of the sky for a given location at that time, or, conversely, one can know the configuration of a particular sky over the Earth and from that celestial array find the time when that sky would have been situated over the location. us, an astrologer could be given the time and location of an event and from those two pieces of information draw up a horoscope that reconstructed the placement of the celestial bodies relative to that geography at that time. Or, ploing a future configuration of the sky, he could provide an election horoscope to indicate the effects that could be expected from a selected sky over that place at a future time.

e Moment For any given entity, the most important relation of planetary and stellar radiation to its location on the Earth occurred at the entity’s moment of generation or birth. is was the most common moment to stop the heavens and map stellar and planetary positions in the horoscope chart because this beginning moment was considered to fix some characteristics of the newly generated entity for its entire existence. With the celestial inflowings over the days and years to come, other characteristics of that entity would change gradually. ese secondary issues could be evaluated through annual horoscopes or others drawn up quickly to address a specific issue on a particular day and time. As Roger Bacon wrote: “And when the child at birth is exposed to a new air, another world as it were, he then receives apexes of celestial pyramids as respects his separate members, and thus receives new impressions, which he never gives up. . . . And then is formed the radical complexion, which remains to the end of life, although the current complexion may be changed for a whole day.”20 e moment of commencement is popularly thought of as the moment

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of a person’s birth. But a city, a building, even a painting, we will see, also had a moment of birth.

e Renaissance Diagram—Its Appearance and Meaning e Renaissance horoscope (fig. 6) usually gives the time of an event, such as that of a birth or a foundation moment, and the geographic location of that event. is combination necessarily locks the relation of the heavens to the

6. Horoscope for the founding of Rome, 572 BC. From Luca Gaurico, Tractatus astrologicus (Venice: Curtius Troianus di Navò, 1552), fol. 5r. Courtesy of e Newberry Library, Chicago. Call no. Case B 8635.328.


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particular place at the significant time. Predictions were primarily based on the study of the intermingling of rays coming from the planets and stars and the effects that this commingling radiation could be expected to have on the twelve regions, or “houses of heaven,” that governed different life situations relative to that spot. ese houses are marked on a Renaissance chart as the triangular divisions surrounding the inner square. We might imagine this division of the heavens into twelve houses as a mathematical framework through which the stars and planets are moving relative to the point on the Earth under study. e movement of the heavens through this framework is like a celestial game of musical chairs, with the moment of generation (or of some other special event) being the moment when the music stops. At that particular time, the planets, traveling in stately paerns against the also moving starry background, halt in their house positions so that the astrologer can study them. Each of the twelve houses was believed to influence a different life concern. Typically, the houses were considered to govern the following, commencing with the Ascendant or first house centered at the le edge of the chart, and moving counterclockwise through the twelve triangles: (1) life, the body’s complexion or constitution, general beginnings; (2) the end of youth, wealth; (3) siblings; (4) parents, foundations; (5) children; (6) health; (7) marriage; (8) death; (9) religion, journeys; (10) honors and power; (11) friends; (12) enemies.21 Some of these divisions had an intuitive logic. e Ascendant in the east was naturally associated with birth or beginnings. e fourth house at the boom center of the horoscope carried the association of foundations— the most important for us will be the foundation of cities or buildings. Opposite this, the tenth house, or the place of the Sun at noon, had an obvious association with power. e rest were determined through an accumulation of evidence in ancient wisdom literature that seemed to suggest cause and effect relations between certain positions of the heavens relative to the Earth.

e Horoscope’s Divisions: e Four Cardines and the Twelve Houses of Heaven Although the governance of each house had been determined in the sometimes conflicting arena of ancient astrological literature, the division of these twelve was reassuringly mathematical, based as it is on a point on the Earth relative to the intersection of three circles—the ecliptic, the horizon, and the meridian.22 But, before I embark on an explanation of the parts of the horo-

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scope in relation to these three circles, a warning to the reader is in order. e ancient physician Galen noted that, whenever he aempted a mathematical explanation, he lost friends: “For truly, on countless occasions throughout my life I have had this experience: persons for a time talk pleasantly with me . . . but when they later learn that I am also trained in mathematics, they avoid me for the most part and are no longer at all glad to be with me. Accordingly, I am always wary of touching on such subjects.”23 Even if reduced to a simple level, the following section concerns rays and occasionally relies on simple mathematical principles. For Galen’s and a variety of other reasons, some readers may find that a careful perusal of the horoscope chart itself (again, see fig. 6 above) will suffice for understanding its basic features. e following section is intended for the curious. First the astronomical issues in a chart. One mathematical consideration should orient this discussion. Every point on the Earth is unique and has a unique relation to the heavens that surround it.24 If you look around your position on the Earth at this moment, you will realize that, mathematically speaking, you are at the center of your own unique horizon circle, just as every other person is at the center of his or her own unique horizon circle. is uniqueness gave the astrologers confidence that even the different fates of twins could be understood with careful study. is is because, even though the point on the Earth had not changed between the birth of the first twin and that of the second, the relation of the point to the sky moving over that point had shi ed. is movement of the heavens created different relations in the inflowing rays at the same location, making the point uniquely different in its reception of celestial rays at the two different birth times, even though the birth of the twins might be only minutes apart.25 Beyond what this meant for a person, we will see in subsequent chapters what this relation of the heavens to the Earth meant for urban sites, their ecosystems, their architectural structures, and their residents as the heavens poured their myriad and distinct forces, or virtus, via these rays into every single point.26 Looking to the twelve triangular sections of the houses of heaven, three of the twelve fall into each of the four quadrants of the heavens, and these quadrants depended on the unique horizon, meridian, and ecliptic circles relative to the point on the Earth for which the horoscope had been charted. e great circle known as the horizon is familiar, as is the ecliptic. But the meridian circle may be less obvious. Above a unique point on the Earth is a matching and unique celestial point known as that place’s celestial zenith. While the place on the Earth is fixed, the sky at the zenith over this point is continually changing


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as the heavens are perceived to move around the Earth. rough this unique zenith point, a second great circle, the meridian circle, was mapped. is circle runs vertically and is mathematically determined by the zenith point overhead and the north celestial pole. We will see the precise use of this demarcation of the zenith and the North Star in one of the astrological vaults discussed in chapter 8 below. e intersections of the horizon circle and the meridian circle divide the heavens into four quadrants relative to the location on the Earth that is to be studied. A third circle, the ecliptic, the belt of the zodiacal constellations against which the planets appear to move, intersects the meridian and horizon circles relative to that earthly point as well. Over the course of the year, this ecliptic circle gradually seems to ascend and descend relative to the meridian at that place on the Earth. Owing to this continual shi ing of the heavens during the course of a year, we might visualize the quadrants as seasonally expanding and contracting. Within the quadrants, the cusps or divisions between these twelve houses are measured and marked along the 360 degrees of that ecliptic circle. ere were slightly different ways to apportion the 360 degrees that were divided among the twelve houses, depending on the house system chosen by the astrologer.27 But, whatever the house system chosen, the four cardines or cusps of the quadrants—marked by the Ascendant (the point at which the ecliptic crosses the eastern horizon), the Midheaven (the point at which the ecliptic intersects the meridian circle above the horizon), the Descendant (the point at which the ecliptic intersects the western horizon), and the Lower Midheaven (the point at which the ecliptic intersects the meridian circle below the horizon)—are usually the same in all house systems.28 e degree of the ecliptic circle that intersects the eastern horizon at the time in question becomes the Ascendant degree. e rest of the ecliptic circle follows counterclockwise from this point, and all the subsequent cusps in the horoscope diagram are determined from it. e “moving” sky is continually passing through this Ascendant point—ascending in the east with the passage of the twenty-four-hour day. is means that each of the 360 degrees takes roughly four minutes of clock time to rise or set. Moment by moment, the stars and planets, traveling at differing speeds, some of the planets occasionally retrograde, move through this framework of the horoscope chart. Moment by moment, the angles of the celestial rays, hiing a unique point on the Earth, are changing.29 is ever-changing complexity of radiation was, we will

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see, understood to influence the great variety of earthly entities as these were all in the process of coming into existence or fading out of it. As noted above, a er the later fi eenth century, the process of drawing a horoscope had become much simpler, thanks to the availability of printed tables of houses indicating the zodiacal locations of the house cusps and the tables of ephemerides showing the positions of the planets by calendar date and time of day. To draw a horoscope, the astrologer first checked the time and the geographic location of the event and then entered these data in a table of houses to determine the degree of the zodiacal sign that would be found at the cusp of each of the twelve houses. ese degrees were marked into the chart.30 Once the twelve cusps of the houses were set, the astrologer needed to determine the degree where each planet could be found around the ecliptic at the time in question. To discover the planetary positions, he used either sophisticated tables, such as the Alphonsine, or the ready-to-use printed ephemerides. Each planet would then be marked into the house where that same ecliptic degree was found. Because the planets travel at varying speeds, some might be found in conjunction in the same degree in the sky, some might be close to each other in the sky, or some might be spread far apart around the ecliptic. In the horoscope map, this means that several planets could be clustered in a single house, some houses could be empty of planets, or the planets could be relatively evenly arrayed. In the example shown (fig. 6 above), these are the twelve cusps, beginning at the Ascendant on the le center of the chart, and moving counterclockwise: (1) Leo 15°0’; (2) Virgo 7°23’; (3) Libra 2°0’; (4) Scorpio 4°25’; (5) Sagiarius 14° 9’; (6) Capricorn 19°5’; (7) Aquarius 15°0’; (8) Cancer 7°23’; (9) Aries 2°0’; (10) Taurus 4°25’; (11) Gemini 14°9’; (12) Pisces 19°5’. If we follow this same order counterclockwise from the Ascendant, the first planet does not appear until the eighth house, and there we find Mercury. ese are the positions of the seven planets from that point: Mercury 29°5’ of Pisces; the Sun 22°30’ of Aries; Venus 16°36’ of Taurus; Jupiter 18°19’ of Taurus; the Moon 15°6’ of Gemini; Mars 12°35’ of Cancer; and Saturn 27°34’ of Cancer.

e Strength of the Rays In order to interpret the influences of the heavenly rays flowing to the place on the Earth for which the horoscope was drawn, the astrologer needed to measure the relative strengths of the rays hiing that point.31 Part of the strength


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of a ray lay in the nonmathematical nature of the celestial body from whence it came. For example, from observation and experience it seemed clear that the Sun had a dominating influence over the other planets.32 us, owing to its nature, the rays of the Sun had in astrological interpretations special strength, making the planetary or stellar “nature” one variable in the strength of rays. In addition to this consideration, the celestial bodies were believed to have astrologically friendly or inimical natures to each other. e power of cooperation or competition among the rays from the various celestial bodies hiing the given point was also considered to affect the strength of the rays there. Positive relations could reinforce and fortify the strength of rays, while hostile relations weakened the rays converging on the location.33 But rays were also known to have strengths that could be determined on the basis of a mathematical model. In this sense, astronomers considered the surface of a distant planet or star to be the base of a cone (sometimes pyramid, as in Bacon’s earlier “apexes of celestial pyramids”) whose apex hit a particular point on the Earth. Only one ray of that cone hiing the Earth is perpendicular to its base, that is, perpendicular to the surface of the celestial body. is “centric ray” has the shortest distance between the surface of the heavenly body and the point on the Earth. Because this ray travels the shortest distance, it was considered to have the most power of all the rays from that particular celestial body hiing that point.34 is mathematical model also had important optical implications, as we will see in later chapters. It should be noted that, while the centric ray forms a right angle to its celestial base, it would usually form a different angle relative to the point on the Earth. Only in the case where the celestial body is directly overhead would the centric ray from the celestial body also form a right angle with the point on the Earth that was under study. e heat of the Sun at noon shining directly over a point on the Earth is an example of the power of the centric ray. But at 9:30 a.m. local time, the Sun’s centric ray might be hiing that same point on the Earth at only a forty-five-degree angle, and its morning strength would be much less than its noon strength.35 Astrologers needed to measure the angles of the most important celestial bodies relative to the point on the Earth, and relative to each other at that point, in order to understand how the confluence of rays created cooperation or conflict in the various houses.36 How the rays worked with each other depended on the angular “aspects” of the rays. Aspects were an astrological convention with a minimal mathematical substrate. ey were defined by the distance in degrees separating two celestial bodies along the ecliptic. Over the centuries, a

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handful of relations became, by convention (apparently influenced by Pythagorean and Platonic theory), more important than others. e important relations were “conjunction” (where the celestial bodies held positions in the same degree of the ecliptic), “opposition” (where the celestial bodies were 180 degrees apart), “quartile” (where they were 90 degrees apart), “trine” (where they were 120 degrees apart), and “sextile” (where they were 60 degrees apart). Trine and sextile were considered astrologically friendly relations, while the square and opposition were unfriendly. Conjunction could be either a blessing or a curse, depending on the amity or hostility in the relation of the two conjoined planets. If two or more conjoined planets had a friendly relation, this increased the conjoined power, but the converse was also true.

Horoscope Adjustments Because the relations of angles between the planets were o en inexact as aspects go—two planets might be ninety-three degrees apart instead of ninety— an additional astrological tenet developed, that of the “orbs of influence.”37 e rules for orbs extended the permissible limits for the aspects of the angles, and the degree of permissible extension depended on the planets involved. Figure 7 shows allowance for orbs according to the different planets. us, while ideally two planets needed to be in the same degree to be in conjunction, the Sun and Saturn could, though here almost twenty-four degrees apart, be considered conjoined as the figure indicates. Two additional numerical issues may serve to round out an understanding of the more important mathematical conventions involved in the chart’s interpretation. ese were the time of commencement—never an easy thing to determine in a world of imprecise clocks and cloudy skies—and the choice of the house system. Both of these could be used to adjust a horoscope later, making it beer align with life events. e choice of house systems has been examined by John North.38 Less has been wrien about the curious custom of finding and then changing, or “rectifying,” the time of the event to be interpreted.39 At first blush, changing either the time or the house system might seem to defeat the whole purpose of analyzing the rays flowing into a point on the Earth at a given moment. But house systems were being tweaked and improved as data accumulated, and timekeeping was imprecise until the nineteenth century. More important, people rarely remembered the exact minute, hour, or even year when an event occurred: “He was born before the harvest in the year my father died.” Wealthy and astrologically auned families had


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7. Planetary orbs of influence. From Johannes Schoener, Opera mathematica (Nuremberg: Johannes Montanus & Ulrich Neuber, 1551), fol. 35r. Courtesy of e Newberry Library, Chicago. Call no. Ayer 7.S3 1551.

begun to note the time of birth in the family birth or baptismal records. But it was not uncommon for a child born in relative obscurity, like Giuliano della Rovere, later Pope Julius II, to have arrived with lile notice, no clear memories of the date, and no known record. e lack of a birth record did not mean that the birth horoscope could not be determined retroactively, however. is was done using astrological precepts in relation to the events as a person’s life had turned out. e sky that would have best foretold those events around the approximate time of birth was sought. How, a er all, could a child of obscure birth grow up to be pope and preside over much of Latin Christendom without the aid of celestial influence?40 Because the degrees of the heavens were changing approximately every

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four minutes and the celestial bodies were ceaselessly reconfiguring themselves relative to each other and the horizon, the time noted for the horoscope was o en further adjusted or rectified as life events changed. Even minor shi s in this time or different choices in the house system could significantly alter where the planets and stars fell within each of the governing houses. A planet whose nature was beneficial for one type of activity in one house might be detrimental in the adjacent house. Saturn, by nature slow moving, long-lived, and dry, was considered excellent for the stability and longevity of a building, especially if it fell in the fourth house at the Lower Midheaven, which governed building foundations. But, four minutes later, if this same planet had moved into an adjacent house—the house of siblings on one side or that of children on the other—the desiccating effects of the old man could be pernicious. Because slight changes in the time could cause such significant movements within a chart’s planetary and stellar relations to the houses or to the relations of the planets and stars to each other, “rectifications” of the horoscope seem to have been generally accepted.41 Change the time by four minutes, and you might change the house into which Saturn or another critical celestial body fell. is would then explain how the building had survived the earthquake or why the child had died young. Even if a birth time were recorded but an astrologer later found that the events were not materializing as could have been reasonably predicted, it was a natural assumption that the sky had not lied; rather, the primitive clock had been wrong or the parents’ memory faulty. Rectification was, therefore, o en not chicanery (although it could be) but rather a recognition of human imperfection. When the horoscope and the life were misaligned, human memory, crude technology, and the careless use of tables and instruments were considered the likely culprits. We will see how this common practice of rectifying a chart came into play, not just in birth horoscopes, where excited (or forgetful) parents might be the problem, but in building practices as well.42 It should also be remembered that, no maer how carefully they were done, astrological predictions were considered somewhat provisional by intellectual astrologers. e single greatest authority, Ptolemy, pointed to the many variables that could not be precisely controlled. Apart from the difficulty of finding an accurate clock, accurate tables, or weather conditions allowing good sightings, the influences of the stars were limited in certain ways, and, therefore, other variables concerning the recipient of the rays had to be factored in as well.43 Finally, it should be noted that, because astrology required interpretation,


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it was also possible for two serious astrologers to disagree on the reading of a chart. Astrological rules had developed in different geographic regions and in different eras. While there was much basic consensus, the rules sometimes produced a contradiction. Even astrologers studying the same horoscope chart and using the same rules could weight the evidence differently, producing plausible yet different predictions from the same celestial facts. us, like medical practice today, the astrologer’s métier was understood to require sensitive diagnostic interpretation (art) as well as science. is being said, because there was much general consensus on the rules, some predictions seemed more correct than others, and this general consensus accounts for the reasons why horoscopes were sometimes adjusted a er the fact. e practices mentioned above—extending the orbs of influence, choosing among a select number of house systems to determine the cusps, and rectifications made at a later date—provided practical solutions meant to mediate contradictions between the horoscope predictions and the life results. Meanwhile, to improve the science, the great practitioners from Ptolemy through Regiomontanus to Kepler tried to winnow out bad information and bad mathematics and warn against bad astrologers.44

≤. .


. .≥

Celestial Rays and the Earthly World of Change

Every natural body, visible or invisible, diffuses its power radiantly into other bodies . . . for a natural body acts outside itself through the multiplication of its form. Therefore the nobler it is, the more strongly it acts. And since action in a straight line is easier and stronger for nature, every natural body, whether visible or not, must multiply its species in a continuous straight line; and this is to radiate. Because of this, all parts of the sky radiate, and not only the stars, for the sky would radiate even if the stars should be quiescent. joh n p e ch a m


hapter 2 outlined the basic structure of the universe and the mapping of it within a horoscope diagram. But great scientists from Ptolemy to Kepler

would probably not have practiced astrology if it were simply a mathematical tracking exercise.1 Natural philosophers followed astrological precepts because astrology was based on concepts that provided, at least provisionally, explanations for the most fundamental questions about nature. ese concepts relied on what we might think of as protochemistry and -physics. ese theories explained both the stability and the ever-changing variety of the world as well as how celestial forces could cause orderly change in earthly entities. 43


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ings Change into Other ings: Transformation and Astrological eory Pre-Socratic scientists had observed that the sublunar world, the “world of change,” had both extraordinary stability and extraordinary variety.2 e human race continued even as a seemingly infinite number of distinctly different individuals came and went. We will see that this stability and variety had led to a theory of Form, Maer, and the relation of the heavens at the moment of generation. Further, it was observed that, in some ways, things changed into other things. A plant needed earth, water, air, and heat to grow. It took these materials into itself, incorporated them, and it thrived. A lamb also took in air and water and that same plant. ese became incorporated into the lamb, and it grew. If the lamb died, it lost its air, liquids, and heat, and, eventually, its body decomposed into earth. ings could incorporate other things and thrive, or they could degenerate, decompose, and become part of other entities. is process of natural transformation was also explained through principles of celestial agency related to Form and Maer.

Gradual Transformation and Celestial Inflow In pre-Socratic Greek science, Empedocles suggested that all entities were composed of four “roots” or elements—Earth, Water, Air, and Fire. Plato later speculated on these four elements, considering them to be essentially mathematical in nature.3 While this mathematical nature will be of interest in later chapters, especially chapters 4 and 7, it was not the most common way in which the elements were understood. e generally accepted understanding of the nature of the elements was that conceived by Plato’s student Aristotle. Aristotle theorized that the transformation of entities occurred smoothly because the four elements were composed of pairings of four elemental Qualities interacting with Maer (or Prime Maer in later authors).4 ese elemental Qualities were heat, cold, moisture, and dryness. Earth had the pair of Qualities cold and dryness, Water had cold and moisture, Air had moisture and heat, and Fire had heat and dryness. As the Qualities changed partners, the elements transformed. To set this in an observable context, if the Quality of heat were added to Water, the originally cold and moist Water became warm and moist Air. Add heat to water until it boils. We will see that, in the simplest astrological theories, Qualities were con-

Celestial Rays and the Earthly World of Change


sidered inflowing (influencing) from the celestial bodies and the inflowing Qualities caused the terrestrial world’s orderly changes. For example, the fiery Sun sent the Qualities of heat and dryness flowing into the sublunar world, creating seasonal and other changes there.5

Form and Astrological eory Historians of astrology since the nineteenth century have pointed to Aristotle’s theory of Form and Maer, particularly as it was expressed in his De generatione et corruptione 2.10, as a basis for astrological principles.6 Ultimately, the theory lay at the heart of the controversy over whether astronomical images could hold celestial powers. According to Aristotelian theory, all actual (as opposed to conceptual) entities were composed of Form and Maer. Maer was the undifferentiated material substrate shared by all things, while Form created the differentiations in the Maer. Form has been analogized with our genetic code since a particular Form joined with Maer defined that entity and no other.7 If the Form and the Maer were not actually joined, there was no actual entity, and the Form and the Maer were separate theoretical abstractions. is is a point to emphasize. Neither a Form alone nor a Quality alone could ever be a real entity. Coldness is not an entity, nor is redness, nor is any other property or Quality. Qualities, like Forms, are not actual entities when analytically separated from Maer. We will see the importance of this simple concept later, especially in chapter 7, when great intellects debate whether an astronomical image could work according to the laws of nature or whether it worked unnaturally, through the actions of demons. at debate turned on whether an astronomical image consisted of a Form actually joined with Matter or whether the Form was merely imagined to be so joined, owing to a superficial similarity. Aristotle further theorized in De generatione et corruptione that something that was neither Form nor Maer must cause the two to join at the moment of generation—for our purposes the horoscope moment. He proposed that the movement and heat of the Sun caused the merger of Form and Maer that brought a new entity into existence. e variety that the Sun alone could generate was, according to Aristotle’s theory, determined primarily by its movement around the ecliptic relative to the location on the Earth where the generation (or aging and corruption) was occurring. e position of the Sun relative to that point determined the strength of its rays at the point in question. In


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order to account for some additional variety in the types of entities in existence, Aristotle proposed that the Maer itself might have subtle differences or imperfections, producing variant types.

Definitions and Distinctions: Form and Qualities Depending on the astrological context, I will usually consider the Form of an entity to be the aggregate of all the Qualities (properties, characteristics, attributes), observable and occult, that an entity possesses.8 is is a crude definition since the Form is not the same as the aggregate of all its Qualities. A Form (like our genetic code) was presumed to have a particular proportion or strength of Qualities rather than being a simple aggregate. However, for reasons explained below, in astrological theory it is useful to consider the aggregate of Qualities as the Form.9 In this section, I will use the terms Form and Qualities, but, in the medieval and early modern periods, Species and Seminal Reasons were also synonyms for Form used by scientists. When I move to a discussion of Rays in the next section, we will see a much expanded set of synonyms for the concept of the total Qualities possessed by an entity. e astrologer who increasingly dominates my pages is Marsilio Ficino. He used Form and Qualities interchangeably, along with the terms Seminal Reasons and Species.10 e Form of a complex entity such as a person was the aggregate of a great number of Qualities, including the Form of the rational soul, the uniquely human aribute. Looking to the other end of the spectrum, the simple root elements had only a pair of Qualities as their Form, and, as we saw with Grosseteste, a single Quality, in this case Light, could constitute the Form. As the celestial bodies either directly contributed Qualities to or indirectly elicited them from the existing Maer, these Qualities nuanced and changed the Form, thus changing the entity. Eventually, Form was described as either Substantial/Specific or Accidental Form.11 When considering celestial influences and Forms or Qualities, two divergent theories going back to ancient times were sometimes debated and will reappear later in this text as well. Aristotle considered the celestial bodies to be entirely different in constitution from the terrestrial world. ey were composed of a fi h element, the quintessence, or incorruptible aether. Further, he considered the unchanging circular movement of the heavens to be self-replenishing. In short, according to Aristotle, the celestial bodies must themselves be unchanging and eternal. ese eternal bodies could not send

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down the corruptible elemental Qualities because they did not have them.12 Owing to Aristotle’s insistence on a separation of the celestial and the terrestrial worlds, astrologers who strictly followed Aristotelian principles had to explain how the heavens could interact with the Earth. ey argued that the celestial bodies elicited Qualitative changes in the earthly elements through their powerful orbital movements. is motion actualized latencies in the potential of the terrestrial Maer. In this way, the planets and stars did not send Qualities directly into that Maer, while at the same time they were the cause of changes in it. By the early modern period, however, although the astrologers whom we will follow most closely had been trained in and accepted most principles of Aristotle’s physics, they nevertheless found the Platonic or Stoic traditions— both of which considered the heavens and the Earth to have continuity rather than disjunction—persuasive on this point. Scientists such as Marsilio Ficino considered the heavens and the Earth to be seamlessly connected. e celestial aether was a higher grade of essence, not a remote and impenetrable “fi h essence.” us, when the Stoic Ptolemy and the Neoplatonist Marsilio Ficino write of aether, they suggest that the celestial bodies can directly contribute Qualities to the sublunar world because a cosmic continuum exists— Stoic pneuma or late Platonic World-Spirit—occasionally called quintessence by Ficino—flowing through everything. eir aether/quintessence and Aristotle’s were not the same.13 is question of whether there was a complete separation or a complete unity was important to some natural philosophers and astrologers, and some discussed both systems.14 We will see the impact of this disagreement in scholarly debates where these affect the arguments of this book. However, for the average astrologer, whether the rays elicited latent Qualities or directly contributed those Qualities to the Maer, the astrological result was the same— identifiable celestial bodies caused predictable changes in the sublunar world. If intellectual astrologers disagreed on some basic principles, they agreed on at least one further point. e same Quality had different effects in different recipients.15 In an example o en given, the same rays of the Sun melted ice but dried mud. e same rays hiing the same point on the Earth inevitably affected two people differently because each recipient’s complexion or constitution was different. us, one person could not expect the same results from the same celestial radiation as another would, whether that radiation had entered another person’s medicine (we would not take someone else’s prescrip-


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tion drugs), his or her home (thus the architectural horoscopes discussed in chapters 5 and 6 below), or his or her astronomical images (issues discussed in chapters 7 and 8 below). In the traditions of al-Kindi, Bacon, Ficino, and others, the recipient also exuded radiation. If the Sun heated a wall, a person could sit against it and take in the warmth radiating from the wall. It was also true that the part of a cold stone bench on which a person was siing would be warmed because his or her radiating heat had altered the bench. Qualities were moving and interacting in complex ways.

More Celestial Influence By the time Aristotle’s theory going back to De generatione et corruptione is glossed by Ptolemy in the second century, it seemed unlikely to natural philosophers that the Sun’s movement alone had created all earthly variety, even given some differences or imperfections in the Maer. Further, the Moon’s effect on the waters and tides was well-known, and the understanding of the North Star’s effect on the lodestone was soon to follow. is power of Sun, Moon, and North Star suggested that, not just the Sun, but all the celestial bodies were involved in the process of influencing the things of Earth, even if their workings were hidden from observation (occult). In addition, it was clear that the great variety of earthly entities could be beer explained by taking into account the rays of all seven planets and the 1,022 stars as their changing inflow moved closer to and farther away from every point on the Earth. By the early modern period, this influence from all the celestial bodies was a basic tenet of astrology.16 e physical aributes or Qualities present in earthly entities were either directly contributed or indirectly elicited by the inflowing natures and changing positions of all the celestial bodies. e important ninth-century polymath al-Kindi could write in De radiis stellarum that everything in the terrestrial world, everything composed of the elements, depends on the rays of the stars, rays entering diverse Maer and altering it.17 At the popular handbook level, the astrologer could find the Qualities that each of the great celestial bodies or regions of the heavens was influencing via its rays. is information can be seen in astrological charts that ultimately derive from lists in Ptolemy’s Tetrabiblos.18 e planet Jupiter, for example, has the elemental Qualities of heat and moisture but also nonelemental Qualities such as beneficence and masculinity. e stars had their natures as well. e constellation Leo is fiery and masculine, while Virgo is feminine and earthy.

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Every important star within a constellation was eventually understood to have a specific nature. e complex radiations of all the stars, planets, and their locations within governing houses would have been very difficult to assess and understand without organizing them into a horoscope chart. With the plotting of the horoscope, the astrologer now had a visual snapshot of the varying positions, relative strengths, and desirable and undesirable interactions of the rays carrying particular Qualities to a particular point on the Earth and powerfully interacting with the existing material entities at that place. I have described the astrological considerations on Form, Maer, and the agency of the Sun and other celestial bodies at the very simplest level, and this was almost certainly more than most practitioners cared to know. But there was much room for debate and even confusion among university-trained astrologers well into the period under study here.19 Some, such as the humanist Giovanni Pontano, thoughtfully weighed the difficulties, while others may have bien off more than they could chew. Luca Bellanti, apologizing for his Latin, yet publishing a lengthy tome in that language as he aimed to refute Pico, sprinkled the terms Form (both substantial and accidental), Maer, Qualities, and motion liberally in a quasi-scholastic debate. ose vehemently critical of astrological practices such as Pico and Savonarola found this use of Aristotelian theory pretentious—concepts covering up nonsense. Pico and Savonarola even went a er Ptolemy’s use of the Aristotelian terms, Pico calling the great scientist “the most learned of the ignorant” for his grounding of astrology in such natural philosophical theory.20 Vestiges of this same blend of Platonic and Aristotelian science can be found even in the magical texts that have a strong astrological base. We will see this in the Picatrix, a text that has resonances with Ficino’s discussion of astronomical images as well as with one of the major vaults of chapter 8.21 In sum, at the simplest level the simultaneous inflowing of Qualities (or, according to strict Aristotelians, the eliciting of Qualities) via the stars, planets, and special astrological areas of the sky22 converged at every point on the Earth as the heavens moved around it. ese rays mutually interacted at every site, according to astrological premises that were based on the geometric laws of rays. is complex infusion, or eliciting, of Qualities was challenging to assess. Yet so reasonable was this understanding that, in 1489, the medical doctor and philosopher Marsilio Ficino could confidently advise the king of Hungary to trust his health to doctors and astrologers who study the stars for cures for this is now all “science and common sense.”23


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Rays and Radiation e term Ray—used frequently so far in this chapter in its general sense, as ray—was o en mentioned in ancient and early modern texts on astronomy, astrology, and the related discipline of optics. Perhaps because no single word adequately translates this complex physical concept, many terms came to be used synonymously with it in this period. I would like to consider the term Ray in some technical detail and limit the study to the particular understanding of a Ray among the astrologers in whom I am most interested, a tradition stretching from al-Kindi, through Roger Bacon, to Marsilio Ficino and others. ese thinkers subscribed to theories of universal radiation. According to universal radiation, all things—celestial and terrestrial—radiate their properties or Qualities outward, and, therefore, all things mutually interact and influence each other. at all things radiate and influence all other things in proximity might initially seem strange, but the notion has similarities with our theory of gravity, where all things have a gravitational pull on all other things even though we do not perceive that pull. I have hinted at this universal interaction above in terms of radiation both into and out of the recipient of rays—for example, our person radiating heat and warming a cold stone bench. is notion that all things radiated was a physical concept related to the Neoplatonic metaphysical principle that the universe was the emanation of the One. As David Lindberg noted: “e argument [emanation] was designed for metaphysical purposes, to show how all being can proceed ultimately from the One, but in the end it had significant fall-out in the physical realm, affirming that all things radiate likenesses of themselves. is physical use of the doctrine of emanation is ancestor to Bacon’s doctrine of the multiplication of species.”24 According to al-Kindi et al., the celestial bodies send their powers into the terrestrial world on Rays. In universal radiation, not only are all terrestrial entities influenced by the celestial forces via Rays, but these entities also exude Rays of force that now include some of the celestial power along with their own. e radiation from elemental earthly objects has naturally much less force, however, than that from the great celestials. It is to Bacon’s “multiplication of Species” that I will now turn. In this section, I argue that scientists used the theory of universal radiation to explain how the celestial Rays entering at the births of cities, buildings, and even images were also thought to emanate out of those objects, carrying with them the celestial Qualities infused at their moment of generation. e nature and strength of the Rays or their Qualities depended essentially on their point of

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origin. Qualities emanating directly from the Sun were much more powerful than those weaker elemental Qualities emanating from a building or a blade of grass. However, as I will point out in chapter 8 below, the celestial Rays caught in artworks had certain advantages over direct celestial radiation. e first part of the early modern proposition on Rays concerns their ability to alter material substances—in other words, Rays enter into and alter the Maer of a city’s environment, a building, a painting, or a person’s body. e second part involves Rays altering that special part of the body’s Maer— the body’s sense organs. From this entry into the senses, especially the eyes, the Rays could also influence the mind of a viewer or bystander. A Ray entering the mind had an interesting ethical role to play, as I will describe in this and later chapters. In order to make this case, I suggest here how Rays and radiation were understood.

Synonyms for Ray e most common synonym for Ray in the early modern period is Species. is is not to be confused with our term indicating a biological species.25 I will use Ray rather than Species because the concept of a ray as we think of it is closer to the early modern meaning of Ray than is the, for us, more confusing Species. Astrologers are loosely thinking of the light rays beaming toward the Earth from the great celestial bodies. e more intellectual astrologers—al-Kindi, Bacon, Ficino, et al.—are thinking of those celestial Rays entering objects, creating change, and then exiting as they are transmied outward again. As noted previously, Species is also an early modern synonym for Form.26 If there were a transitive property of synonyms, we might suspect that Ray and Form would therefore also be synonyms among the astrologers, and we would be right. In fact, by the early modern period there were many synonyms for Ray, none of which would strike us at first as synonyms for each other or ray as we understand it today. Form, Species, nature, intentio, imago, similitude, simulacrum, phantasia, idol, lumen, umbra, and virtus are examples of these synonyms. us, Roger Bacon could note for Ray or Species: [It] is called “similitude” and “image” with respect to the thing generating it, to which it is similar and which it imitates. It is called “species” with respect to sense and intellect. . . . [I]t is called “idol” with respect to mirrors. . . . [I]t is called “phantasm” and “simulacrum” in the apparitions of dreams. . . . It is called


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“form” by Alhazen. . . . It is called “intention” by the multitude of naturalists. . . . It is called “virtue” with respect to generation and corruption, and therefore we say that the sun extends its virtue into the maer of the world for producing generation and corruption; and thus we say that every agent produces its virtue in a recipient. It is called “impression” because it resembles impressions. . . . It is called “passion” because the medium and sense, in receiving species, undergo a transmutation in their substance.27

He has even more terms, and he also suggests that the correct choice of synonym depends on the context that is being considered. In spite of the distinctions he lists by context, however, he uses Species for the broadest applications of the power in a Form or Ray. In order to understand how these disparate terms could be considered synonymous or be in any way related to the rays of light coming from a celestial object, it is useful to consider the common denominator in all of them—the Qualities. We can loosely substitute the aggregate of the Qualities of an object for each of these terms, as I did earlier for Form. But Species, or any of the other terms synonymous with Ray or Form, was not thought of strictly in Aristotle’s sense of Form. In all the terms that Bacon considers here, the aggregate of all the Qualities of an object, the Form, is also active and in motion through a medium. In other words, the Qualities and their delivery system have been conflated in all these terms. A Ray carries the Form, the aggregate of all the Qualities of an entity, moving outward toward other entities. In this sense, terms such as virtus, Form, copy (the imago is the copy that carries some of the power of the original, as seen with the example of lux-lumen in chapter 2 above), and the others listed above can be understood as synonyms. In each, the Qualities of an original are moving rectilinearly (according to nature’s parsimonious mathematical laws—shortest distance equals most power), carrying a copy of the original’s nature, essence, characteristics, into the material encountered in that transit. is passage of the Qualities through a medium will, we will see, shi existing relations and create change as the Qualities move.28 A medium can be rare, such as air, or dense, such as stone. Powerful radiation can move through every natural substance. Grosseteste, Bacon, John Pecham (the author of the most popular university primer on light and vision), and others defined this agency that all natural things had: the power to send out a copy of themselves, to emanate their power

Celestial Rays and the Earthly World of Change


or their effects outward. is outward agency, the Qualities of the original on the move, necessarily influenced all other things encountered by the Qualities. is is the basic premise of universal radiation, elaborately defined by Roger Bacon as the “multiplication of Species [think Form].” Writing on the mathematical rules of Rays, Grosseteste also noted a handful of synonyms and opined: “A natural agent multiplies its power from itself to the recipient, whether it acts on sense or on maer. is power is sometimes called species, sometimes a likeness, and it is the same thing whatever it may be called; and the agent sends the same power into sense and into maer. . . . But the effects are diversified by the diversity of the recipient, for when this power is received by the senses, it produces an effect that is somehow spiritual and noble; on the other hand, when it is received by maer, it produces a material effect.”29 Bacon stipulates: “rough Species [all] other effects are produced. . . . [T]he agent sends forth a Species into the Maer of the recipient, so that, through the Species first produced, it can bring forth out of the potentiality of the Maer [of the recipient] the complete effect that it intends. . . . [T]he agent directs its efforts to making the recipient similar to itself.”30 Pecham, on whose text academically trained scientists (not to mention nonacademics such as Leonardo da Vinci) relied, continues: “Every natural body, visible or invisible, diffuses its power radiantly into other bodies . . . for a natural body acts outside itself through the multiplication of its form. erefore the nobler it is, the more strongly it acts. And since action in a straight line is easier and stronger for nature, every natural body, whether visible or not, must multiply its species in a continuous straight line; and this is to radiate. Because of this, all parts of the sky radiate, and not only the stars, for the sky would radiate even if the stars should be quiescent.”31 From these early modern scientists we learn these lessons about natural Rays: every natural agent sends its powers outward in a line or Ray, and this Ray makes anything that it encounters similar to itself. In addition, we learn that diverse effects are created by the diversity of the recipients and that these Rays change both Maer and sense.32

General Principles of Radiation The Geometry of Rays. To understand this motion of Species/Form/Qualities and the consequences of the movement for this study, we should first consider how the Qualities are governed by mathematical rules as they move.


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e mathematical principles of radiation were introduced in relation to the horoscope discussion in chapter 2 and will be met again in chapters 4 and 7 below. In the simplest mathematical or abstract sense, a ray is a line segment between two points. When we are considering that an object radiates its power outward, any object, celestial or terrestrial, was mathematically considered as a surface covered with innumerable points, each of those innumerable points being one terminus of an infinite number of line segments, or rays, diffusing spherically outward from that single point. is spherical radiation from every point is sometimes referred to as punctiform analysis.33 Every single Ray from that point carried all the Qualities of that particular object outward. But there is an additional way to visualize this universal radiation mathematically. If we think of an object, let us say Venus, as a mathematical surface facing another surface, the Earth, Venus’s surface can be thought of as the base of a cone within which a relatively small subset of the planet’s total Rays are converging toward a given point on the Earth. (is is a small subset compared to the countless Rays moving out spherically from every point even on the relatively small surface of Venus facing the Earth since most of the punctiform Rays moving out from this part of the planet’s surface are not directed toward the earthly point.) e earthly point is the apex of the cone whose base is Venus’s surface. If we think of just the smaller subset of Rays within this cone, not only does each Ray carry all the Qualities from Venus toward that earthly point, but the aggregate of all the Rays in that cone converging toward that point also carries the mathematically converging (and diminishing) shape/ form/figure/image of Venus to that earthly point. We might envision this image as a hologram traveling on the Rays between the surface of the object and the point on the Earth. Or, if we are thinking optically, we can imagine this image or hologram from Venus entering the apex of the cone inside the eye of a viewer looking at Venus. Early modern astronomer–astrologer–students of radiation/optics thought of these two geometric models—one of spherical diffusion (punctiform analysis), the other of conical convergence—in combination. is suggests certain understandings of how astronomical images were considered to work. In at least one of the main optical traditions to be discussed below, the celestial bodies radiated Qualities outward, while the visual Rays of the person did the same. When the two sets of Rays intersected, the spherical diffusion was intercepted and pulled into the conical convergence (as in the frontispiece), and a natural and physical transfer of the Qualities resulted. is produced vision as well as other changes in the person.34

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Qualities Join with Matter and Move Through Media. But how can an object send out its Qualities along a line segment? For university-trained scientists, the Species, Form, or entity’s aggregate Qualities did not have actual existence, much less a power to move, unless they were joined to Maer. How could those Qualities, bound to their original Maer in the object, move anywhere? I would like to distinguish at least two different understandings of how the Qualities were joined with Maer and how they moved, keeping in mind that the Rays of a powerful entity such as those from a celestial body moved easily through media while the Rays of a weaker could not penetrate all media.35 “eory A,” the multiplication of Species, was most extensively defined by Roger Bacon. e Ray did have actual existence because every point or terminus of a Ray on the surface of the original entity, a point containing all the Qualities of the object, was also touching an adjacent point of the material medium.36 Not only did the Qualities at this point touch, but in that touching they were also joined with the Maer of the medium. is material medium instantly inducted the Qualities at that adjacent point into it, giving them actual existence out of the “potentiality of the recipient Maer.”37 One might think of this as the Qualities existing now in the borrowed Matter of the contiguous medium. But these same Qualities were then touching the next point of the medium’s Maer and were instantly inducted into it, and so the process of induction continued, point to point, as a lightning-fast linear transfer of the Form/Qualities/Species/imago of the original outward. is was the multiplication of Species. Considering the interests of astrologers, it may again be useful to think of this as the linear multiplication of the celestial entity’s Qualities moving outward from the celestial body and through a medium. To repeat: If isolated from Maer, the Species, aggregate of Qualities, Form, or whatever synonym is chosen, does not have actual existence. But once joined to a medium, as the Qualities are moving through it, the Ray is considered to have an actual physical existence. What is more, a Quality makes the medium “like” itself. us, if the Quality of redness were on the move through a medium such as air, the air would be tinged with red as those Qualities joined with the air’s material, making the air “similar” to the source of the redness. For the early modern scientist, the Qualities had extension in the medium. is gave them both corporeity and materiality there as they multiplied or moved through different media.38 Most important for the argument as it was defined by Marsilio Ficino, there


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was a variant—“theory B.” e behavior of Rays is borrowed from the universal radiation of al-Kindi, Bacon, and others. But Ficino’s theory includes the radiation of Spiritus (like the superrefined Stoic material pneuma), which is carrying Qualities. In Ficino’s natural philosophy, the Ray itself carrying the Qualities was, therefore, material because World-Spirit, which radiates throughout the universe, is an extremely rarified fiery material, “a more excellent body—a body not a body as it were” moving through all entities.39 At the macrolevel, this fiery substance unites the immaterial World-Soul—the inner vitality and life force of the world—with the world’s physical, material body. us, this “very tenuous body, as if now it were soul and not body, and now body and not soul,” has in its power (virtus) “very lile of the earthy nature, but more of the watery, more likewise of the airy, and again the greatest proportion of the stellar fire.” It exists throughout the natural world from stars to stones (including people) and unites all. Like Stoic pneuma, it too has grades—from the purest in the celestial realm to the least so in the terrestrial. is finest of material substances, considered in its most material state in the person as a vapor of the blood, is also referred to by Ficino in these passages as aether or quintessence. (is aether is not, however, to be equated with Aristotle’s, which is not found in the terrestrial world.) Spiritus is also unique to the object in which it exists—both because its grade is different (higher grade in the stars, more elemental in the body of a person, lower still in the body of a stone) and because it carries the entity’s unique Qualities.40 We also learn that this extraordinarily rarified Spiritus is not vaguely moving here and there. At the highest natural level, the World-Spirit is, Ficino reports, carrying the Qualities of the great celestial bodies outward as celestial Rays.41 (is is to be expected since nature acts most strongly in its most economical movements and the shortest, and therefore strongest, way between two points is the ray.) Furthermore, this unique Spiritus Ray from the celestials flows into the unique Spiritus Ray of a person, transferring Qualities seamlessly from the celestial body into the person’s body and, ultimately, into the mind.42 We will see that Ficino charges the individual with responsibility for the health of personal Spiritus. It is this responsibility that he hopes to assist through writing his De vita. e text’s primary theme is information on how to acquire the best of the celestial gi s or Qualities via this traffic of World-Spirit into personal Spiritus. Important for us, Ficino discusses both natural and artificial means to accomplish this.43 Although Ficino’s theory of radiation is similar to Bacon’s, especially in its mechanics, it is distinguished by the World-Spirit that is a part of, and exists in

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and moves through, all natural things. In Bacon’s theory of multiplication, the Species or Form or Qualities move through a sequence of different “borrowed” media—now through air, then perhaps glass, then water, and so on. In Ficino’s theory, the Ray itself is extremely refined material. It has its own superrefined Maer (Spiritus) exiting the original entity with that entity’s Qualities.44 is may seem like an odd point on which to insist, but it will have repercussions in chapter 4 when we come to Ficino’s description of radiation from Material images. Ultimately, I consider the great vault paintings analyzed in chapter 8 to be examples of such Material images.

What Happens as the Qualities Move? As the Qualities move through the medium, whether on the borrowed Maer of the medium or on their own superrefined Spiritus Maer, they make whatever they encounter “resemble” or become like themselves.45 Further, the medium resembles the Qualities as long as they reside in that medium. If the Qualities are passing through very rare Maer, such as air, then they move instantly with almost no resistance, and the air resembles them for a very brief period of time. For example, light illumined air as long as the source of the light was touching the air. But droplets of water in moist air could hold the light in the air slightly longer because the watery density of the atmosphere slowed and held the light Ray briefly. In other words, density affects the retention of the Qualities.46 e Qualities from the celestial bodies could be held for very long periods of time in some media or recipients, much a er the original source of the radiation had ceased to be present to those recipients. In general, the denser the recipient, the longer the Qualities remained in it. Bacon wrote that the densest media, such as stone and lime, could catch and hold the Qualities of Rays for a long time.47 Perhaps not coincidentally, stone and lime are materials out of which buildings and also astronomical images (if we count frescoes, as I believe we should) were made. Albert the Great noted that astronomical images could hold their powers for astronomical years. One astronomical year could be ten thousand or more of one of our own years.48 Marsilio Ficino echoes this point that gemstones and metals retain their celestial gi s “for a very long time” and suggests that this is because they are very slowly matured within the Earth and very dense. e power of the Rays remains in them much longer than in something quickly created, such as a plant or wood. In other words, Ficino adds the length of gestation time in the crucible of the Earth to the density of the object when considering how long that substance retains Qualities.49 We will see that he also suggests a range of materials for astronomical images that can hold


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celestial Qualities. ese ingredients include materials used in Renaissance paintings.50

How Astronomical Images could Work. Considering Bacon’s and Albert’s expressed belief in the efficacy of astronomical images (and, as I will argue in chapter 7 below, Ficino’s as well, in spite of his equivocations) and the materials appropriate for their construction, we come now to the most basic point of how astronomical images (sometimes popularly thought of as talismans) could work. Al-Kindi, Bacon, Ficino, and others who believed that astronomical forces could be held in images all follow some version of universal or reciprocal radiation. ey believe that celestial Rays carry the different Qualities from the particular celestial bodies, each celestial body’s Rays arriving with different strengths depending on their nature and angles, into an astronomical image (as long as it had a sufficient density; see chapter 7), and that the image then subsequently radiated the same celestial Qualities outward. is is considered to be the case regardless of whether the Qualities are transferring on their own Spiritus or on “borrowed” media. Transmied outward, these Rays could affect the viewer or even someone standing near such images. Ficino points out, regarding the properly made astronomical image, that the image “both conceives in itself the celestial gi [gi is a synonym for Qualities throughout his text], and gives it again to someone who is in the vicinity or wearing it.”51 Later, in a medical context suggesting the powers by which images work (World-Spirit to personal Spiritus), he notes that, if you change the Qualities of the medical Spiritus in a person, you also change the nature of the person’s body and the motions of his or her mind. Further, we learn that it is the physical Rays exuding from good and bad people that cause them to have good or bad influences on others.52 Point to remember: the Rays/Qualities are geing into people’s bodies and minds. rough the logic of universal or reciprocal radiation—and particularly if we focus on the powerful celestial Rays carrying Qualities into the Maer of a site, building, or person—the Rays were also believed to radiate out of that entity. ese Qualities exiting on Rays subsequently interacted and qualitatively changed or transformed other entities nearby, including people, causing the recipient to resemble the celestial original through the absorption of the new Qualities. is theory underlay the astrological concept whereby celestial Rays affected the medicines one ingested, the environment of a region, or the materials in a building or a two-dimensional image.53 e Qualities remain for a long time in the densest and most slowly formed entities, perhaps millennia

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in regions and cities. Rays continuing to exit these objects subsequently enter a person. It is for this reason that patrons coordinated the horoscopes of their cities and buildings with their own horoscopes, as we will see in chapters 5 and 6. e correct coordination could be expected to favorably affect the patron’s life and health, as well as that of his family, for generations to come.54 In chapters 7 and 8, I will suggest ways in which this was also understood to affect astronomical images and, more particularly, the bodies and minds of the patrons and their visitors looking at the images.

e Four Different Types of Radiation or Ray at Will Concern Us Having discussed general principles of reciprocal or universal radiation, I would like to distinguish between four types of Rays or radiation: universal radiation, celestial radiation, visible Rays, and visual Rays. ese terms can be confusing.

Universal Radiation. Radiation is conceived in the early modern period as essentially the copying or transferring of some of the power/Qualities of the original into a recipient. In the basic understanding of universal radiation, all things radiated. e universe was conceived of as “a vast network of forces in which every object acts on objects in its vicinity through the radiation of a force or likeness of itself.”55 As we have seen, to say that something radiated in this context meant that it projected its essence or its Qualities outward into its environs and that these Qualities in motion mingled with and influenced objects that the Rays encountered, causing them to resemble the original for the time during which they existed in that recipient medium. e recipient also passed on the received Qualities, now mixed with the entity’s own (the laer usually considered weak, especially in the case of terrestrial radiation), and, through this new mingling of radiation, continued to influence other entities. Objects with greater power, such as the celestials, naturally dominated the relations. Celestial radiation was much more powerful than earthly radiation. However, the relation was always reciprocal. Even weak elemental recipients radiated and had some reciprocal power.56 Reinforced with celestial radiation, cities, buildings, people, even clothing that had been properly prepared by a horoscopic beginning, took in optimal celestial Rays, preserved them, and radiated them outward.57 It is, perhaps, not hard to understand the logic whereby a material object could take in, hold, and transmit Rays. A brick wall took in the Sun’s Rays and


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passed on some of this heat to a person later siing against it. But how could a two-dimensional drawing do this? e material paper on which the drawing was made might take in such Rays, but a drawing of the Sun itself would seem irrelevant to catching and holding the solar radiation. How this was understood to be caught and held will be the subject of chapter 7 below.

Celestial Radiation. In the “vast network of forces,” celestial radiation is the most powerful and dominating type of radiation. In the standard astrological context, this meant that the celestial bodies, as well as areas of the sky itself, exerted radiation whether or not the Rays were visible to the person and even from the other side of the Earth.58 Not all Rays had the force to pass through dense objects, but the celestials did. Ficino is particularly eloquent on Rays penetrating and producing volcanic fire in the Earth’s center. Later, he notes that even the hardest material is easily penetrated by the celestials, “for all things are very weak before the heavens.”59 Least material, most power.

Visible Rays. Visible rays are not to be confused with visual Rays, which I will define in a moment. Visible rays are another subset of radiation and carry, among many potential Qualities, at least the Qualities that the eye is suited to perceive. Foremost among these are the Qualities of color or colored light. It is these Qualities that make an object visible. In ancient and early modern optical studies, the object of sight was considered to be physically connected to the eyes via Rays of light or colored light, and those Qualities were assumed by the eye’s Maer on entry. As with any radiation, the Qualities entering the eye then altered the existing Maer. In other words, the eye “has become like that object” it sees, in this qualitative way.60 In a mathematical sense, the laws of radiation are naturally the same for visible Rays as for any other type of Ray or radiation.61 e surface of the object of sight facing the eye (like the surface of Venus facing the Earth in my earlier example) is thought of as the base of a cone covered with points. Each point on that surface that has a Ray connected to the apex of the cone inside the eye (like the small conical subset of Venus’s Rays) is participating in the vision of that object. Because the visible Rays between the surface of the object and the eye are carrying the Qualities of color or colored light, a visible copy or imago of the object is moving along the Rays of the cone with measurable mathematical diminution, and the figure of the original enters and exists inside the eye.62 Once inside the eye, this image is the simulacra, the imago, the similitude of its original, and it changes the Maer of the eye. Now the eye’s Maer resembles

Celestial Rays and the Earthly World of Change


the original object in its mathematical paern of the Qualities of color and light. As we will see in chapter 4 below, this image was then passed on to the mind for further processing.63 Parenthetically, the form as well as the Form, the image as well as the imago, is moving on the visible Rays. We see and can observe the visible radiation that produces the shape or form of the object, but this is not the whole story. Even though visible Rays carry a visible, mathematically exact copy of the object between the original and the eye (a copy that is geometrically diminishing in size over that distance), many invisible (occult) Qualities are also moving on those visible Rays, and the Rays express all the Qualities, the total Form, of the object. Even if the object becomes no longer illumined and is, therefore, no longer visible to the eye, its Rays are still moving outward, carrying its copy or nature to recipients that the Rays encounter.64 As Roger Bacon points out, the Qualities carrying disease that passed from a patient to an ophthalmologist looking into the patient’s eyes were also understood to be entering with the visible Rays.65 Ficino insists on the occasionally disputed point that visible Rays (and visual Rays) are real natural entities, even though not seen. In at least three texts where he is discussing the powers in astronomical images and their use by those wise (magi) to the ways of nature, he brings up the issue of the reality of Rays and turns to Rays that can be proved to exist through mirrors.66 Mirrors demonstrate that Rays carry an image to the eyes because we can turn our backs to an object (say a mountain), hold up a mirror, and still see the mountain even though we are no longer actually looking at it. Visible Rays are carrying the mountain’s Qualities of color or colored light, its visible image, between the mountain, the mirror, and our eyes. Ergo, Rays are not a fiction. ey are real. We need physical Rays to carry images in order to see. Beyond color and light, Rays also carry Qualities that cannot be seen. Rays of the Sun hiing a mirror can set an object on fire. e reality of Rays has important repercussions in the next chapter, where we will see that Ficino discusses how wise men use images to influence people, an influence that depends on the natural reality of Rays.

The Visual Ray. e visual Ray is also a subset of universal radiation, but it is distinctly different from a visible Ray. e visual Ray has exceptional powers, including the force to penetrate walls or to kill.67 One background point on vision theory: In the ancient and early modern traditions on optics, the direction of the Rays that connected an object with the eyes was disputed. e theory that descended from Aristotle, intromission,


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conceptualized Rays moving from the object into the eyes. But Plato, Galen, and others subscribed to the theory that the brain sent forth a Ray moving on Spiritus (or pneuma for the Stoics) through the pupils. is was extramission. is visual Ray met light rays at the surface of the eye and joined with these. From there, the visual Ray instantly moved to the surface of the object of sight, absorbed the qualitative visual information from that object’s surface, and carried this radially back into the eyes and mind. A third “combination” theory, that of the Perspectivists, among others, proposed that the Qualities arrived from the object (intromission) but that the eye also sent out the visual Ray (extramission) to meet the incoming Qualities, which were then carried back into the eyes and mind. Mark Smith has pointed out that o en so-called extramissionists actually supported a version of the combined theory.68 e superrefined vaporous Spiritus, a bit like our alcoholic “spirits,” is part of this visual Ray.69 As noted above, Ficino relates macrocosm and microcosm via this Spiritus (which at the macrolevel provided the transfer between World-Soul and World-Body). In the visual context, Spiritus is the connector through the eyes (body) with the person’s lower soul. (Ultimately at a higher grade—Spiritus phantasticus—it connected the earthy mind with the sublime immaterial world of thought.) is concept of superfine material Spiritus is fundamental to the understandings of the remaining chapters of my text, for it is the essential physical conduit for celestial and other Qualities entering into the body of a person, and it is a key component, not just in vision, but also in the lower level of cognition. e image of an object moved inside the mind on Spiritus, as we will see in the discussion in the next chapter of what happens when Rays move into the eye. is intake was a material one, especially in the extramissive theory of vision. Perhaps the reader can begin to see why vision itself has important ethical concerns, issues that will come into sharper focus when the physical nature of vision and cognition is considered in chapter 4. Even in the least material Aristotelian intromissive understanding, vision is central to epistemology and, therefore, has an ethical role as a person aempts to arrive at the Truth. But its ethical nature is increased in the traditions where the mind sends out this visual Ray. In the pure Aristotelian tradition, the image entered the eyes in a sanitized—Qualities-only—passage through the medium.70 But, in the extramissive and combination theories, part of the individual’s physical body, his or her vaporous Spiritus, radiated out and made physical contact with the entering qualitative information. As a consequence, the visual Ray, with its Spiritus, carries the Qualities materially back into the eye and brain. Both in a volitional

Celestial Rays and the Earthly World of Change


and in a material sense, the stakes were higher in the extramissive or combination theories. With this in mind, Roger Bacon, who followed the combined theory that included a version of the visual Ray, warned of the dangers of looking at harmful things. ese were not only psychological dangers, which reason could manage; they were also physical: “And we must be especially careful lest the noble parts, the eyes and the face, be exposed to species [Rays] of this kind, for I saw a physician made blind while he was endeavoring to cure a patient with a disease of the eyes, because of the multiplication of the species coming from the eyes of the patient.”71 Ficino, who steadfastly supports a physical visual Ray theory, cautions his readers that such baleful glances had even been reported to kill.72 On a happier note, Dante reminds us that love also traveled into the eyes on these Rays.73

Summary Radiation alters material things. In universal radiation, some of the power from the original entity moves as Species/virtus/imago/similitude/simulacra/ Form/intentio—carrying the original’s properties or Qualities outward. e original’s Qualities interact with all that they meet, shi ing existing relations and, thus, creating change in Form as they move through media. Some of this change is temporary and some long lasting, the duration depending generally on the recipient’s density, a characteristic sometimes related to its gestation time. A recipient entity not only incorporates the celestial Rays’ Qualities; it also subsequently transmits them outward. In the case of the celestial superpowers, because of their extraordinary strength, their Qualities, once sufficiently held in Maer, continue to radiate out of that Maer for a very long time, interacting with (influencing), and altering, other objects as well. e reader can see that this theory explains how Rays carrying Qualities were thought to enter ecosystems, urban sites, buildings, and people and create changes in them. Any dense material entity could hold celestial Rays for varying, but long, lengths of time. ese entities, via secondary emission, then passed on those Qualities. Ficino even points out that the good or bad influence of some people on others is owed to their physical radiation. e applications of these theories for architectural sites, buildings, and their patrons will be the subject of chapters 5 and 6 below. But Rays altering Maer is not, I think, the most interesting part of this theory. For, as the next chapter shows, Rays alter sense.

≤. .

f ou r

. .≥

The Physical Nature of Vision, the Material Image, and the Soul

If the idola have any power at all, and to the extent that they endure as material effluxes, then it is likely that they affect the spirit naturally. But to the extent that they issue as spiritual effluxes, then it is likely that they affect the soul by way of knowledge, and are thus in harmony with the imagination in the same way as the radial images are in harmony with the eye. m a r s i l io f ic in o


hen describing radiation, Robert Grosseteste, Roger Bacon, John Pecham, Marsilio Ficino, and others are clear that Rays enter both Maer

and sense. is was the standard university belief, expressed in John Pecham’s primer, Perspectiva communis, just as it is in texts by Marsilio Ficino. e consequences of Rays entering sense are not trivial. ese Rays affected perception

and cognition and, ultimately, concerned the purification of the soul. ese were serious issues in any culture and particularly so in a religious one. e interaction of Rays with the sense of sight and the material brain will be the focus of this chapter.1 e nature of Rays exterior to the eyes will be considered first; then we will peer inside the eyes and mind to glimpse how images arriving on Rays were thought to be processed. For Platonists like Ficino, 65


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when the visual process is properly directed by the soul, the image is rectified and clarified through a comparison of the received image of an entity with the perfect Idea of that entity preexisting in the soul. rough this process of comparing and correcting, the person’s physical Spiritus is purified, and, ultimately, the rational soul is formed for its return to the divine. At the close of this chapter, I will point to two routes to this purification of Spiritus—intake from the celestial Rays themselves and intake from artificially made images holding celestial Rays. is second route is discussed in this chapter through Marsilio Ficino’s description of a Material image. It will be developed in detail in chapters 7 and 8, where the astronomical image is considered a special type of Material image. Ficino reports the views of natural philosophers, particularly medical doctors and astrologers, on the theory of astronomical images. Apart from his influence on natural philosophers from Agrippa to Campanella, he was connected with art patrons such as the Chigi, the Medici, and the Farnese who created the great astronomical vaults discussed in chapter 8.

Ficino and the Lower Soul or Material Mind e basic concern of perception and intellection was this: How does the information from a material world enter, and become understood by, the immaterial mind? is at least was the mainstream question. But there was another, more dangerous version. Was there actually any part of the mind that was immaterial? e question was dangerous because, if the whole process was material, then so was the whole mind; and, if the mind was wholly material, then the rational soul died with the body, and there was no life a er death. Marsilio Ficino may be obscure on many points, but, unlike some of his materialist contemporaries, he never wavered in the belief that intellection was immaterial and that the immaterial, immortal soul could be logically argued to live a er the death of the body.2 In the theories that I will trace through much of the rest of this book, however, I suspect that Ficino’s delicate and deliberately obscure handling of certain issues related to vision and the soul derived in part from the proximity of his views to those of the materialists. He entertained more materialistic theories on these concerns than mainstream Scholastics allowed. e powerful Dominicans of Savonarola’s Florence inevitably preferred omas Aquinas’s Aristotle to Ficino’s Plato, and worse yet was Ficino’s interest in Lucretius and the Atomists.3 Although a materialist like Biagio Pelacani was allowed to lecture publicly as late as 1415 at the University of Parma (though he had been called before the

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bishop of Pavia in 1396 because his lectures had been inconsistent with church teaching), this tolerance was no longer the prevailing mood in fin de siècle Florence. A discussion of the material nature of thought was forbidden by the time Ficino published his De vita. Speculation on the materiality of thought was perceived to create confusion and, thus, to endanger public morals.4 e obscurantism within Ficino’s discussions of vision and the soul, especially in relation to images, may be in part aributable to a concern that he risked direct disobedience of such episcopal edicts.5 When he published his theories in his De vita of 1489 or in his related Timaeus and Sophist commentaries, which I discuss below, he so ened or concealed his positions.6 He repeatedly stated that he was only representing the views of others, and he offered the views hesitantly and obscurely. (Yet he offered them.) Had he been more forthright in print, his problems with the authorities would have been much greater than they already were.

Vision External to the Eye Students of optics, as noted above, considered the object of sight to be connected to the soul of a viewer via Rays moving through a medium.7 For those of us who have never thought about the physicality of vision, this connection of a physical object with the material brain via physical mediation may already seem surprisingly materialistic. e instantaneous character of vision is such that we rarely think of a transparent medium such as air, or light rays themselves, as material. Nor do we consider how the rays could work with the meat of the human brain. On reflection, however, it is clear that the light rays are physical and that the process must be material, at least at its lower levels. Mainstream ancient and early modern natural philosophers were not in doubt about the physical and material aspects of vision or about the material nature of the lower sensitive soul that animals also possessed. But most considered the higher stages of thought immaterial. Although vision occurs in an instant, it will be useful to consider the visual process in slow motion in order to think of it as the scientists did. As noted in chapter 3 above, the geometry of the visible Rays exterior to the eyes was the same as the geometry of any radiation. e object of sight was considered to be the base of a cone or pyramid covered with innumerable points. e termini of rays at the base of the cone were connected at their other termini inside the eye, where the apex of the cone of vision was located. Along these Rays, the Qualities of color or colored light transferred mathematically—geometrically


Chapter Four

diminishing along the lines of the cone—and the image entered the eye as a minuscule shape of colored light related with mathematical precision to the original object, as its replica, imago, or copy. But, as mentioned in chapter 3, there were competing theories of the direction of the radiation that produced vision.8 e three primary philosophical stances were intromission, extramission, and a third theory that combined aspects of both intromission and extramission. By our period, those who, following the lead of Aristotle, believed in intromission considered Rays to be carrying the Qualities from the object toward the eye. (is is today considered the correct direction, but it is the least relevant of the three theories for this study.) A er its arrival in the eye, this qualitative image was subsequently passed on to the mind, where it was now available for judgment, recognition, and storage in memory.9 Extramissionists believed, by contrast, that the direction was reversed. e brain sent out the visual (material) Rays on the person’s Spiritus. As these exited the eye, they joined with rays of light and moved instantly toward the object. Physically striking it, this contact set up a reaction. is reaction, described as a reflection or vibration (among other things), caused the visual Rays to relay the qualitative color or color-and-light information along the same Ray, bringing the imago of the original mathematically back into the eye. As noted in chapter 3, most extramissionists accepted some combined version of extramission with intromission. Ficino is primarily an extramissionist, a position consonant with those of his mentors Plato and Galen. Ficino discusses vision in his Timaeus commentary no. 30: “e animal spirit [i.e., Spiritus], which is the senses’ instrument, is solar by nature and is principally raylike or radial, especially in the eye. A ray of it which is very pure escapes through the pupil and mingles with the external light that is like itself and does so in that part of the air especially in which it is concentrated through the sight. Having thus coalesced there with the external light on one form [Species], the ray, if it touches anything that resists it at all, rebounds as it were directly back into the Spirit and thence from the Spirit into the soul.”10 In the third tradition, the object of vision sent visible Rays to the eye (intromission), but the brain and the eye were not passive. e brain sent out the material visual Ray to prepare the entry of the Qualities. At a certain point in the medium, this material visual Ray encountered the Qualities of the incoming Rays, inducted them, and carried the image back into the eyes and brain.11 Ficino’s theory seems to include both incoming and outgoing Rays. But, unlike Bacon or other “Aristotelians,” Ficino understands Rays to carry Qualities

e Physical Nature of Vision


from objects on Spiritus and that the visual Ray also goes out to receive these. We will see that this interception, or reception, seems to be how he understands Material astronomical images to work. Considering the controversy between intromission, extramission, and the combined theories in a practical way, if one were dealing strictly with the light-borne hologram transferring mathematically, as artists might, then the direction of the Qualities’ movement along the Rays makes no difference. is is a point that Leon Baista Alberti makes when schooling novice artists.12 But, if you are thinking of the physical influence of real Rays, the direction and nature of the Rays are important. In the strict Aristotelian intromissive approach, the Qualities are moving through borrowed Maer and enter the eye. None of the original’s materiality is involved, and the eye is a relatively passive receptor. But, in the extramission and combined traditions, the person’s material visual Spiritus has inducted the Qualities, and the eye and the brain are more active physical agents. Because the visual Spiritus is itself material, it is, thus, bringing something materially back into the eyes and lower soul. is makes the transfer from the object to the eye-mind particularly physical. In Marsilio Ficino’s understanding of the Spiritus that pervades the universe, the object’s Qualities are exuded on its Spiritus. is is an exceptionally material notion of the transfer of Qualities from the original to the eye and mind.

e Spiritus Ray inside the Eye and Mind and the Personal Implications of Seeing From this point on, we will follow almost exclusively a Neoplatonic understanding of mind and Ficino’s understanding of vision. Ficino frequently notes in De vita the close relation of the celestial Rays and a person’s visual Rays, especially because they both share Spiritus: “since they [celestial Rays] shine forth through the eyes of a living body [the celestial bodies], and they bring with them marvelous gi s [his common synonym for Qualities in De vita] from the imaginations and minds of the celestials . . . and they act in particular and to the greatest extent on the [person’s] spirit [i.e., Spiritus], which is most similar to the celestial rays.”13 It is in this context that we also find his play on the distinction between visible Rays and visual Rays: “rough the stars as through eyes, it [the Spiritus and life of the world] spreads everywhere not only its visible, but also its visual rays.” Rays can be both visible and visual. We will see that Ficino understands that this flow of celestial Rays occurs via World-Spirit and moves naturally


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into the visual Spiritus of a person looking at them.14 is is a perfect marriage and a material one. Both Spiritus Rays are composed of an extremely refined fiery Maer through which the celestial Rays transfer the celestial Qualities: “For thus the rays of the Sun and the stars . . . fill your spirit with the spirit of the world shining forth more richly through their rays.”15 Ficino returns to these points many times. e concept of visual Rays coming from the stars, which Ficino uses on several occasions, should not be thought of simply as an analogy. He considered these to be actual physical principles. As a medical doctor, he instructs his readers throughout De vita to take in these celestial Rays to improve their physical and mental health. Among the various means suggested, they can do this by judiciously gazing at celestial light, by revolving slowly in dance to the movements of the spheres, by breathing in appropriate vapors that hold these celestial Rays, by ingesting natural materials that already contain the needed celestial ingredients, and by (he slips in) looking at astronomical images. e celestial Qualities can even be taken in by loving thought. He advises the patient to “frequently perceive and think about these things and love them above all; you should also get a lot of light.”16 e Rays enter Maer and sense and heal body and soul. Ficino never loses sight of Plato’s larger metaphysical premise, but here we see that he also understands a very physical interpretation of the dicta in the Timaeus noted in chapter 1—see, reflect, and be improved by the contemplation of the heavens. In his understanding, vision and contemplation also absorb physically healthy radiation from the celestial world. We should not forget that, in reciprocal or universal radiation, a visible Ray had many other nonvisible Qualities moving along the radial path as well. is is why Bacon, who theorized that intromied Rays met extramied ones, could warn of the dangers to a physician who is trying to cure an eye disease and looks into the eyes of the infected. Qualities that could trigger anything from disease to death—in other words, Qualities much beyond color and light—were entering. Or, in the astronomical-astrological context, this means that the human eyes looking at the celestial bodies through their own material visual Spiritus are taking in all the inflowing celestial Qualities, whether these are coming originally on borrowed media (theory A) and then into the visual Rays, or whether the Qualities flow out of the original object on the celestial World-Spirit (theory B). In either theory, the viewer must choose this intake wisely. In De vita 3.16–17, Ficino repeats the information on the physical powers in a glance (disease, death, love) and, with this context in mind, devotes his text to the proper selection and acquisition of beneficial Rays.

e Physical Nature of Vision


How one directed one’s vision has increasingly ethical implications by this point. In Ficino’s understanding of vision, something material in nature has entered and been incorporated into the eyes and the mind. By directing the gaze, the person has the power—indeed, the will—to drink in health-giving Rays and avoid the pernicious. In De vita, Ficino deliberately sets this discussion of visual Rays within the context of the power in astronomical images that ultimately can alter the mind.

Vision and Cognition No one knew then (and no one knows now) exactly how the eyes worked with the brain to produce visual recognition and the subsequent reflection on what was viewed. ere were both basic theories in ancient and early modern traditions and variations on these. By the early modern period, Aristotelian, Platonic, Stoic, and other theories of mind had become blended and blurred— blurred owing to centuries-old misaributions of sources and intentionally blended when philosophers synthesized similar concepts in these Aristotelian and Platonic traditions.17 e details of the study of mind lie beyond the scope of my text, but it is important to remember this: there were two basic parts to the soul or mind—the physical brain and the immaterial intellect.18 How the material and mortal brain or soul and the immaterial and immortal soul communicated was of great interest. In general, the immaterial soul was thought to abstract universal concepts from the lower soul’s image base and work with these abstractions to create new ideas and knowledge for a person.19 Ficino’s variations are discussed below.

e Process of Vision and Ficino on the Material Image Because the views of Ficino on vision, the mind, and something he referred to as Material images are particularly relevant to my study, we will turn to those now.20 In his interrelated commentaries on Plato’s Timaeus and Sophist, Ficino notes that those who are wise to the workings of nature, magi, can influence people by using Material images. In De vita, he uses the term magi especially for astrologers–medical doctors who make astronomical images.21 We will see how this influencing of the mind enters via the eyes. Two points to keep in mind: First, while a belief in astrology was widespread (some of its theories and practices accepted even by its critics such as Savonarola and Pico), the issue of the magus and an astronomical image was more


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dangerous to espouse. Ficino will tread lightly here. Second, when reading Ficino, it is important to remember that, owing to his devotion to the theory of a unified cosmos—“a long continuous succession” of all things descending from the divine—he uses terms such as Form, Species, Spiritus, idolum, and many more with meanings ranging from the celestial to the earthy.22 We must rely on context to determine what part of the spectrum he intends. What is this Material image? Ficino is probably punning on the notion of an image that is an object, say a painting—it is a material image.23 But it soon becomes clear that the Material image in which he is most interested is another type of radiating image. As I will suggest later, when a tangible image, such as a painting, has trapped celestial radiation, it becomes this pun—a material image that also materially radiates its image. Ficino’s understanding of the Material image is related to two other concepts, the Ray image and the Spiritus image. Ficino discusses both of these in order to contextualize and distinguish the Material image. What does his comparison of the other types of images teach us about a Material image? In the simplest understanding, the Ray image is the image or imago of an original when it is exterior to the eye, and the same image or imago is the Spiritus image when it is inside the eye and the mind. But, since Ficino refers at times to the Rays inside the eye and also at times considers the image carried on Spiritus either inside or outside the eye, the two terms, Ray image and Spiritus image, might be considered virtual synonyms.24 e Material image, I think, should also be thought of as the image both exterior and interior to the eye, but Ficino makes an important clarification in his developed discussion of it. It does not require light, something vision always needs. is underscores the point that the Material image is the imago of the original carrying its nonvisible Qualities into the eyes and the mind for processing.

e Material Image in Ficino’s Timaeus Commentary In his Timaeus commentary, in a passage embedded in the discussion of optical theory quoted above, we learn from Ficino that some wise men use Material images to affect the imaginations of people nearby, “especially if it [the imagination] is weak”: “Certain Platonists discovered that images of natural things are not only radial and spiritual but also material, such as Democritus and Empedocles [proposed] flowing through the pores of bodies, and preserving for a certain space not only the quality of the body, but [also] the shape [ figura], and acting secretly in the spiritus of a person nearby and in the imagination, es-

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pecially one that is weak and easily conforming. Wisemen [magi] especially observe and catch the actions of this type.”25 In other words, Platonists have come to understand a type of natural Material image that is distinct from the more commonly recognized Ray and Spiritus images. ese Material images are like the simulacra of the Atomists or the elemental understandings of Empedocles. ey emerge materially and carry the Qualities and also the shape of their original object for a certain distance.26 A Material image can enter the Spiritus and imagination of a person nearby, apparently without that person’s knowledge (“secretly”). ose who understand the laws of nature observe and catch these actions.

e Material Image in Ficino’s Sophist Commentary No. 46 is same combination of features is discussed again, but in greater detail, by Ficino in his contemporary Sophist commentary no. 46. ere again, a Material image—the Maer, Qualities/Form, and shape from an object—emerges as a copy or simulacrum of the original, moving through space, and entering the Spiritus of a viewer. e context for the following passage is the argument concerning the reality of Rays (which he affirms), whether seen or unseen—a reality that is essential to universal or reciprocal radiation. Ficino begins with his usual cautions:27 “However, although I do not venture to lay claim myself to these effects, I will hazard the opinion nonetheless that such things could happen for magi, if, over and beyond the radial and spiritual images that result from light, one accepts the simulacra of Lucretius which stream forth even when the light has been removed, and which drag along with them the maer and the nature of bodies. Proclus seems to have signified these simulacra, at least secretly. Our Platonic Synesius in his book on dreams, however, apparently portrayed them very openly.”28 Because Ficino has here again reinforced the point that Lucretian-like Material images “drag along with them [both] the Maer and the nature of bodies,” we know that these are not images moving on borrowed Maer. And we have now gleaned one difference between the Ray and Spiritus images, on the one hand, and the Material image, on the other. e Material image does not require light. is, we know, is typical of universal radiation. Visible or not, the Rays work. When in these two commentaries Ficino links the Material image to an ancient Atomist concept, mentioning Lucretius and Democritus—a risky allegiance in late Quarocento Florence—it seems he does so to emphasize the


Chapter Four

materiality both of the images and of the Rays entering the eyes of a person. In the Atomist tradition, vision is achieved because a material, atom-thin copy of the original peels physically off the surface of the object, moves through space, and physically enters the eyes of the viewer. Empedocles similarly was associated with a material tradition of vision. If, by the late Quarocento, endorsing the principle of materiality in this way was risky, why would Ficino insist on it and link it to an even more problematic Atomist position? Perhaps he saw in the Atomist tradition a precursor of his World-Spirit that the ancients had somewhat misunderstood. Beyond this, I think that Ficino ultimately does so because he wishes to explain how magi can use images without the need or assistance of daemons. In other words, he wishes to show that Material images can work within the ordinary course of nature. Note that, although this practice of the magi might sound suspect, especially when a weak imagination is mentioned, Ficino does not draw a negative conclusion about Material images in either the Timaeus or the Sophist commentary. ere are risks involved, and personal weakness cannot be a good thing, but he seems to take the position that nature’s materiality should be understood and used wisely. In addition, I believe that he has avoided the taint of heretical materiality here because the materiality is that of his World-Spirit, the superfine “now soul,” “now body” that moves through everything and unites the cosmos. His reference to the early Christian bishop Synesius (d. ca. 414 CE) reinforces this supposition of orthodoxy, as do other passages in book 3 of De vita and his commentary on the Timaeus, as we will see. As background for Ficino’s description and especially for a particularly physical interpretation of it that I suggest as another possible reading, a word might be said about his commentary no. 46 as a whole. It seems to be a condensed explanation of how vision and cognition relate the physical world to the immaterial mind. A er the line identifying Plato’s passage, Ficino’s commentary breaks by line count almost exactly into thirds.29 Just as Plato’s Sophist sets out two paths and then develops one of them, Ficino seems to do the same. While the beginning third opens with reference to the parallel paths of daemons and the human intellect, Ficino intends from the beginning, I believe, to develop the path of the intellect and in a particularly physical way that he refines continuously from the first third to the last third of the commentary.30 e first third describes a person’s immaterial soul and its connection through the imagination and Spiritus to the material world. e second third is a discussion of the physical reality of images and Rays, whether light rays or the kind of radiation that does not require light but is equally real.31 e final

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third suggests the ways in which the eyes, imagination, and intellect process these real physical Rays. In other words, one can read the commentary as a discussion of the epistemological path from sense impression, through the imagination, to the immaterial mind, and vice versa. Ficino explains the way in which the physical world is connected to the immaterial mind via Spiritus, a Spiritus that is increasingly aethereal as the immaterial mind animates and shapes it. It is this final third that is most apposite to the issue of how magi can use Material images to affect the eyes/mind of a person. Focusing now on the last third of this commentary, which Ficino has carefully prepared through the middle third on the natural reality of Rays and images, we learn more about the Material image emerging from its originating object, traveling through space, and being taken in by a viewer. is passage is a more extended version of his succinct statement in the Timaeus commentary cited above—that the Maer, Qualities, and shape of the Material image exude from the object and enter the person’s visual Spiritus. Again, we learn that, as the Material image leaves the surface of its object, it has Maer, Form, and the shape of the object. From there, the trajectory seems to me to be this: We learn that the shape dissipates and that the Material image is now only a diffuse, radiating version of Form and Maer in space. Finally, the diffused image encounters and flows into the visual (animate) Spiritus of someone looking at the object. is visual Spiritus takes in the Form and Maer, and, in its own radial intake, it regroups the shape of the image (one supposes inside the eyes of the person). e image provided by the contemporary humanist Cesare Cesariano that serves as this book’s frontispiece may assist in visualizing part of the process.32 Subsequently, the image in the mind is passed on to the higher Spiritus phantasticus. At this later stage, the image is described by Ficino as Form alone. e higher intellect, the rational soul that animates the Spiritus, compares the lower Form against the ideal Form/Idea given to the mind as its divine birthright.33 In that comparison with the Idea, both the disembodied Form and the mind of the viewer are shaped and improved through understanding. Ficino has brought commentary no. 46 full circle to its title summary, “the human faculty descends from the divine, and images depend in a way on things.” A rapprochement between the earthy and the divine has been accomplished. ings send out their images as things; these enter the eyes and mind and are judged and correctly understood by the immaterial and immortal intellect.34 Let us now take a look at the last third of the commentary in detail. It is based on Synesius, whose work on dreams, De insomniis, Ficino had translated.


Chapter Four

Spiritus pervades Synesius’s text. e quotation from the commentary that follows is long and continuous, but it also seems to divide roughly in thirds. I have broken it accordingly and added my own commentary a er each: For he [Synesius] supposes that the sensible species [Form] in the body is extended along with the maer in such a way that, when a certain vaporous maer [Spiritus] is exhaled through motions, the species [Form] mingled with it may stream forth too. Hence therefore he supposes the effect is such that, just as the species is called an idos in Greek, so the efflux too from the special body may be called an idolon, as if it were a specimen from the species or an aenuated species. Given that it is fashioned from the entire body which has already been shaped, the idolon is thence revealed, so they suppose, with that shape; and this it preserves over a certain distance and for some time. It seems that the maer probably proceeds even farther than the shape mingled with it. In turn, however, a certain immaterial species [Form] so to speak and spiritual mode of the shape probably proceeds still farther than the maer. Similarly, the Aristotelians hold that an intention of scent and of sound is propagated much farther than the material efflux.35

Ficino here opens the last third of the commentary with an overview of it. As we saw in the Timaeus commentary, the Material image flows out of the object and has Form and Maer. Because this Material image is flowing from the entire shaped body, this radiating copy naturally has the shape of the original object close to its surface emission. We might consider this stage 1 of the Material image. Once into the medium (stage 2), the shape dissolves as the radiation from the object spreads out spherically from every point of the surface, carrying the Form and Maer of the original outward. Eventually (stage 3), we read that only the Form persists and that this stage of Form without its original Maer is comparable to an Aristotelian intention. Although not all scientists would have agreed with the premise of a Material image, Ficino’s general statements are, I think, clear enough up to this point. Ficino continues, now returning to repeat and provide more detail on this overview: erefore, just as radial images, which are so to speak empty when elsewhere, are restored in mirrors, so such simulacra, which are so to speak torn apart from each other when elsewhere, are thought to be collected together and reformed in the animate and phantastic spirit as though in a mirror of their own. Perhaps

e Physical Nature of Vision


the analogy might be with the characters traced out in the front of a closed book. Directly the book has been opened, they have disappeared, and directly it has been closed again, they have become immediately visible.36

Ficino seems to be thinking of the mathematics of Rays when he considers the shape dissolving (in the first quoted segment) as it moves out from the object and subsequently regrouping (in this segment) in the person’s Spiritus. He assumes the mathematical substrate of light in his references to the image as radial, and, as a Platonist devoted to mathematics, he further underscores this by the relation of light rays to mirrors—catoptrics being the most mathematical area of optics. e first dissipation occurs, I think, because the Rays exuding from the pores of the object have a punctiform emission. at the Rays move spherically from a point of origin naturally diffuses the shape of the object even as the Form and (Spiritus) Maer continue radially outward. Ficino may also be thinking that this diffusion is increased by the vast network of Rays crossing each other in universal radiation. In that sense, the bombardment of other Rays further tears apart the original shape, even as the Form and Maer of the original continue outward. us in the second segment he can report: “such simulacra, which are so to speak torn apart from each other when elsewhere.” “Elsewhere” seems to be a middle zone where the diffuse image exists in a medium between the surface of the object viewed and the viewer’s eyes. We might also consider that Ray images must have seemed visually mysterious to anyone who did not know the physics of light. We need only look at the way in which light moves through stained glass: a er an “empty” distance where we cannot see the image, the light throws the colored image onto a surface far away from the glass. e Ray image does, indeed, seem “empty when elsewhere,” that is, when traveling through the medium. But the visual Spiritus Rays of the viewer also extend outward, as we know, and these visual Rays are also traversing the medium as the person looks at the object (again, see the frontispiece). In this interim zone between the object and the eye, these visual Spiritus Rays intercept and induct the viewed object’s radiating Form and Maer, and, as they draw this back into the viewer’s eyes, they reconstitute the object’s original shape as the inducted Form-plus-Maer travels back on visual Spiritus Rays into the apex of the cone just inside the viewer’s eyes.37 To put this within the terms of radiation discussed in chapters 2 and 3 above, a spherical diffusion encounters a conical convergence. Finally, Ficino further details this transaction in concluding:


Chapter Four

I set aside now how some things are affected by others by way of the efflux and conflux of the idola, and how imaginations may be moved through these idola by absent things almost as though they were approaching us, and how dreams occur. If the idola have any power at all, and to the extent that they endure as material effluxes, then it is likely that they affect the spirit naturally. But to the extent that they issue as spiritual effluxes, then it is likely that they affect the soul by way of knowledge, and are thus in harmony with the imagination in the same way as the radial images are in harmony with the eye.38

Ficino alludes directly to Synesius’s description of Material images that flow out of (efflux) and are drawn into (conflux) first the animate (visual) Spiritus of a person and then the Spiritus phantasticus. e simulacra that flow out “affect the spiritus naturally” because the image is moving on its own Spiritus and entering a person’s Spiritus, like to like. Both of these are Spiritus at a fairly low grade. Synesius compares this to the idola arriving into their natural home.39 Ficino then moves to Synesius’s Spiritus phantasticus that carries the image in a nonmaterial state.40 us, he returns to describe the last stage, the “spiritual effluxes” that affect the intellectual soul “by way of knowledge.” is is the stage that he had originally described as an “immaterial species” and “spiritual mode” of the figure in his overview, where he seems to have been punning on the two meanings of spiritual. Here, Spiritus is all “soul” and “not a body,” animated by the higher intellect. In this last paragraph of the Sophist commentary no. 46, as I see it, Ficino returned to review and summarize the stages of the Material image one last time. While they endure as “material effluxes,” such images affect the visual Spiritus naturally. is is so because this is the material Spiritus image welcomed into the person’s material visual Spiritus. But, in their final manifestation, moving up the grade of Spiritus, and now as “spiritual efflux” and Form alone in the upper mind, they affect the soul by way of knowledge (afficere animum cognobiliter). is suits the imagination and intellect just as the material Ray images suit the material eye. e final intellectual image, consisting of Form, is no longer freighted with Maer. Now the image is offered to the intellect that has animated the Spiritus and that compares it with the divine Idea. e lower Form-image is reformed and corrected. Ficino and Synesius both suggest that this shaping not only clarifies the image but also purifies the Spiritus and properly shapes the soul itself. As both note, Spiritus ranges from aethereal to earthy, depending on the

e Physical Nature of Vision


use that an individual makes of it. Ficino particularly chides philosophers and poets for neglecting this essential tool of the mind: ey seem wholly to neglect that instrument with which they are able in a way to measure and grasp the whole world. is instrument is the spirit, which is defined by doctors as a vapor of blood, pure, subtle, hot, and clear. A er being generated by the heat of the heart out of the more subtle blood, it flies to the brain; and there the soul uses it continually for the exercise of the interior as well as exterior senses. is is why the blood subserves the spirit; the spirit, the senses; and finally the senses, reason. . . . [T]he contemplation is usually as good as is the compliance of the sense; the sense is as good as is the spirit.41

is care of the Spiritus is a consistent theme throughout both Ficino’s and Synesius’s works. Either the Spiritus is purified and carries clear images to the imagination, whence they soar and are read by the Intellect, or it is heavy with Earth-bound traits and holds the imagination in a state of leadenness as well. e images carried in this laer Spiritus are cloudy and cannot be read. Eventually, the person holding images in this burdened Spiritus and weakened imagination loses the desire or capability of raising these to the level of intellect where purification occurs.

Summary of Ficino’s Material Image Outside the eye, Synesius and Ficino seem to envision a very material transfer of the Material image into the material Spiritus of the eye. When, in his Timaeus commentary no. 30, Ficino remarks on an imagination that is weak, one suspects that the weak imagination is filled with this heavy Material image. It has trouble rising further, where it would have the benefit of reason and purification. e Material image now controls the mind, rather than serving it as it should. But this does not seem the only possibility for the intake of Material images. Reading the Timaeus commentary, the Sophist commentary, and Synesius together suggests a nuanced situation. If the person has properly exercised the imagination, continually comparing the arriving Material images against the divine Images, the person’s Spiritus and imagination become continually purer and more refined. When Ficino scolds philosophers for ignoring the instrument of thought, their Spiritus, it is, ultimately, because the purity of one’s Spiritus affects not just one’s perception but also one’s ability to think and to learn, which affects one’s soul. e most advanced learning—


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philosophy—ultimately leads to the knowledge of the divine.42 But, if one’s Spiritus is Earth-bound, only the delusional dreams and distorted understanding that Synesius also describes can occur.

Consequences In his Timaeus and Sophist commentaries, two texts that deal with vision and cognition, especially as vision is understood to be a transaction of reciprocal radiation operating through Spiritus, Ficino suggests that Material images do exist in nature and that they work through vision to in-Form the mind. Both Synesius and Ficino find this process natural and, thus, accept it as divinely created. Synesius points out that the person has the ability to direct this Spiritus in either a cleansing or a sullying way. Ficino’s remark on a weak will suggests the same. Either the person wisely uses and controls vision and cognition, or he or she is likely to be controlled by a world of deadening Material images. In De vita, Ficino offers a very physical understanding of Plato’s metaphysical advice to purify the soul through the revolutions of the heavens. ere are two paths to this physical aspect of purification. Well-chosen celestial Rays, carrying celestial influences on World-Spirit, flow into the personal Spiritus and, from there, into the body and mind. Bathe in celestial light, eat wisely, draw in so fragrances, revolve in dance, moving slowly to the circling spheres, look at the heavens, reflect on them, love them, and let in the best celestial Rays/Qualities.43 But Ficino additionally suggests something surprising—that the reception of celestial gi s can also be achieved through artificial means. roughout De vita, the most consistent is artificially made medicine, but he also notes astronomical images.44 In chapters 7 and 8 below, I will describe how astronomical images that have been properly made can store celestial Rays and pass them on to the body, eyes, and mind of a person viewing them or even “in the vicinity.”45 e Spiritus of a person takes in the Spiritus of the great celestials, whether this is radiating from the heavens or radiating out of an astronomical image that holds these celestial Rays. In chapter 7, I will show how the celestial Rays are thought to be drawn into and contained in an astronomical image. In chapter 8, we will follow these material Rays moving out of the image and into the Spiritus of the person gazing at them.46 e reader who has followed me this far may be excited to learn that, for the next two chapters, I will abandon theory in favor of practice. I turn now to chapter 5, where the issue of Rays flowing into the Maer that is in cities, buildings, and the bodies of people will be the focus.

≤. .


. .≥

Early Modern Ecosystems The City, the Building, the Person

In order to put an end to the struggle of the Guelphs and Ghibellines at Forlì [the astrologer Guido Bonatto] persuaded the inhabitants to rebuild the city walls and to begin the works under a constellation indicated by himself. If then two men, one from each party, at the same moment put a stone into the foundation, there would henceforth and forever be no more party divisions in Forlì. A Guelph and a Ghibelline were selected for this office; the solemn moment arrived, each held the stone in his hands, the workmen stood ready with their implements. Bonatto gave the signal, and the Ghibelline threw down his stone on to the foundation. But the Guelph hesitated, and at last refused to do anything at all, on the ground that Bonatto himself had the reputation of a Ghibelline, and might be devising some mysterious mischief against the Guelphs. Upon which the astrologer addressed him: “God damn thee and the Guelph party with your distrustful malice! This constellation will not appear above our city for five hundred years to come.”

annale s foroliviense s



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rom the science described in the previous chapters—and the anger in Bonao’s cry as evinced in this chapter’s epigraph—it seems that the im-

proper interaction of celestial Rays and earthly entities in the early modern period aroused the kinds of feelings provoked today in residents living near uranium dump sites. e Rays of the heavens hiing a city at its birth were believed to determine important characteristics of the land, and also of the inhabitants, into the unforeseeable future. In fact, following ancient Roman precedent, Renaissance Italians thought of their cities as living beings that had particular birth (or conception) moments that tied the site, the city, and its population in prosperity or suffering for many centuries.1 is intensity of feeling at the moment of a city’s foundation may seem strange initially, but, whether we live in a contemporary city or consider those of Renaissance Italy, we might note that people typically, if unconsciously, make assumptions that their cities and towns affect the essence of their inhabitants in both psychological and physical ways. Chicago, New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, cities all around the world, arouse feelings that are as consistently human as they are plainly illogical. Sports fans present perhaps the most obvious example of such feelings. e deep affiliations of fans with their cities’ teams can rarely be traced to pride in homegrown talent, yet blood is shed over interurban team insults. With this in mind, one finds that early modern citizens displayed more logic. For the health of a locale and of its citizens was at least logically traced to environmental issues, as the radiation from the heavens was understood to influence the place in physical ways, ways that inevitably affected the health and well-being of the citizenry over time. In this chapter, I would like to provide evidence of this astrological understanding through the theoretical discussions among natural philosophers and astrologers. In the next chapter, I will turn to architectural theory and case studies that further illustrate these precepts.

Natural Philosophers on the Relation of the Site and the Heavens Albert the Great and Roger Bacon can serve to illustrate the common thought on these points.2 In their works devoted to geography, the two scientists move seamlessly between astronomy and astrology in their discussions of heavenly effects in geography, and both casually reference the Aristotelian notions of Form and Maer as they understand the Sun and other celestial bodies to alter the relations of Form and Maer. For both these authorities, the terrestrial world was an elemental matrix into which Rays were flowing. is in-

Early Modern Ecosystems


flow changed the Earth, its flora and fauna, including people, in predictable ways. Certain broad characteristics of the elemental features in any earthly area were understood to have been fixed by the latitude of the place relative to the Sun’s path. ese characteristics were shared throughout a latitude or clima and were sometimes referred to as universal features of that region. But every point on the Earth existed not only within a general latitudinal relation to the Sun; as noted in chapter 2 above, every place on the Earth was also understood to be the center of its unique horizon. at uniqueness determined, at every changing moment, both the relative strengths of the Rays from the fixed and wandering stars hiing that point and the house divisions into which those influences were flowing. is uniqueness within a clima was believed to account for some of the variations from one town to the next and from one person to the next—even to the difference in twins. When natural philosophers discuss the horizon, we should be particularly alert to implicit astrological assumptions.3 Albert the Great discusses his geographic theories in terms of the particular horizon because he is taking for granted astrological doctrines: If anyone wishes in particular to understand all of the nature and characteristics of particular places, in water, air, and on the earth, he will know that there is no point in them that does not have a special characteristic by the power of the stars. . . . And at every point . . . the circle of the horizon varies, and in addition to the variation of the circle of the horizon the whole reflection of the sky varies. . . . For this reason the nature, properties, characteristics, activities, and kinds of those things vary which appear to be brought forth in the same perceptible place. Indeed because from twin seeds diverse properties and characteristics are aributed to animals, brutes, and men from this diverse outlook. And this is reasonable because heaven has ascertained formative powers in everything that is; however for the most part it diffuses those powers through rays sent forth by the lights of stars; it follows, therefore, that any one shape of rays and any angle may cause various powers in inferior bodies.4

Here and elsewhere in his geographic theories, Albert insists on the uniqueness of each point on the Earth relative to its horizon and the resulting variety among minerals, plants, animals, and people that comes from the relation of that unique point to the ever-changing inflow of celestial Rays. e protochemistry described in previous chapters is assumed as the Rays contrib-


Chapter Five

ute “formative” powers and alter the existing Maer. is passage goes on to praise the legendary astrologer Hermes, and Albert concludes the chapter citing Ptolemy’s Tetrabiblos for the ways in which astrologers can use their knowledge of natural forces to alter a place for the beer.5 Roger Bacon sets his study of geography within this same cosmic context, basing his discussion of the habitable parts of the globe on their latitude in relation to the Sun. He further lectures on the necessity of understanding astronomy: “But the places of the world cannot be known except through astronomy; since it is necessary for us first to know the longitudes and latitudes of such places.”6 Although this sounds like astronomy pure and simple, it becomes clear in the next few sentences that Bacon intends what we consider astrology: “It is necessary also to know through astronomy what planets hold sway over the different regions; for in accordance with this principle are regions greatly altered.” He later returns to this theme of the need to understand the natures of the stars and planets to beer understand any place and the things located there, whether people or other entities, so that “a judgment may be made respecting the present, past, and future.” He goes on to discuss the 1,022 fixed stars that “possess different forces in heat, cold, moisture, dryness, and all other qualities” and the astrological natures of the planets.7 He also differentiates between universal characteristics of a place that are dependent on the latitude and particular characteristics that derive from a unique horizon, using the mathematical model discussed in chapter 2: But since the objects of this world located in different places, however near they may be, receive the apexes of different pyramids [think cones] coming from the whole heavens opposite to them, an infinite diversity happens on this account. For to the separate points of the earth come apexes of separate pyramids, and each point is the center of a new horizon. . . . [A]nd for this reason twins in the womb of their mother receive by lot a difference in nature. . . . And when the child at birth is exposed to a new air, another world as it were, he then receives apexes of celestial pyramids as respects his separate members, and thus receives new impressions, which he never gives up. . . . And then is formed the radical complexion, which remains to the end of life, although the current complexion may be changed for a whole day. And this radical complexion is followed by inclinations to morals and to sciences and languages, and to all trades and occupations, and to all that diversity which we see in all things.8

Early Modern Ecosystems


Bacon restates that the differences in latitude account for general or universal characteristics and that the uniquely changing horizons determine particular characteristics, right down to the differences in twins—a fine point on which Albert also insisted. For both Albert and Roger, the change of time changes the Rays flowing to a point within a unique horizon circle. Twins—and, indeed, “all things”—receive unique celestial inflowings because the heavens over the horizon have moved between the time of the first birth and that of the second. Bacon concludes the larger discussion in which this passage is embedded by pointing out that certain zodiacal signs and planets have special predominance over certain regions, even though authorities sometimes differ on the dominations assigned. Both he and Albert repeat these points many times in their geographic texts. We know, as all ancient peoples knew, that air and water pollution in certain locations sickens people and is particularly dangerous to a developing fetus, just as Renaissance writers note that certain locations consistently produce a high percentage of birth defects.9 Both Albert the Great and Roger Bacon take for granted a biological affinity between a site and its population. Albert notes: “All bodies which are outside the place of their birth for a long time, since they are removed from the source of their preservation and their existence (and we see this not only in men and other animals but even in plants which very often are planted in different places), and likewise stones are weakened in their own power when they are outside the place of their origin.” We might aribute such lassitude in people to psychological stresses, but he continues with a very physical interpretation. If these beings, from stones to people, are outside the region of their birth and seem to “retain their color and shape for a long time,” they are nonetheless “like dead men that retain their shape” for a long time a er burial.10 We are well aware of what the change of locale can mean for transplanting vegetation. But, against this understanding of nature, perhaps we sense an unsuspected reason why the common Renaissance political punishment of exile was dreaded. In the early modern worldview expressed here, the maternal Earth nurtures her progeny, and entities within a location share in its unique Qualities. People do not do well outside their birthplaces. e ancient myth of Mother Earth takes on vivid scientific meanings in this context, where natural philosophers believed that not just flora and fauna but even people shared in the physical nature of one’s home locale and were healthier there. is kind of assumption is also behind the comments one finds in memoirs such as that


Chapter Five

by Michelangelo (set within the astrological context of his own birth) that he had imbibed the gi of sculpture with his wet nurse’s milk in the stonecuing district of Seignano—a poetic statement to be sure but also one that had a physical understanding in an early environmentalism.11 e connectedness between the life of a person and the life of that person’s city can be seen within the cosmological understanding that lay behind the astrology—the notion that all the celestial bodies were energetically influencing the physical geography of one’s city, just as they were influencing the physical maer in one’s body. rough universal radiation, the Rays further bound the place and people. Astrological doctrines developed that specifically connect the celestial radiation of cities with that of their first founders and, by that same logic, connect patrons with the buildings they founded. A correct coordination was sought so that the universal radiation flowing between city, building, and person would be mutually supportive.

Astrological eory: e Cosmos, the Earth, the Region, the City Albert the Great and Roger Bacon, writing on geography, explained it within the logic of astrology. e astrological principles in these geographic works also appear in classic astrological authorities such as Ptolemy. Ptolemy examines the relations between places and people in his Tetrabiblos. Astrological texts such as his that consider regions, cities, and people also take the hierarchical and practical view that the larger geographic entities affect their subsets. e hemispheres, then the quadrants of the Earth, the regions within the quadrants, and, finally, the cities within the regions are considered in order because the life of a region or city dominated the fate of the individuals born or living within it. e sensible nature of this concept is apparent even in our much flaer world, for the fate of an individual is still largely dependent on the continent and country into which he or she is born. Astrologically, this was reflected in the ways in which city horoscopes were linked with the horoscopes of buildings and both were correlated with those of their inhabitants. Ptolemy’s hierarchy in the Tetrabiblos naturally commences with the astrological influences on territories and cities (bk. 2) before turning to the fates of individuals (bks. 3 and 4).12 Ancient stereotypes of the human race, many still alive today, are recognizable in these descriptions.13 at the heavens variously influenced different places and people on the Earth was obvious to ancient travelers. e Scythian North had a different relation to the Sun than

Early Modern Ecosystems


did the territories of the Ethiopians near the equator. Distance or proximity to the Sun produced striking differences in climate, flora, and fauna and even in the skin color of the inhabitants. But, in astrological texts, this great earthly variety was no longer aributed to the Sun or even the Sun and the Moon. It now included the inflowings of the 1,022 known stars and the seven planets as well as other astrologically defined portions of the heavens. Even the darkness of the heavens radiated Qualities, as Pecham reported. In his discussion in book 2, Ptolemy divided the known world into four quadrants.14 e center of the world was his home area of Alexandria, and, in general, it seems that, the closer a region was to Alexandria, the higher the level of culture; the farther from the center, the less civilized. Europe constituted the northwest quadrant, which, according to Ptolemy, was governed by the triplicity of Aries, Leo, and Sagiarius. All three were masculine signs in his system and the astrological domiciles of masculine planets: Mars (Aries), the Sun (Leo), and Jupiter (Sagiarius). us, he related that the people of Europe loved war, did not love women, and were somewhat cultured. On the farthest fringes of the northwest quadrant were the wilder barbarians of Britain, Ireland, France, and Germany. ese were especially governed by Aries with its planetary ruler, the war god Mars. is made the people of these regions even more inclined to war and the company of men, while their distance from the center of the world made them less cultured. Closer to Alexandria, Italy had particular familiarity with Leo and Leo’s ruler, the Sun. is inclined Italians to rule over others. Along with Italy, Ptolemy listed the regions of Cisalpine Gaul, Apulia, and Sicily, though not Tuscany. e laer was under the auspices of the related masculine sign of Sagiarius, with its beneficent planet Jupiter. us, Tuscans shared many characteristics with the rest of Italy, though their unique Etruscan heritage (and their submersion under Leo’s minions) seems to have been linked to Sagiarius. Ptolemy’s theories were expanded in the early modern astrological literature. Because observation had shown that cities within a region experienced different fates in war, agriculture, even plague, by the early modern period every city of consequence in Italy also had its special familiarity with a zodiacal sign and the sign’s planetary ruler.15 In this Ptolemaic tradition, it was essential to know a city’s sign, even if this seems primarily so that one could know its planetary ruler. Ptolemy had wrien: “In the case of metropolitan cities, those regions of the zodiac are most sympathetic through which the sun and moon, and of the centers especially the horoscope [i.e., the Ascendant], were passing


Chapter Five

at the first founding of the city, as in a nativity.”16 Although Ptolemy’s text gives some range to the understanding of what constituted a city’s sign, in practice the zodiacal sign associated with a city seems usually to have been considered the one that was believed to have been ascending at the foundation moment.17 A review of Renaissance lists suggests that some zodiacal signs were more popular than others for foundations. Of the five major Italian cities, Rome had Leo with its planetary ruler the Sun, Florence and Naples were under the protection of Aries and Mars, while Venice and Milan were under Cancer and the nurturing Moon. One can guess at some of the astrological benefits in these choices. Leo and the Sun were auspicious for a city with imperial ambitions such as Rome. Aries provided protective military power through its planetary deity, Mars, making it a good choice for Florence and Naples. Venice’s and Milan’s choice of Cancer with the Moon is less obvious, but it also had much to recommend it. Cancer was the Ascendant in what was considered the world’s birth horoscope, the ema mundi.18 is horoscope was known from several sources. Leon Baista Alberti described it, as we will see in the next chapter, in his architectural treatise. When Cancer is ascending at the world’s birth, Aries is found at the Midheaven, Libra holds the Lower Midheaven, and Capricorn is seing (fig. 8).19 Aries is in a position of great strength at the Midheaven, and Libra, the balance, signifying peace, is at the cusp of the fourth house. e fourth house governed concerns of the Earth, especially real estate, agriculture, minerals, and buildings. ese four signs at the cardines of the ema mundi apparently promised a fortunate beginning for a city, linking the site with the creation of the world, giving it peace at its base and military power on high. Many dates and times of day could be found that matched this basic set of the four cardines in the ema mundi, but the Venetians seem to have improved these associations by founding their city on the feast of the Incarnation, March 25, precisely at noon. March 25, the feast marking Christ’s conception nine months before Christmas, was considered the beginning of Christian salvation history, and noon on that date matched Venice’s cardines with the ema mundi. If this relation to the ema mundi was part of the Venetian plan, the putative horoscope for the birth of Christ may also have been taken into consideration.20 e four cardines of the ema mundi and the four in the birth horoscope of Christ follow a general rule in the Tetrabiblos regarding the relation of the cardines in the horoscopes of a founder and his territory. According to this principle, the Midheaven at the birth of the first founder—Cancer in the horoscope of

Early Modern Ecosystems


8. ema mundi.

Christ—becomes the Ascendant of the territory under that rulership. Cancer ascending at the birth of the world places it appropriately under the guidance of its King and Savior (fig. 8 above). With the cooperation of so many cosmic forces—the beginning of the world, the horoscope of Christ, and the date of March 25—Venice could not fail. e Venetian chronicler Francesco Sansovino told its foundation story with local pride, reporting that the early immigrants laid the first stone at the Rialto, the astrologers having calculated the precise sky and having checked it “many times.”21 A thousand years later, Renaissance astrologers such as Luca Gaurico and Girolamo Cardano still commended this horoscope, which they published with complimentary observations. But the Ascendant did not give the whole story. Milan’s horoscope is a case


Chapter Five

in point. Even though, like Venice, it had Cancer at the Ascendant, Milan was not fortunate, as Renaissance astrologers noted. Established in May with Cancer ascending, this date in late spring no longer provided Milan with a correlation of stars at the Midheaven and fourth house matching those of the ema mundi. Instead of the powerful Ram, now the Fish were ruling at the Midheaven, and, instead of Libra at the cusp of the fourth house and ruling foundations, there was the Maiden. What could the Milanese have been thinking? e celebrated astrologer Girolamo Cardano, a native son, seems to have tried in some measure to correct this horoscope problem, for he published a rectified chart showing the same foundation year but with the date now set to March instead of May. is caused the cardines to match those of the ema mundi. Cardano did not recompute the planets, however, which are still in their May positions, thus revealing his incomplete rectification.22 Certain signs such as Aries and Cancer were probably also popular as Ascendants for practical reasons. Spring was the best season to begin construction, as the architects note, and sunrise had an intuitive association with beginnings.23 us, a city could easily locate its Ascendant in Aries if it were founded at sunrise in the spring. is same springtime Sun in Aries meant that the Sun had reached the Midheaven by noon, and at that time Cancer would have arrived at the Ascendant, the relationship the Venetians had provided for their city. If city elders were hoping for a good turnout at the ceremony, noon, with Cancer at the Ascendant and Aries and the Sun at the Midheaven, made an excellent choice. Whatever the reason for the original connections of cities with their zodiacal signs, however—that is, whether the sign was chosen in advance of a ritual founding or retrospectively determined in light of the city’s history—by our period the particular associations of planets and signs that had been fixed in the distant past now seemed to be corroborated by the continued unfolding of historical events.24 Nonprofessionals and professional astrologers alike acknowledged the consequences of a city’s astrological birth.25 us, the Florentine chronicler Dino Compagni’s lament as he frames his text on Florence’s bloody history, blaming it on the city’s founding under Aries and Mars: “And so that foreigners may beer understand the events which took place, let me describe the form of that noble city in the province of Tuscany, built under the Sign of Mars . . . its citizens bold in arms, proud and combative.”26 at the city’s fate was tied to the power of Aries and Mars can be seen as well in Florentine paintings and in the belief that the city was protected by a sculpture

Early Modern Ecosystems


of Mars. e replica was ceremonially placed along the Arno according to an astrological election, and, when it was swept away in a flood, the anticipated disasters followed as feared.27 It was this type of astrological conviction that Savonarola found so reprehensible. In fact, the tart or admiring remarks of Renaissance writers on their own or rival cities and populations can o en be traced back to a city horoscope. is was but a more precise astrological understanding of Albert the Great’s and Roger Bacon’s geography lessons. Taurus, with its planet Venus, reputedly contributed to the great beauty of Bolognese women and the libidinous habits of the city’s youths. Siena’s founding under Taurus may even account for the changing aitude shown toward a famous Sienese statue of Taurus’s planetary ruler, Venus.28 Milan’s unfortunate political fate should have been seen in its ill-advised birth chart of 1167 and fixed through a new foundation.

Astrological Remedies to Cure a City’s Misfortune: Refound It Because the founding of colonial cities was a practice of ancient Rome, the horoscopes of Italian cities were o en centuries old by the early modern period. What could be done to help a city when its luck had run out? e place, the very area of the Earth that the city enclosed, seemed exhausted. It needed to be fixed with a new beginning of beneficent celestial influences so that it and its people could prosper. e practice of refounding a city had become an accepted astrological remedy. e efforts of Guido Bonao to reform the fate of Forlì (as outlined in this chapter’s epigraph) is but one instance. is practice was validated by ancient precedent. Rome had been founded on April 21, 752 BCE, and refounded on April 20, 572 BCE.29 Florence was founded by the Roman triumvirs and refounded under Charlemagne in 802.30 Milan’s Roman foundation was refashioned in the twel h century and needed another fix by the sixteenth.

e Foundation Hidden or Gone Awry: Rectify It While refounding required a new ritual ceremony, rectification required only the research to study what had gone wrong and the recomputing of the time to write a new horoscope. e chart was then redrawn with the now-corrected time in order to display why unforeseen events had occurred. Some rectifications may have been made as decoys, however. Within the context of interpret-


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ing city horoscopes, Girolamo Cardano makes the telling comment: “if this is the real horoscope.”31 e true horoscopes, whether of people or of cities, were o en guarded, for no horoscope was without some vulnerability. Rulers and citizens had lile interest in displaying their weaknesses for the exploitation of their enemies. us, even for a professional astrologer like Cardano, it was difficult to know, among the many horoscopes floating around in the public domain, which, if any, was the true foundation horoscope and which might be the deliberately spurious publication used for political disinformation. Apart from such intentionally hidden horoscopes, others suggest that astrologers were earnestly struggling to reconcile the conflicting celestial evidence as historical events played out.32 is astrological practice rested on the belief that the founding itself had accidentally been performed at the wrong time.33 Alessandro de’ Medici’s particularly ill-fated foundation ceremony for the new Florentine fortress is a case in point.34 e bastion, widely understood to be a threat to the Florentines rather than to any foreign invaders, was a source of resentment among the citizenry. To make maers worse, the astrologers consulted disagreed on the most propitious date for the foundation, and a protracted debate was finally seled by calling in a Bolognese astrologer as the tie breaker in the controversy. Even a er the date was decided, tensions ran high during the foundation ceremony. e astrologers in charge on the day disagreed on the moment, a tussle ensued, and Alessandro gloomily predicted the fall of the fortress on the basis of the botched timing. If the embarrassment of a refounding was ever planned, it apparently did not take place before Alessandro was assassinated. Whether a rectification was a deliberate decoy or an earnest aempt to understand what went wrong, these charts can become historical foolers for us. However, rectified horoscopes are not always as hard to spot as Cardano’s remark suggests. Certainly, his own are not, given that the planetary positions are o en far off from the dates or times he altered.35 Further, rectified horoscopes o en bear witness to features of the original horoscope, or what was believed to be an original horoscope. If several rectified variations exist, a comparison of the divergent horoscopes o en points to the features of an urhoroscope. In addition to the rectified horoscopes for Saint Peter’s Basilica, we will see the same phenomenon when looking at three different recorded birth times for the duke of Milan, Francesco Sforza. While these variants can fool us, they also carry a benefit. ey allow a glimpse of the astrologers and their patrons retroactively fiing the heavens to the events as they rewrite celestial history for their own purposes.

1.  Vault of the Sala della Cosmografia, Palazzo Farnese, Caprarola, ca. 1573–74. © Alfredo Dagli Orti/The Art Archive at Art Resource, NY.

2.  Vault of the Sala della Cosmografia, Palazzo Farnese, Caprarola, detail of Jupiter, ca. 1573–74. © SEAT Pagine Gialle S.p.A. 3.  Vault of the Sala della Cosmografia, Palazzo Farnese, Caprarola, detail of Phaeton, ca. 1573–74. © Alfredo Dagli Orti/ The Art Archive at Art Resource, NY.

4.  Saint Augustine, Sandro Botticelli, Church of the Ognissanti, Florence, 1480. Courtesy of Scala/ Art Resource, NY.

5.  Creation of Sun and Moon, Michelangelo, detail of the Sistine Ceiling, Vatican Museums, 1511. Courtesy of Erich Lessing/ Art Resource, NY.

6.  Astrolabe, attributed to Jean Fusoris, ca. 1400. Courtesy of the Adler Planetarium & Astronomy Museum, Chicago, Illinois. Inventory no. W-264.

7.  Renaissance armillary sphere, Alex Ravilius, 1542. Courtesy of the Adler Planetarium & Astronomy Museum, Chicago, Illinois. Inventory no. M-2.

8.  Astrology, Raphael, Stanza della Segnatura, ca. 1510. Courtesy of Scala/Art Resource, NY.

9.  Chigi burial chapel vault, Raphael and school, Church of Santa Maria del Popolo, Rome, begun ca. 1516. Courtesy of Scala/Art Resource, NY.

10.  Astrological vault in the villa of Agostino Chigi, Rome, Baldassare Peruzzi, ca. 1511. Courtesy of Alinari/Art Resource, NY.

11.  Astrological vault in the villa of Agostino Chigi, detail of Aries and Taurus with Jupiter, Baldassare Peruzzi, ca. 1511.

12.  Central area of the Sala dei Pontefici vault, Borgia Suite, Vatican Museums, school of Raphael, ca. 1520–21. Courtesy of Scala/Art Resource, NY.

13.  Vault of the Sala della Cosmografia, Palazzo Farnese, Caprarola, detail of Gemini, ca. 1573–74. © SEAT Pagine Gialle S.p.A.

14.  School of Athens, Raphael, Stanza della Segnatura, Vatican Museums, ca. 1510. Courtesy of Scala/Art Resource, NY.

Early Modern Ecosystems


A Closer Look at People and eir Places Whether looking to the natural philosophical or the astrological literature, one finds the same understanding—that people and their places are celestially and, therefore, biologically related.36 is had to be so in a system where Qualities were moving on radiation that entered, altered the Maer of, and then continued out of objects. It is not surprising, then, that these general concepts became codified in astrological formulas. ese formulas prescribed the coordination of a personal horoscope with that of one’s place. Only a simple correlation was possible, however. e same sky, one with all the same planetary and stellar relations existing at the original foundation of a city or at the birth of its founder, would not return.37 Nevertheless, Ptolemy reported that certain general similarities produced similar effects. In both theory and practice, this search for a similar sky seems to have been satisfied at the most basic level by a correlation of the cardines, especially the interrelationship of the two most important, the Ascendant and the Midheaven. Immediately following Ptolemy’s explanation of the zodiacal sympathy of a city, one finds his correlation between a city and its founder: “But in cases in which the exact times of the foundations are not discovered, the regions are sympathetic in which falls the Midheaven of the nativities of those who held office or were kings at the time.”38 e region of the sky that will be sympathetic for a city (its zodiacal Ascendant) is the sign found at the Midheaven in the founding ruler’s birth horoscope.39 is created a simple yet fundamental relation between a city and its founder—one noted above for the ema mundi and below for the founding of Sforzinda. Paralleling this logic, and refining the cosmic relation between the first ruler and his city, the Quarocento astrologer and friend of Ficino’s Lorenzo Bonincontri cosmically linked a building and its patron through the cardines as well. But, in this more personal situation, Bonincontri promoted the practice of choosing a time that had the same Ascendant for both patron and building: “e nativity [of the patron] being known, begin your work in the hour in which the sign rises which was rising at the birth.”40 In the case studies of the next chapter, whether the patron be duke, pope, or private citizen, it seems that such basic coordination of cardines linking cities and their rulers and buildings with their patrons became an accepted astrological practice.

≤. .


. .≥

Architectural Theory and Astrological Foundations Three Case Studies

For my part, although I would not go so far as to believe that those who practice this art or who read the seasons can ascertain the destiny of everything, I would nonetheless concede that they ought not to be ignored when they argue that, on the basis of heavenly signs, a particular time is favorable or not. But whatever the case, either it will be extremely useful to heed their advice, if accurate, or, if inaccurate, it will do little harm. l e on b at t i s ta a l b ert i

Architectural eory: e Environment and the Coordination of the Heavens with the Earth Marcus Vitruvius and Leon Baista Alberti, the authors of architectural works that were fundamental texts for the Italian Renaissance, can serve to illustrate the ways in which natural philosophical and astrological understandings had penetrated architectural studies. Both Vitruvius and Alberti include information on famous astrologers and advocate architectural practices that are based on astrological assumptions.1 at the knowledge of astrology and that of architecture overlaps is to be 95


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expected if we consider that the most basic concern for an ancient or early modern architect was the health and habitability of the site and its appropriateness for durable foundations. Because both natural philosophers and architects understood health and construction issues to involve the effects of celestial radiation on elemental Qualities, choosing the best site depended, as Vitruvius insists, on knowledge of the optimal relations of the heavens to the earthly locale—especially to its Earth, Water, Air, and Fire. Vitruvius’s Ten Books on Architecture, which was widely available in manuscript, first published in Rome in 1486, and translated into Italian in 1521, opens and closes with astronomical and astrological concepts. Book 1 concentrates on the former, book 9 on the laer.2 Vitruvius is particularly sensitive to a site’s relation to the movements of the Sun and the ways in which this governs the properties of earth, water, and air quality since celestial radiation is understood to alter the elemental Qualities of hot and cold, moisture and dryness, at the site. is is important not only for the health and habitability of the site, the reader is told, but also for the strength of the local stone and the properties of the various building materials. Beyond these inanimate materials, Vitruvius discusses the ways in which this alteration of Qualities also affects the physical and psychological characters of the people of a locale, just as Ptolemy had. We recognize ancient natural philosophical and astrological principles in Vitruvius’s work when, in discussing the variety of things produced in a place, he cites a list of Greek authorities who had discovered “that the properties of places, the characteristics of waters, and the Qualities of the regions of the heavens have been distributed in this fashion because of the inclination of the cosmos”—the inclination that determined the unique horizon and, thus, the angular strength and nature of the radiation striking that spot.3 When Vitruvius instructs the architect on the need to understand the heavens in order to choose the best site for architecture, much of his discussion is focused on the relation of site, its latitude, and the effect of solar Rays on the latitude’s elemental Qualities—all issues that would have been considered both astronomical and astrological. In his explanations, Vitruvius uses astrological analogies and refers to mathematical techniques and instruments used by astrologers. In book 9, he assumes that his reader knows even such relatively recondite astrological details as the differences between conception and birth horoscopes.4 Vitruvius writes consistently of astrological concerns in book 9. A er a long discussion of the movements of the planets in relation to the Earth, he ex-

Architectural eory and Astrological Foundations


plains characteristics of planets that are plainly astrological rather than observational. To the elemental Qualities altered by the Sun and the Moon he adds that Mars is hot, distant Saturn cold, and Jupiter harmonious and temperate. Book 9 also provides a history of “astronomy” that is devoted to ancient astrologers, people of “great wisdom and acumen” who seem to have been “guided by the divine intelligence.” Vitruvius recommends the “learned reasoning” of these ancients—Berosus, Antipater, Achinapolus, and others who made possible the explanation of “past and future events by reasoning from the stars.” ey will assist the architect in a beer understanding of “the effect the twelve signs, the five stars, the sun and the moon exert upon the regulation of human life.” us Vitruvius’s text gave Renaissance authors a classical validation for the understanding that architecture should be astrologically coordinated.5 Like his ancient predecessor, the Renaissance author Leon Baista Alberti is circumspect with regard to astrology in his treatise On the Art of Building in Ten Books, but he also subtly endorses it.6 Like Vitruvius, Alberti also charges architects with finding the healthiest site for a city or a new building. In his discussion of the health of a site, he notes various theories on the causes of air quality and climate, among which are “the course and radiation of the stars” and “the quality and angle of the sun to which a locality is exposed.”7 In discussing how important the selection of a healthy site is, he includes the value of studying, prior to selection, the “destiny” of the place, which can be known in part from the stars: “It is said to be the mark of prudence and wisdom to examine the destiny of a locality by interpreting auspices and through observation of the heavens; I do not think these methods should be despised, provided they accord with religion. Who would deny the importance of that which we call chance in human affairs, whatever it may be?”8 Within this context he continues. Nothing other than the pursuit of virtue itself is more important than exerting all efforts in establishing the best shelter for one’s family. Later—in 2.13—he discusses the proper time to build. is discussion includes the appropriate season for the construction and the notice: “Some advise that construction not commence until an auspicious occasion, since great importance is aached to the moment in time when anything enters existence.”9 Alberti here refers to election horoscopes. He then goes on to record the auspicious astrological founding of Rome by the astrologer Lucius Tarutius as well as the research that has been recorded by the astrologer Firmicus Maternus on the creation of the world (the ema mundi). He follows this with an important distinction between sloppy astrologers and careful ones (which forms part of


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this chapter’s epigraph): “It will be extremely useful to heed their advice, if accurate, or, if inaccurate, it will do lile harm.”10 is is a distinction insisted on, as we have seen, by serious astronomer-astrologers since Ptolemy. Although his account is delivered in his most dispassionate, professorial manner, Alberti does more than simply record the practice of architectural foundation horoscopes. He tells us that, as long as one can find an astronomer-astrologer who will accurately compute the positions, a proper astrological foundation is “extremely useful.”11 e disclaimer that not “everything” can be determined also follows the astrological tradition of Ptolemy, as we have seen, as well as that of those who “accord with religion.”12 Alberti also mentions astronomical and astrological theories on cuing timber, gathering supplies, and even the power of the Sun’s rays to generate precious stones beneath the Earth.13 While these might seem closer to natural philosophical principles, he bases them on astrological assumptions. e position of the Moon in certain zodiacal signs has advantages or disadvantages, depending on whether immovable or movable objects are the subject. For movable objects, the Moon should be in Libra or Cancer (“movable signs”), but, for the immovable goods, it should be in Leo or Taurus (“immovable signs”). e Moon moves through a zodiacal sign in less than three days, so this cannot be a seasonal consideration. is is astrology, with its intellectual basis in theories on the chemistry and physics of Rays and its evidentiary assumptions grounded in ancient wisdom literature from an unverifiable past. us, while in this treatise Alberti is cautious about astrological interests, he recognizes some validity in astrological theories and endorses astrological practices— particularly that of a correct astrological foundation for a building—provided that this is not in conflict with religious belief. We will see this necessary caveat expressed by others as well.14 Although astrology enters relatively sparingly into Vitruvius’s and Alberti’s treatises on building, Alberti’s contemporary Antonio Averlino, known as “Filarete,” had no such reticence when producing his own architectural work. His Treatise on Architecture is such a mix of astrological theory and practice that I use it as the first case study below.

Case Studies of Practice It is probably not an exaggeration to say that there are countless foundation horoscopes in Italian archives that demonstrate the practice of astrological

Architectural eory and Astrological Foundations


foundations for cities and buildings in Renaissance Italy. I have chosen a sample of three to illustrate some of the complexity involved in the practice. ese three include the foundation of an ideal city, that of a religious structure that was considered both a city and a building, and that of a private residence.

Case 1: e Fictional Founding of Sforzinda and the True Horoscope of Francesco Sforza Filarete’s Treatise on Architecture, wrien during a long sojourn in Milan, provides a spectacular description of the planning for the utopian city Sforzinda, named for its prospective founder, Francesco Sforza, the ruler of Milan from 1450 to 1466.15 e text is a confection of theory, fantasy, and brief glimpses of reality. On the one hand, Filarete is describing a city that was never built. On the other, he writes of well-known contemporaries such as Sforza, his family, and their courtiers and real buildings such as the still impressive Ospedale of Milan, which Filarete himself designed (ca. 1456). When we consider the astrological recommendations in this treatise, it is this same mixture—the ideal, the seemingly fantastic, and the real—that coexists. is makes the treatise an interesting bridge between theory and practice in the founding of sites, for it gives us both. While the grandiose Sforzinda was never to be built, this does not indicate that the architect held no hopes. Perhaps Filarete’s treatise is best considered an elaborate real estate pitch rather than a total fantasy. As we might expect from the interests of natural philosophers, astrologers, and architects examined above, the theme of the relation between macrocosm and microcosm is fundamental to Filarete’s Treatise on Architecture.16 e world has its own smaller world—the city. When Filarete records the astrological foundation ceremonies, life-giving substances—water, wine, and oil, grain, and honey—as well as effigies of important men are buried in the womb of the earth with the foundation stone in order to sustain this city that ritually has life like a person. e architect then explains that a building is also like a person. It is conceived, has a birth, and also needs to be nurtured. Filarete continues to point out that celestial influences are causes of the wide variety of health in both the lives of buildings and those of people. Buildings, like people, weaken and die if celestial conditions are not carefully observed, and, therefore, the best stars and planets for the foundation of architectural sites must be chosen. One can hear the words of Albert the Great and Roger Bacon on the nature of place echoing here.


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The Founder’s Horoscope. Scholars have argued that the date, time, and sky recorded in the Treatise for Sforzinda’s foundation are confusing and at best reflect only the astrological interests of Filarete, the author-architect, not those of his patron.17 ere is also some question on the Sforza duke’s own attitude toward astrology. is has been variously described as antagonistic or, more moderately, contradictory. I think that these judgments come from misunderstandings of Renaissance texts. e confusion over Francesco’s feelings toward astrology may arise in part from Filarete’s description in the Treatise of the duke’s impatience with the “subtleties” of astrologers. is is a remark that falls well within the tradition of criticism of charlatans by serious astrologers that goes back to Ptolemy. is was not a criticism of astrology but rather a safeguarding of it. Filarete makes it clear that Francesco Sforza is impatient with some astrologers but that he is nevertheless founding Sforzinda in close consultation with those he trusts. Further, the duke’s records indicate that well-known astrologers were part of his court and that he coordinated military activities with propitious skies.18 I suggest that the details of Sforzinda’s horoscope are not confusing if we consider that Filarete treats us to a rare triple horoscope. But before examining his text we should look at what must have been the horoscope of the real Francesco Sforza. In the last chapter, Ptolemy’s formula for the relation of a city and its founding ruler was described. We will see that Sforza’s horoscope is linked to the city at the time described by Filarete just as Ptolemy recommended that it should be. Two caveats: e first is that, as is o en the case in the Renaissance, before examining the ruler’s horoscope we first must discern which one of the several known horoscopes he considered his real birth horoscope. ere are at least three different published times for this birth, two of which are given by professional astrologers, and more may exist among the papers of astrologers who looked back over Francesco’s life and tried to make some astrological sense of it.19 Of these three, one suggests itself favorably, but it is not the work of a professional astrologer. e two horoscope times published by the sixteenthcentury astrologers Francesco Giuntini (of Florence) and Girolamo Cardano (of Milan) agree with each other but are not likely based on an accurate record of Sforza’s birth. Wrien over a century a er the event, they do not agree with the birth time found in the fi eenth-century chronicle wrien by Leodrisio Cribello, a learned member of Francesco’s court. Cribello gives the birth as July 23, 1401, at or around sunset. Cardano and Giuntini give it as June 23, 1401,

Architectural eory and Astrological Foundations


at twenty minutes a er sunset. at all three horoscopes agree on the year, the season, the day, and the approximate time of day suggests that these follow an original birth horoscope, but I believe that Giuntini’s and Cardano’s are rectifications. Cribello’s description is not simple, as we will see in a moment, but this too suggests its genuineness. Italian timekeeping was always complex in the Renaissance and never more exquisitely so than in Milan.20 Cribello writes that Francesco Sforza was born ten days before the calends of August, on a Saturday, which fell on the vigil of the saints Jacob and Christopher, whose feast was on Monday because Sunday interposed, and that the birth occurred at sunset.21 Looking to a calendar for that year and date corroborates that a Sunday did intervene between the vigil for the feast of the saints in 1401 and that the feast itself was then moved to Monday.22 Cribello’s exactitude seems a serious aempt, then, to explain the birth date as clearly as possible. e second caveat is that, absent Sforza’s original birth horoscope, it is impossible to know exactly which tables of houses or ephemerides the astrologer for the duke’s father would have used. Nevertheless, using the time from the Milanese court documents and Renaissance tables, a good approximation of the original horoscope can be constructed. is is a chart calculated for Cribello’s date and time (fig. 9). Horoscopes that are made public are interesting for the points that they advertize. is one suggests the birth of a great warrior. Mars at the Midheaven is its dominant feature. Ruling at the cusp of the tenth house, which determined one’s career, power, and honors, the red planet, the war god Mars, is located in the sign of the Archer, Sagiarius. Francesco and his father were much sought a er as hired military commanders. ey were reputedly bellicossisimi, survived life-threatening wounds in an age before surgical hygiene, triumphed through mud and winter storms, and switched allegiances frequently, a sign of high demand for their services, according to their chronicler. Francesco was said to bend metal with his bare hands while still a youth. His father, no armchair general, drowned in combat while on the aack. is birth date and time, with Mars and Sagiarius at the Midheaven, must have seemed to proclaim to the elder Sforza the will of God at the birth of his son. If Cribello’s horoscope is correct, it also follows the Ptolemaic recommendation for the relation of ruler and city by cardines. From Ptolemy’s formula, we might expect that Francesco’s sign at the Midheaven at his birth, Sagit-


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9. Horoscope for Francesco Sforza.

tarius, would later become the Ascendant of Sforzinda. is is the case in Filarete’s ceremony for the founding of the new city. Sagiarius is rising as the city’s foundation stone is set late in the day. Giuntini’s and Cardano’s sixteenth-century horoscopes, which move the date about a month earlier, have no such correlation.23 is suggests that the two astrologers, writing over a century a er the birth, are rectifying a known horoscope or repeating such a rectified horoscope as they and others try to discern a sky that would have foretold the eclipse of the Sforza fortunes in this chart.

The Urban Plan. Filarete begins soberly enough in his description of the founding of Sforzinda, discussing the usual importance of a healthy, fertile, and beautiful site. But soon he gives way to an astrological extravaganza so

Architectural eory and Astrological Foundations


lavish that it has confused his modern readers, who miss the great auspices predicted.24 Some of this modern confusion is owed to small but significant mistranslations, but confusion has also arisen because the document seems to provide us with an insight into a practice alluded to in astrological treatises— that of a triple horoscope that marks different significant moments of beginning for a single enterprise. ree times are highlighted on the date April 15, 1460. One occurs at sunrise, one in midmorning, and one late in the day. Significantly, all three correspond to a time of 10:21 from three different starting points of the Italian day. From his careful description of the verifiable planetary and stellar positions that Filarete records, he, Sforza, and the astrologers intend 10:21 hours a er sunset of the day before, the most commonly used starting point for the Italian day, for the time of the first horoscope.25 At this moment, the equivalent of sunrise on this date, the gi s that are to be buried with the foundation stone are, according to Filarete, formally presented to the ruler. e next customary starting point for the Italian day was midnight, used o en for ecclesiastical time, and, at 10:21 a er midnight on this date, or what we would call 10:21 a.m., “toward the middle of the third hour of the morning,” the ecclesiastical entry and blessing takes place, and the ceremonial digging is initiated. Much later, a er a banquet that goes on while the trenches are dug by thousands of workers, the foundation stone is set according to the astrologer’s recommendation. If this is to occur at 10:21 a er noon, the third starting point (and the one typically used by professional astronomer-astrologers), it correlates well with Francesco’s own birth horoscope and with Ptolemy’s suggested relation between the horoscope of a founder and his city, for Sagittarius, the zodiacal constellation located at the duke’s natal Midheaven, is now the Ascendant of his city.26 Such a triple horoscope goes a long way toward solving an old astrological dilemma. What was the real point of astrological beginning for an architectural site? ere are several possible competing firsts. Was it the first shovel piercing the Earth and removing the soil? Was it the placement of the foundation stone in the trench that had been dug? Was it the moment of inhabitation? Critics of astrology mocked the diverse starting times for astrological constructions, while Filarete pondered this question in this architectural treatise.27

The First Horoscope. If we accept the three times of 10:21 on this date as marking a triple horoscope and make some minor corrections to the translation, Filarete’s otherwise contradictory statements make sense. Here is his


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story. Sforza calls in his astrologers and acquires the correct time to found the city. It is to occur on April 15, 1460, at 10:21 hours. e planetary and house positions of the horoscope are then described in detail. Here is Spencer’s translation, with my slight emendations in italics and some additional information interpolated: In the sixtieth [year] of this millennium, on the fi eenth day of April at 21 minutes a er 10 it will be suitable to lay the first stone for the building of a city. At this time a fixed earthly sign [Taurus] will be in the ascendancy at the rising of the sun. e ruler of the ascendant is Venus, the fortunate one, in a fixed earthly sign. e one in the fixed sign [is] ruler of the Ascendant, and lucky because she is in her house [Taurus] and in the Ascendant. At the very moment the Moon will be in the Midheaven received into the house of Saturn [Saturn is already in this tenth house, and, in addition, the Moon is in Aquarius, one of the two domiciles of Saturn], and she has great power over the building of cities, fortunate through the trine aspect [by orb] with Jove of greater fortune. Saturn in his own house [he is in his other domicile, Capricorn] [is] lucky, located at this same time in the tenth house and ruler of the house of the Moon. e Part of Fortune [is] in the tenth house in the aspect of full friendship, that is, in trine aspect [by orb] with Jove. For all the above-named reasons, the aforementioned moment is concluded. e day and hour are useful and chosen for the beginning of the construction of the stated city.28

Again, we do not know exactly which astronomical tables Filarete used, but this is a chart for this date at sunrise (see fig. 10). Filarete’s key astrological positions match with the real heavens over Milan on this date and time. At sunrise, a “fixed earthy sign” (Taurus is both fixed and earthy), was rising with the Sun. e astrological ruler of Taurus is Venus, and she was fortunate because she was in her own house (her domicile is Taurus) and in the Ascendant. At this same time, the Moon would have just arrived in the tenth house, and it was in Aquarius, one of the domiciles of Saturn. Wealthy Saturn was also fortunate because he was in his other house, Capricorn, and presided from the Midheaven. Both the Moon and the Lot of Fortune were in trine with Jupiter, the great beneficent, once we add the orbs to the aspect.29 is is an excellent celestial situation for a foundation that occurred during Easter week.30 Apart from the common araction to dawn as a point of commencement, the sunrise horoscope featured Cancer

Architectural eory and Astrological Foundations


10. Horoscope for Sforzinda at 10:21 a er sunset.

at the cusp of the fourth house, that is, the Lower Midheaven, the cusp considered particularly important for the stability of an architectural foundation. Since Cancer was Milan’s Ascendant (see chapter 5 above), this foundation point would also seem an appropriate link between a mother city and its satellite.

The Second Horoscope. Filarete continues with his second horoscope. e bishop and clergy arrive “toward the middle of the third hour of the morning,” and an elaborate ceremony takes place. Accompanied by music, the procession of notables, including the papal legate, the Sforza sons, and other lords and ladies, advances toward the head of state as the dignitaries carry the objects to be buried in the foundation. e bishop blesses these; then Sforza


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11. Horoscope for Sforzinda at 10:21 a.m.

and his sons dig three symbolic shovels full of dirt, marking the first penetration of the Earth.31 e arrival of the clergy is appropriately described in liturgical hours (the “third hour” of the morning, or “midmorning”), but the middle of the third canonical hour could also be described as 10:21 a er midnight, the midnight clock being common for liturgical purposes. is is a horoscope drawn for this time and date (fig. 11). When the clergy arrive at the elected time, around 10:21 a.m., it is interesting to look at the four cardines (cf. fig. 11 with fig. 8 above). ese now match those for the birth of the world—the ema mundi described by Alberti in his architectural treatise—and, as noted in chapter 5 above, this creates an automatic link with the four cardines in the supposed birth horoscope of Christ.32

Architectural eory and Astrological Foundations


is is perhaps another reason to choose this time for the arrival of the clergy and the beginning of an elaborate religious ceremony for the foundation. Of further note at this time, Mercury, the planet astrologically identified with the Christian religion, rules from the powerful tenth house, auspiciously protected there by Mars in its domicile Aries, and now joined by the Sun and the Lot of Fortune. e ruler’s entourage and all the invited guests now retire to enjoy a meal, or possibly the Mass followed by a lengthy banquet, during which time the workmen are set to digging. Filarete’s ideal city, he proudly reports, has 102,000 workers, and much of his discussion with Sforza in this treatise concerns the precise choreography, discipline (armed guards), and pay for these potentially unruly laborers. It is this colossal workforce, Filarete writes, that makes possible the founding of the city on this day. While 102,000 was surely a pipe dream of the architect’s, Renaissance sites were known to have had two to three thousand workers engaged at a time.33

The Third Horoscope. Although we cannot know how long the repast was to go on, the Sforza were renowned for their magnificence, and it is unthinkable that a quick lunch was served. A third time is now described for the city foundation: “A er the meal everything necessary was prepared according to the statement of the astrologer, who was also present. [He asserted] that this hour was best for placing and laying the first stone. My lord and the priest took the stone and laid it in the foundation.” When Sforza emerges from the foundation trenches, the workers fill them in. Filarete reminds us again that there are 102,000 workmen, “not counting many others who came to help.”34 If sunrise at 10:21 marked the ceremonial entry of the ruler to the site and the ecclesiastical 10:21 marked the blessing of the foundation stone, the nutrients to be buried, and the triple shovels of earth to be dug, the real stone seing seems to occur at an astrological point that follows the feast. If we plot a horoscope for 10:21 a er noon, the professional astrologer’s normal commencement for the day, this is the horoscope that we find (see fig. 12).35 is horoscope has much to recommend it, beyond the obvious point that Sagiarius, the Archer, located at the Midheaven in Sforza’s birth horoscope, has now become the Ascendant for the new city, just as Ptolemy recommended. Of additional interest, rich Saturn, in his own domicile, holds the second house, that of Wealth, and is joined there with the Moon and the Lot of Fortune. Mars in its domicile is protecting the foundational fourth house,


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12. Horoscope for Sforzinda at 10:21 p.m.

Venus in her domicile is in the house of Health, and beneficent Jupiter in Libra now controls the Midheaven.

* When ancient and early modern theorists considered the astrological issues in coordinating a site, its buildings, its patron, and its inhabitants, they were convinced that Rays were commingling that would give future life or future troubles to the place. As Alberti had noted, nothing other than virtue itself was more important than the careful grounding of the home for one’s family. A ruler was to think of his city and citizens in this same paternal way. As a ruler, Francesco Sforza is remembered by historians as one of the beer at providing for his city and his people. A properly founded urban site received both macrocosmic and microcosmic sustenance from a good beginning. Sforzinda

Architectural eory and Astrological Foundations


was now celestially linked to its mother city, and to its founder, via the relation of the cardines. As natural philosophers, astrologers, and architectural theorists concurred, the elemental and occult Qualities pouring into the site from the carefully elected sky assured that propitious characteristics were mutually reinforcing all the related entities—city, founder, and larger population.

Case 2: e Founding of Saint Peter’s Basilica, Rome Pope Julius II’s founding of the new Saint Peter’s Basilica in Rome, on April 18, 1506, at 10:00 a.m., presents another example of a Renaissance structure astrologically established to coordinate the heavens and the Earth. If Filarete’s treatise provides a bridge between the theoretical and the real, Saint Peter’s is an interesting case of an architectural site that was considered both a city (the Heavenly Jerusalem) and a sacred building.36 As a point of background, Julius was under intense criticism for his demolition of the sacred early Christian basilica commissioned by Constantine over the tomb of Saint Peter, a basilica that was over a thousand years old when he ordered it torn down. Contemporaries angrily described the thud of the ancient columns cracking as they hit the pavement. When Julius wished to found his new basilica, he seems to have chosen a date that brought the new church ritually in line with the early Christian church that he had set out to rebuild (destroy). Because the early Christian church was founded by Constantine on the movable feast Sabbato in albis, the first Saturday a er Easter and the date when Constantine was baptized, Julius took that same feast, which in 1506 fell on April 18, for his foundation.37 Julius was devoted to astrology and careful with astrological foundations in general, and we may suppose that in this climate of outrage he was especially careful to observe a ritual foundation that made his new church seem more a rebirth than a destruction. e early Christian foundation rite and its movable feast date were known in the Renaissance through several wrien and visual sources. A fresco within the Vatican’s Hall of Constantine is a case in point. Painted about ten years a er Julius’s death, it presents the details of the Emperor Constantine’s foundation of the first Saint Peter’s immediately below the large wall fresco featuring Constantine’s baptism (fig. 13). As noted, Constantine’s baptism was directly related in the wrien sources to the foundation of the early Christian church.38 A closer look at this fresco reveals, however, that, in the midst of the ritual Constantinian foundation that otherwise follows the details of the story of the early Christian ceremony, it is unmistakably

13. Founding of Saint Peter’s Basilica, school of Raphael, detail in the Hall of Constantine, Vatican Museums, ca. 1524. Courtesy of Scala/Art Resource, NY.

Architectural eory and Astrological Foundations


the opulent Renaissance plan for the new Saint Peter’s that is displayed. e message is clear. Julius has not destroyed the old church. Its ritual foundation on the same feast as the original one now renews that original deed. is is the same church reborn. When the new Saint Peter’s was finally completed in the seventeenth century, its consecration followed this same dating paern. at consecration of the finished church also linked it to the feast of the consecration of the early Christian Saint Peter’s, reinforcing this sense of renewal rather than replacement. us, the date of the horoscope for the new Saint Peter’s, April 18, 1506, seems to have been established by ritual requirements and political expediency rather than by an unrestricted election of the heavens. But, if the date could not be astrologically selected, the time of day could be. As we know from chapter 2 above, the time sets the cusps of the twelve houses of heaven, which then determine the effects the planets will have within those houses. Julius II’s papal secretary, Sigismondo dei Conti, recorded the event in his diary, giving the time as 10:00 a.m. on April 18, 1506.39 Conti’s time has marvelous auspices, perhaps confirming in Julius’s mind the divine support for his plan. Among these, the four cardines match those of the ema mundi at Conti’s 10:00 a.m. time (see fig. 14). Contemporaries did not think of Saint Peter’s as a simple building made of stone and brick. It is repeatedly referred to in universal terms in texts of the period. e Renaissance ceremonial that described its foundation, which is still extant, refers to the building as the City of God and the Heavenly Jerusalem.40 As noted above, the horoscope for the birth of the world, the ema mundi, matches the horoscope for the birth of Christ in the way that Ptolemy had suggested the horoscope of a prince and his city should. At 10:00 a.m. on April 18, 1506, the foundation horoscope for Saint Peter’s had these same cardines related to the birth horoscope of Christ, considered the founder and ruler of both the world and the church.41 is was probably one of the primary reasons that Julius’s astrologers decided on this time, on a date that could not be changed. When the astrologers looked at the chart, there were additional reasons that they could not have wished it any different. At 10:00 a.m., the Sun, beneficent Venus, and Mercury, the laer associated with Christianity in astrological theory, reside together in the powerful tenth house or Midheaven, and the Sun and Mercury gain in benevolence by association with Venus there. Saturn and Mars in the Ascendant suggest a constitution that will be both powerful


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14. Horoscope for the founding of Saint Peter’s Basilica, 1506, 10:00 a.m.

and long-lived. e other beneficent planet, Jupiter, is in the second house, that of Wealth. Jupiter was powerfully strengthened there in trine with the Sun. is position was surely important for the needs of this site. Julius’s letters wrien to other Christian monarchs on this ceremonial day carry direct appeals for money to support the church’s construction. As is well-known, the money did not arrive in sufficient supply, and the sale of indulgences to cover the shortfall was one of the reasons cited by Luther for his split with Rome. Important to Julius II, one supposes, is the fact that the horoscope for the foundation of Saint Peter’s on April 18, 1506, at 10:00 a.m. also correlates with the pope’s own birth horoscope. at horoscope may have been coordinated with the cardines in the horoscope of Christ at an earlier point in the pope’s life.42 In any event, both Julius and Christ had a Midheaven in Cancer with the

Architectural eory and Astrological Foundations


other cardines matching as well. us, Julius’s Midheaven at his birth is also the Ascendant for the church building, suggesting that he also is a great prince founding this City of God. Julius’s and Bramante’s church of 1506 languished for forty years, built and rebuilt with lile progress made. By midcentury, the papal astrologer Luca Gaurico may have supposed that the actual time of the foundation did not occur at 10:00 a.m. as planned since things had turned out so badly. He published a rectified horoscope wrien for a time thirty-nine minutes earlier than Conti’s (see fig. 15). is horoscope explained why so much had gone wrong. Now, the powerful array of planets at the Midheaven was scaered, Saturn and Mars were no longer promising power and longevity in the Ascendant, and Jupiter had moved to the house of siblings. e cardines had slipped, sun-

15. Horoscope for the founding of Saint Peter’s Basilica, 1506, 9:21 a.m. From Luca Gaurico, Tractatus astrologicus (Venice: Curtius Troianus di Navò, 1552), fol. 6r. Courtesy of e Newberry Library, Chicago. Call no. Case B 8635.328.


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dering any relation with the ema mundi or the birth of Christ. It was another botched timing.

Case 3: e Foundation of the Villa of Agostino Chigi Turning from cities and churches to family palaces, this same sense of cosmic connectedness appealed to patrons who were devoted to astrology.43 is can be seen through the birth horoscope for the villa founded by a friend of Julius’s, Agostino Chigi, the papal banker and at that time reputedly the world’s richest man. Chigi had his birth horoscope frescoed in the vault of the garden loggia in his villa suburbana along the Tiber. November 29, 1466, is the birth date and 9:30 p.m. the time that can be derived from the frescoes. is horoscope results (see fig. 16).

16. Horoscope for Agostino Chigi.

Architectural eory and Astrological Foundations


Chigi seems to have been intent on recording not only his personal horoscope but also that of the villa. is he did through a long commemorative poem wrien by Aegidius Gallus and published in 1511. Within the larger conceit that the goddess Venus is descending from the heavens and sees the estate, Gallus stops the narrative with a special invocation to the muse of astronomy and astrology at the beginning of book 3.44 He then writes that Venus is about to enter her domicile, Taurus. She hears the horses of the Sun approaching as she moves closer to this, her zodiacal home. She looks up to see the Moon in her astrological exaltation at the third degree of the Bull. Venus and the Moon kiss, apparently signaling a conjunction, and the Sun and Venus greet the Moon in Taurus. e three planets are now in conjunction (by orb) before the Sun sets. e poet interjects a wish that the new Roman year will be one of great joy for all its citizens. Translated into prosaic mathematical positions, such a sequence of celestial events occurred over Rome in the sign of Taurus on April 22, 1506, at high noon, just a year a er Chigi purchased the land for his estate. is time and date can be ploed in a chart (fig. 17). e auspices, included as the focal point of this five-book poem, were worth recording. e most important congruence of the villa’s horoscope is the way in which it links Chigi’s birth chart of forty years earlier with the villa’s foundation. Both have exactly the same Ascendant, 20° Leo. As noted in chapter 5 above, the contemporary astrologer Lorenzo Bonincontri had recommended the use of one’s own Ascendant for the Ascendant of a horoscope marking an important endeavor. at this is not only Chigi’s birth sign, Leo, but also its exact degree is not likely to have been accidental. is birth chart for the villa in 1506 must also have been further intended to connect the estate with its birth city, Rome. April 22 was one of the dates celebrated as Rome’s birthday by members of the Roman Academy, a group of literati whom Chigi supported.45 It is probably for that reason that the poet wishes auguri to the Roman citizens. e founding of the villa at noon on the city’s birthday meant that the villa and the city also shared the same Ascendant. When Rome was refounded in 572 BCE, it also had Leo rising (see fig. 6 above).46 Giorgio Vasari, auned to astrological commentary, described Chigi’s villa as “not built but truly born” from the soil.47 e villa was biologically linked to its patron and its site at its birth. e coordination of the patron’s birth horoscope of 1466 with the foundation horoscope for the family palace in 1506, and further with the birth horoscope for Rome, could hardly have been more promising. Chigi le special


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17. Horoscope for the villa of Agostino Chigi.

instructions in his will, tying the villa to his family in perpetuity. Soon a er Chigi’s death, his brother took over the estate. His children were mistreated by their uncle, and, a few years later, the villa passed into the control of the powerful Farnese family. Still known today as the “Lile Farnese,” perhaps Chigi’s villa was not sufficiently protected by either its astrological foundation or the patron’s will.48 But, fortunately, Chigi had provided a beer protection through the beauty of its art and architecture. is has preserved both the villa and Chigi’s fame for more than five hundred years.

Summary In the Renaissance, the connections that one felt with one’s city and one’s buildings seem to have been more physical than we understand and to have

Architectural eory and Astrological Foundations


included environmental and biological implications that we miss. e fates of people, their cities, and their homes were believed to depend in part on cosmic events that had occurred centuries earlier when the planets and stars had influenced the impressments of Form into the geographic and physical substances—the Maer at the time of a city’s or a building’s foundation. e proper birth drew the optimal chemistry and physics into the place and also connected it with the metaphysical and physical protections provided by the coordinated charts of historical or familial ancestors. is connectedness can be understood in the cosmological concepts that lay behind the astrology— the notion that all the celestial bodies were energetically influencing the physical geography of one’s region or city, from the earth and water below to the weather overhead, just as they were influencing the physical maer in one’s building and one’s body. e theory of universal radiation disseminated by astrologers such as alKindi, Roger Bacon, John Pecham, and others explained how this transfer of reinforcing Qualities occurred. It is in this sense that Albert the Great states that the place itself has generative power. e city and its buildings were in some ways organically living entities. As the great celestials moved, if their protection had been wisely calculated through the right foundation moment, nature’s most propitious Rays would continue to fortify the place and people for centuries to come. With so much at stake, perhaps Guido Bonao’s fury at Forlì or Alessandro de’ Medici’s gloom in Florence become more understandable. eir belief in the inexorable power of the radiation that was part of a divine plan plunged them into misery.

* In this chapter and the previous one, I have suggested the astrological theory and practice that applied to three-dimensional objects—urban sites, architectural structures, and the people who brought these into existence. at the ecosystem of a city, the land, and the building materials of a structure, or the body of a person, could have been affected by the inflow of radiation from the heavens has, I think, a logic that is still recognizable for us. e celestial Rays and their material recipients are all corporeal entities and part of the natural world. e Sun still dries out wood, weathers paint, and alters our skin. But now I would like to turn to a somewhat stranger proposition, the logic by which the radiation was thought to be aracted into, and transmied out of, two-dimensional artificial entities, entities that I will argue in this case are Renaissance vault paintings.

≤. .


. .≥

The Hidden Power in a Picture How Celestial Rays Are Trapped in Images

Therefore you should not doubt, they say, that the material for making an image, if it is in other respects entirely consonant with the heavens, once it has received by art a figure similar to the heavens, both conceives in itself the celestial gift and gives it again to someone who is in the vicinity or wearing it. m a r s i l io f ic in o


here is considerable evidence that educated people in the early modern period believed that astronomical images could hold celestial Rays and

that these same Rays could be transmied to a person looking at the image or even simply in the vicinity.1 is understanding is particularly interesting for the great astronomical vaults of the Renaissance that will be discussed in chapter 8 below. Early modern patrons who trusted in this astrological theory and practice seem to have believed that they could influence, even control, both the heavens and their guests—perhaps even future guests like us—through these artworks. As noted in other chapters, the belief was due, in part, to a reverence for ancient authorities that reported that such images worked. By the early modern period, astronomical images had entered medical practice. Authors such 119


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as Marsilio Ficino also thought that they had witnessed such images in operation.2 For these reasons, serious scientists, among the best of the early modern period, sought to understand how an artificial image could hold the reported or observed powers. But even critics of this putative power in astronomical images believed that some of them could work to produce real change in the terrestrial world. For these skeptics, however, the question was how and why they worked. ese critics argued that, when the reports were true and not simply the testimony of gullible rubes, the result was due, not to natural, but rather to unnatural causes—that is, to the seduction of demons.3 For it was axiomatic that nature worked with nature.4 Nature did not work with artificially produced objects. e Sun worked with the natural Earth, not with a drawing of it. erefore, according to these authors, the person practicing astrology via images was either intentionally or unwiingly consorting with demons. Intentional or not, this was idolatry.

Definitions: e Image, the Figure, and the Two Types of Figure First, in order to understand the theory on how an astronomical image could work, it is necessary to define an astronomical image and distinguish it from the astronomical figure. e astronomical image has three components: (1) the material out of which the image is made; (2) the radiation entering that material, radiation coming from the Sun, the Moon, a constellation, or any other celestial entity having the Qualities sought by the practitioner; and (3) the artificial figure that was marked on or in the material, a figure that identified the desired part5 of the heavens to be aracted into the image. Of these three, scientists understandably considered the first two, the material substance and the Rays, to be parts of nature. e third, the figure of the celestial entity that was drawn, engraved, painted, or otherwise marked on the natural material, was a work of human hands, a work of artifice. When I use the term astronomical image, I refer to the composite of all three of the above. When I use figure, I mean only the last of the three—the artificial figure itself. It was the artificial figure that caused all the controversy.6 To put these definitions into more concrete terms, and particularly remembering the context of universal radiation (chapter 3 above), let us assume that for medical or other reasons (architectural or agricultural uses, the araction of lovers, the punishment of enemies, and so forth) a person needed to take in the Qualities of Jupiter. A natural material would be selected that was believed

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to have Jupiter’s Rays trapped in it from its moment of generation within the Earth. A sapphire was such a Jupiterian stone. (While we do not o en consider that a stone has power, few of us would knowingly carry around a chunk of uranium.) e astrologer then selected a sky that had a special dominance of Jupiter’s Rays hiing the point on the Earth where the image was to be manufactured. e sapphire and the radiation were both natural. Finally, a figure of Jupiter would have been marked on the natural material during the height of the inflowing of Jupiter’s Rays. e special synergy of these three—material, selected celestial Rays, and drawn figure—was believed to catch and hold the power of Jupiter within the astronomical image. Now caught, this Jupiterian power would be transmied out of the image and into a viewer, wearer, or bystander, according to the principles of radiation theory and the testimony of astrologers, medical doctors, and other eye witnesses. Finally, I must distinguish, since Ficino is careful to do so, between two additional terms: the celestial figure and the artificial figure. Loosely speaking, the celestial figure is something we see in the heavens such as the constellation Leo. But, more technically, it is the celestial radiation that carries that figure of Leo to our eyes. Without this radiation, we would not see the constellation (and one should keep in mind that the radiation is not limited to the visible Qualities of light and color). In this technical sense, then, the celestial figure is composed of the aggregate of light Rays coming from a heavenly entity. is celestial figure arriving on the Rays—the hologram or light-borne figure or shape discussed in previous chapters—is the natural Ray copy/imago of the original celestial body, including both its power (its Qualities) and its radiating shape or figure. It is Form and also form/shape moving through media. In contradistinction, the artificial figure is the copy of this celestial figure. In this sequence from (1) the original body in the heavens, to (2) the radiating celestial figure of that original, to (3) the artificial copy of those Rays, there is naturally also a diminishing power. We will see that Ficino suggests how to properly copy the celestial Rays and this power. He proposes metaphysical and physical reasons to explain how the drawn figure could harness the power of the celestial figure. is explanation was grounded in the Maer and radiation theories discussed in previous chapters.7

Ficino as Our Guide: e Nature of the Astronomical Image In astrological handbooks, the dictum that provides the most succinct notice of the ability of an astronomical image to carry power, and furthermore sug-


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gests that the power depends on the Form/form of the figure, is found in aphorism no. 9 of the popular Pseudo-Ptolemaic Centiloquy: “In their generation and corruption forms are influenced by the celestial forms, of which the framers of talismans consequently avail themselves, by observing the ingresses of the stars thereupon.”8 In the Centiloquy, there is an important and obvious double entendre on the word form/Form. Both the scientific Form of chapter 3 and the related common meaning of form, or shape, are implied. Form and form in the astronomical figure are directly related, especially, we will see, in a mathematical sense. While this aphorism may be the most succinct, it is not as helpful as the most extensive and probably the most influential explanation of the theory and practice of astronomical images in Renaissance Italy, perhaps in Europe. is is the explanation found in the third book of Marsilio Ficino’s De vita.9 We will follow this extended explanation, not only because it is very rich (and was very influential for later authors on images), but also because Ficino knew personally most of the great art patrons who commissioned the astrological vaults discussed in chapter 8 below.

Ficino’s Equivocations As others have noticed, Ficino laced his explanation of astronomical images with hesitations and retractions.10 Carol Kaske has pointed out that the inquisitors were at his door. In the apologia that concludes the book, he asked his protectors to “keep far from us the savage aack of impious giants.”11 Yet we should note that, despite all the equivocations of De vita, book 3, Ficino devoted a substantial part of it to a learned explanation of the practice of astronomical images, all the while claiming that he was merely reporting the understanding of “astrologers.” In other words, I argue, he used this opportunity to get the news out fully and completely while maintaining through his disclaimers a plausible deniability against the charge of idolatry—that he was consorting with demons through this practice. Because of the dangers theologically and politically, he is exquisitely careful in his discussion and word choice, hiding his theory in plain sight.12 One further note on Ficino’s hesitancy. Ficino has a Platonic teaching strategy or an occlusion strategy, or both, that relies on a deeply embedded pattern of statement and counterstatement.13 If we look at the long haul of book 3, there is no real doubt that he believed that astronomical images worked. However, along that path he makes many statements that sound, at least equivo-

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cally, as though he does not approve of them. One step backward, two steps forward, his argument proceeds slowly, but steadily, in the explanation of how they work. I will follow his process up to, but not including, how they work through daemons. Ficino also believes in this other spirit world, as previous scholars have shown. But I believe that he successfully describes how astronomical images can work even without them. It is this argument within the laws of nature that will concern us.

Ficino’s Dilemma To understand the crux of Ficino’s equivocations as well as his argument on the powers in astronomical images, it is useful, I think, to begin in medias res, at the end of De vita 3.18, for there we find the essence of Ficino’s dilemma in openly explaining and endorsing them. Chapter 18 begins promisingly for those who wish to know about astronomical images: “What Sorts of Figures of the Celestials the Ancients Engraved in Images; and concerning the Use of Images.” A er he completes a lengthy description of images reputed to work since antiquity, a catalog that takes up fully two-thirds of the chapter and is just the kind of guide that any image maker would desire, Ficino inserts one of his most obsequious apologies for this practice as the chapter concludes.14 Never mind that he has just invoked the greats—Plotinus, Ptolemy, abit (the great “Christian” astrologer of the Arabs), and Saint Albert the Great—in support of the efficacy of these images. Never mind that Albert’s firm endorsement of astronomical images rested on these authorities as well as on “the rest of the astrologers” whom he had studied.15 And forget for the moment that Ficino briskly begins the next chapter, 3.19, which features large-scale astronomical images that have powers that work, as though he had expressed no reservations here in the conclusion of 3.18. Ficino curiously concludes 3.18 by stating that the power in such images must really come only from the natural substances out of which they are made, the first two components defined above—the natural material and the natural celestial Rays. He adds that the heat generated at the moment the figure is initiated could legitimately create some change as well. But: “Besides the fact that I suspect the figures to be useless, we ought not rashly to allow even the shadow of idolatry.”16 is conclusion of 3.18, wedged between a catalog of astronomical images believed to work and the favorable account of recent Florentine examples of astronomical images that immediately opens 3.19, seems a later edit, out of character with book 3 as a whole. What is Ficino’s problem?


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Ficino and Aquinas e basic problem is, of course, the one that Kaske has outlined. Certainly, Ficino is skating on thin ice theologically. But I think that his problem is, perhaps, more precise. omas Aquinas has long been viewed as something of an ally for Ficino on the issue of astronomical images and rightly so, up to a point. But I think that, in contrast to this scholarly consensus, much of Ficino’s problem here is Aquinas.17 Ficino continues 3.18 by noting that omas “is more fearful of these practices” than was Albert the Great and that Aquinas supposes that, if an astronomical image does have power, its efficacy comes from the material out of which it is made: “But if anything wonderful happens to us through them [astronomical images] outside the accustomed effects of nature, [Aquinas] rejects it as the work of daemons out to seduce people.” Aquinas’s influence in Florence was especially strong through the powerful Dominican convent of San Marco. When in De vita Ficino asks for protection from those out to savage him, the Dominican nickname Domini Canes, “dogs of God,” comes to mind.18 Ficino himself described book 3 of De vita as a commentary on Plotinus in relation to images. Scholars such as Kristeller, Walker, Garin, Copenhaver, and Kaske have amply demonstrated that it is, indeed, that.19 But I think we might also think of Ficino’s text as an extended answer to Aquinas’s objections to astronomical images, using Plotinus and other Neoplatonists as his shield.20 Ficino’s response to Aquinas will explain how the astronomical figure is a powerful part of nature, not a silly superstition or tool of idolatry. In the response, he will focus on two issues that are central to book 3: the nature of Form and the nature of a figure. at Ficino was concerned with the relation of Form to the astronomical figure is not news. Scholars over the last fi y years have studied the ways in which Form lay at the heart of this maer.21 In the second major section of this chapter, I would like to look at the issue of Form again, nuancing the previous interpretations of it. en I will turn to the different ways in which Form was understood by Aquinas and Ficino. In the third major section, I will concentrate on the connection between this issue and the way in which intellectuals understood figure in this culture. Ficino redefines the figure in a way that answers all Aquinas’s objections.

Ficino’s Summary of Aquinas on Astronomical Images in 3.18 Ficino tells his reader that, in book 3 of Summa contra Gentiles, Aquinas noted his belief that astronomical images might have some power owing to their

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natural material harmonized with the Rays of the heavens—a noncontroversial point since these are the two parts of the image that are natural. However, Ficino silently omits Aquinas’s stern dismissal of the figure. Aquinas described the artificial figure as a lifeless mathematical object that, unlike the material and the Rays, had no natural power.22 Ficino then relates that Aquinas derided figures less than the characters and leers that were sometimes added to an astronomical image. But, since Aquinas had said that the characters and letters constituted demon worship because they were intended to communicate with evil intelligences, the fact that a pictorial figure is less risible suggests nothing positive, and Ficino claims nothing positive for the figure per se from Aquinas here. Ficino next cites Aquinas’s De fato, which, he says, demonstrates that Aquinas knew that the heavens determined the order of existence and the duration of both natural and artificial things and that this was why images were made under an elected sky.23 Again, this was neither controversial in relation to Aristotelian natural law nor an endorsement by Aquinas of astronomical images as completely natural. De fato contextualizes this statement on images along with the widely accepted understanding of celestial effects on other artificial but corporeal entities such as cities, buildings, clothing, and medicines. ese artificial entities made from natural products were routinely begun under elected skies, as we have seen in chapters 5 and 6 above on cities and buildings. Just as selected Rays were expected to enhance the longevity of a city or a building, reinforce medicines, or sanitize and fortify garments against plague, they could also provide benefits to the image by reinforcing its natural material, whether that was parchment, pigment, stone, or some other medium. Ficino expressly acknowledges this context of Aquinas’s De fato in a discussion in De vita 3.25. Addressing there the “severe ecclesiastic” who has condemned his work, he begins with a rhetorical question to which he expects an affirmative response: “But do you concede that people can elect suitable hours for transacting contracts, marriages, conferences, journeys, and similar activities?” He then cites points of consensus—houses and clothing that were commenced under the proper sky—and concludes: “at clothing and other products of art do receive a particular quality from a star, omas Aquinas confirms in his book On Fate; and you therefore will affirm it.”24 Notably, Ficino does not claim that Aquinas endorses the figure itself. Nor does he report what he surely knew, that Aquinas’s next sentences of De fato point to the distinction between an actual entity and something like an actual entity, between a true cause and the appearance of a true cause:25 Ficino sums


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up De vita 3.18 explaining Aquinas’s unaltered position—that, if anything happened beyond natural operations, this was the work of demons. Ficino tells his reader that this was clear in Contra Gentiles and “especially clear” in De occultis operibus naturae (On the occult works of nature). e images did work, Aquinas states, but not by natural means: “Necromantic images have effects which do not issue from forms they may have received, but from demons active in the images.”26 e weight of omas’s pronouncements was clear. Taking all the comfort that he could from Aquinas, Ficino concludes De vita 3.18 by repeating that, if an astronomical image had power, then it had it from the natural material, the natural Rays of the skies, and possibly the heat that was generated at the moment the figure was begun. is hammering and heating could bring out latent power in the material if it were done under the right sky, even though he, Ficino, “suspects” the figures to be useless. Suspects already suggests the response to come. Ficino has not openly challenged Aquinas, but neither, do I believe, has he abandoned the belief that images, including their figures, have natural powers. On the contrary, he will argue that it is especially the figures that have great natural power.

e Question of Form As we can understand from my chapter 3, and as Centiloquy no. 9, Aquinas, and Ficino would all agree, the issue of Form was central to the question of whether an astronomical image could work within the laws of nature.27 As previously noted, in the Aristotelian science of the universities, an entity could have actual or physical existence only if it were a fusion of Form with Maer. e resulting composite—whether a stone or a person—was by definition then an actual natural entity. Because the form/figure/shape in a drawing came from a person and not from nature, Aquinas pronounced the figure something that did not have the power of natural Form and was merely an arbitrary human construct having only “order, composition, and shape.”28 e artificial figure was only a lifeless mathematical shape, and, therefore, if it seemed to have power at all, it had it from an external force—for Aquinas that meant demons.

e Question of Form and Quasi Form In one instance, Aquinas stated that an astronomical figure has “quasi” substantial Form. Scholars have noted this and suggested that Ficino might have

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made more of this point in support of images.29 But this does not seem a genuine option for a dedicated scientist such as Ficino. Aquinas, in this way, allowed only that the astronomical figure drawn on a material has something like the substantial Form of a natural object. While this was a comfort to some, Ficino knew that Aquinas’s argument did not state that such a figure had substantial Form. Rather, it was the argument that, in the hands of an artisan, the design of a table was like the Form for that table. is did not make the table a natural entity, any more than in Aquinas’s view the artificial figure drawn on a stone made the stone into a new natural entity by fusing the figure’s quasi Form with the stone’s actual maer. Ficino would not rely on this passage in Aquinas, first, because it did not have sufficient intellectual weight and, second, because he had a more interesting explanation to present.

Albert, Aquinas, and Ficino on Form If we wish to understand how Ficino understood Form in relation to astronomical images, Albert the Great’s and omas’s definitions of Form are critical both because Ficino cited their works as part of his extended apology at the conclusion of De vita 3.18 and because they discussed this technical term in relation to astronomical images. In fact, they did so in ways that seem to me to have inspired Ficino’s response in book 3 of De vita, a text largely dedicated to an understanding of astronomical images.30 While Albert and omas suggest important distinctions between the Neoplatonic and the Aristotelian understandings of Form, Ficino, always looking for common ground, must have believed that their distinctions were more semantic than real. eir challenge on the nature of Form may have prompted his explanation of the relation between Platonic Idea and Form that he presents at the opening of book 3.31 is description answered one of the main Dominican-Aristotelian objections to Platonic Idea, and it also set up the argument that reaches its culmination in De vita 3.17–19 on the power in the astronomical figure.

Albert on the Difference Between Platonic and Aristotelian Form. Albert the Great wrote most completely about astronomical images in De mineralibus 2.3.3–5 and in the Speculum, where he produced a catalog of authorities testifying to the efficacy of astronomical images.32 Because De mineralibus was devoted to stones and metals and not to the figure itself, the discussion of Form centered on a discussion of the material component’s Form rather than the Form of a figure. Nevertheless, the explanation is instructive


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for us insofar as in this text Albert compares Form and Idea according to Platonic and Aristotelian theories. e Platonists, Albert informs his readers, had an insufficient understanding of Form, one that relied on Idea as separate from Maer: Plato . . . says that all lower things are activated by higher Ideas, which are separate and of wonderful potency. It is these [Ideas] that produce whatever is produced, according to this assertion. He says, too, that things which have a greater likeness to the separate [Ideas], and in which the separate [Ideas] are less deeply submerged in maer, have a wonderfully powerful action, like that of the separate Idea. And the separate Ideas, he says, act by transmuting and altering the material of things that are capable of being produced and destroyed. erefore in things in which the Idea is less deeply submerged in maer, once it has been incorporated in them, it does not cease to perform wonders.33

To summarize the Platonist concept: Idea activates Maer, just as Form does, to bring actual entities into existence. Idea’s power in the entity that it has brought into existence depends on the degree of materiality that the entity has. is hierarchy of power dictated that, the closer an entity was to pure Idea, the more potent it was. e more material the entity was, the weaker was its power of Idea. e great power of the heavens could be aributed to their order in the hierarchy of creation, an order that, for a Platonist, still allowed them a highly rarified material state—one that was almost immaterial. (As noted in chapter 3 above, Aristotelians did not believe that the heavens had materiality, a point specifically cited by Ficino in De vita 3.17.) Albert then objected to an underlying implication of this Platonic concept. Because Idea was a “separate substance,” it never fused with Maer, as Aristotelian Form did, and, because it was a separate substance, the power of Idea continued to perform wonders beyond the entity’s existence. It is this last notion that may have particularly bothered Albert. e Platonic concept that the Idea was separate from Maer and could exist even a er the death of an entity was troubling. is was his rebual to the Platonists on this point: But here it may be assumed that Ideas do not confer form on things that are produced, nor is there anything immortal in mortal and destructible things, since when these are destroyed nothing that was in them is le ; and mixed bodies are not dissolved into elements and Ideas, but only into their constituent elements. But even if Ideas were supposed to be of this character, they would be useless;

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for they would not bear any relation to the material, nor be in contact with it, nor transmute it. For all such [effects] seem to be in the material itself and not separate from it.34

In Albert’s view, Platonists incorrectly understood the relation of Idea and Maer. Idea was a metaphysical entity that was never part of Maer and that never joined with Maer in the way Aristotelian Form did. It was a separated substance, extraordinary in the metaphysical world but, according to an Aristotelian natural philosopher, not part of the natural world. Albert then turned to the cause of the power in stones, which he aributed to the specific or substantial Form, given by God to that particular species of stone. We might notice, however, as Ficino must have, that Albert’s Aristotelian Form was close to the Platonic Idea in several respects. In this passage in De mineralibus, he referred his reader to a fuller discussion in his Aristotelian commentary on e Intellect, writing: “All forms are given to maer by the First Intelligence which universally surrounds maer, and therefore every form which is in maer is an intermediate between the two—that is between the Intelligence from which it flows, as the forms of artifacts flow from the intellect of the artisan, and the maer in which it is, through the essential being which it gives to the maer.”35 In the passage in De mineralibus he continues: “e form encloses the maer, as being its divine good, and is not enclosed by it. Nor does form naturally have any desire for maer, because it has no need of maer except when it exists as an individual [thing], but not when it exists as something divine. . . . [F]orm, therefore is [intermediate] between two [things]—the heavenly powers by which it is conferred, and the maer of the combination into which it is infused.” Albert’s Form in the First Intelligence is, a er all, similar to the Platonic Idea in the mind of God. Form has a metaphysical state “when it exists as something divine,” and in that state it has “no need of maer.”36 Albert concluded his discussion by noting the typical Aristotelian understanding. Form was impressed by the heavens but could also be hindered by the Maer when this Maer was “disordered.”37 Finally, Form was always mortal when it existed in an individual entity in nature. When the entity died, that Form also came to an end. It did not live on, as an immortal Idea could. In some ways, it seems to me, Albert undermined his own criticism of the notion of Platonic Idea as a metaphysical entity, separate from the physical world. His Form now also has a metaphysical (something divine) and a physical (fused with Maer) state similar to the Platonist claim for Idea. But he gave


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no explanation of how the metaphysical Form that “exists as something divine” becomes the physical Form that fuses with Maer. e heavens could not provide this transition since they only either impressed or activated Form in Maer. ey had no power to move Form out of its divine state. Only the divine could do that. e Aristotelian criticism of Platonic Idea now has something of a hollow ring, especially because we will see that Ficino opens De vita 3.1 with a coherent philosophical explanation, one based on Plotinus and other Neoplatonists, as to how a metaphysical Idea transitions into even the lowest physical object. In this explanation, Idea in its metaphysical state was continuous with Form in physical Maer. It is worth noting that Albert openly accepted some Platonic notions when he discussed the natural power in certain metals.38 Sticking to the Aristotelian program, he wrote: “e essential form in all things is what gives them being.” But because metals do not behave properly in an Aristotelian construct, as stones do, he felt obliged to include a notion that he aributes to Plato and Hermes as to why metals and stones act differently from each other.39 e Form of metals was partially dependent on “numerical proportion,” which number then assigned each metal to a planet: “In this way what the Platonists say is true; for in this way the First Cause [the Creator] sowed the seed of all forms and species and entrusted the perfecting of it to the fixed stars and planets, as is told in the Timaeus. And this is the reason why the number and properties and specific forms of the metals are held to agree with the planets.”40 Number/ mathematics has now edged into the arena of action along with Form. When Ficino defines the nature of both celestial and artificial figures, we will see that mathematics will be an essential component of Form for him. Albert also here acknowledged that the Creator entrusted to the celestial bodies the perfecting of entities in the physical world, an idea that he properly credited to Plato’s Timaeus.41

albert believes that astronomical images work. Although Albert did not specifically address the issue of the figure’s Form, it is clear from his writings here and in the Speculum that he did believe in the efficacy of astronomical images, just as Ficino had reported in De vita 3.18. He accepted the evidence of authorities that astronomical figures themselves carried celestial power, and he trustingly credited the artificial figures with the same celestial powers as their models in the heavens. In other words, for Albert and his sources, the properly made artificial figure of Mars held the actual Rays of the planet Mars.42 is common belief explains the anxiety of the Floren-

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tines when their statue of Mars was swept away in the flood of 1333. How would Mars, the war god and patron of Florence’s sign Aries, now defend the city? e power of the radiation had been carried downstream. Apart from his reliance on ancient testimony, Albert’s brief remarks in the De mineralibus suggest that his trust in astronomical images also derived from a logical base. According to his understanding, it would seem, the creator of the astronomical image was God working through nature, even if not specifically through substantial Form. First, Albert pointed out that God had created both the celestial bodies and their Rays that carried the celestial figures to Earth.43 He also approved of the understanding, widely held by those who believed in astrology, that God, through the physical heavens, gave particular talents (Plato’s planetary children of chapter 1 above), even of prophecy, to certain people, in this instance to those who made astronomical images.44 is divinely gi ed image maker wisely selected the divinely made materials and discerned the optimal celestial Rays that were to flow in as the artificial figure was begun. Albert’s artisan, the Creator’s chosen and specially gi ed amanuensis, is a talented scientist able to discern or discover the Form at the core of nature, a core that was hidden from the nonlearned and nongi ed eye. is special knowledge and discernment subsequently enabled the image maker to match that core Form/form and, with art, reproduce it in the correct material, at the correct celestial moment. We might note that, because the discovery of the efficacious figure by this image maker was the product of some combination of talent, learning, and perhaps also revelation or luck, we, the nongi ed, should not expect that the correct astronomical figure would look like anything we see in the heavens.45 We should not be surprised that the symbol for Mercury, for example, does not resemble the spherical planet. e average person’s eyes cannot discern the Form that is the essence of a celestial figure or form, for that primary Form is an intellectual more than a visual form. It is the discernment of essence that counts. Once that Form has been discovered or discerned, other image makers then faithfully copied this correctly made figure because it worked. And that it worked was sufficient evidence that the essence or Form of the original had been correctly perceived and reproduced. I will expand on these points below. Albert the Great seemed satisfied that the Creator had subcontracted the job to the gi ed image maker and had also provided the required natural supplies—the natural Rays and the natural material. is did not, however, satisfy Aquinas’s more rigorous requirement that the artist would have had to be able


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to give substantial Form to a drawn figure, something only God could give. In other words, discernment of Form was one thing. Creation of Form was another. omas must have been concerned with this significant omission, for, in his most complete statement on the powers in astronomical images, On the Occult Works of Nature, he assumed that the material and the radiation were natural entities, and then focused directly on the issue of whether an artificial figure could have substantial Form. Without this, it could not work according to natural laws and, therefore, must work according to the supernatural intervention of demons.

Thomas Aquinas on Form and Figure. Aquinas doggedly examined the logic of how the astronomical figure worked, if, indeed, it did. In On the Occult Works of Nature, Aquinas aributed the powers in an astronomical image to demons and in no uncertain terms: “superior agents which work through images and sculptures.”46 is is the Dominican Savonarola’s assessment as well. In the apology and disclaimer on astronomical images that concludes De vita 3.18, Ficino acknowledged that it was Aquinas’s conclusion that, where it could be shown to exist, the evident power in images was due to demonic forces. Like Albert, omas begins his extended argument on astronomical images by aributing the power in natural entities to their substantial Form. We learn the following: Some of this Form’s active power includes the entity’s elemental Qualities or properties, such as hot, cold, dry, and moist. Other Qualities were yet to be known, and these were the occult or hidden properties. One knew them only by their results. For example: “Rhubarb always purges a definite humor [even though scientists had not yet come to understand what the property was]. And from this it is concluded that the action arises from some power residing and permanent in the body.”47 Apart from this kind of internal occult natural power, Aquinas wrote, any additional ability to move or act had to come from exterior sources. ese external sources could be miraculous, demonic, or natural but transitory (as an example of a natural effect that was transitory, he notes that, when the Moon moves the tides, it does not change the substantial Form of the water but rather acts as an external, natural, and transitory force of change on it). In evaluating these three possible sources of external power, Aquinas finds that astronomical images are neither miraculous nor working by natural and transitory means; rather, they make an appeal to demonic powers to perform nonnatural acts. en omas turns to the Platonists’ version of Form: “e Platonists indeed were wont to aribute the principle of substantial forms to separated

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substances which they called species or ideas, the individual representations [‘imagines’] of which they said were natural forms implanted in maer. But this principle cannot be sufficient. First, the thing making ought to be like the thing made. Now that which comes about in natural things is not form, but a mixture of maer and form.”48 Here, he explains why the Platonists’ Idea was insufficient as Form. His explanation is similar to Albert’s. Both argue that the Platonic Idea/Form is a separated substance and is not fused with Maer. Form or Idea alone could not exist in nature or have any natural power to act. “erefore,” omas noted, “that which comes to be is not rightly form but a composite [Form and Maer] and that which makes natural things to be is not only form but the composite.”49 omas then repeats the Aristotelian understanding of the role of the heavens in the fusion of Form and Maer that philosophers drew from Aristotle’s De generatione et corruptione, and he explains the same issues of Aristotelian Form that Albert gave us: “Nevertheless, such forms are derived from separated substances as first principles, which, through the power and movement of heavenly bodies, impress upon corporeal maer forms which they can understand in themselves. And, since we have shown that activities and powers of natural things are caused by their specific forms, it follows that they may be traced back further, namely to higher principles, to heavenly bodies or to the powers of heavenly bodies, and still further to separated intellectual substances.”50 Here, he set out an Aristotelian hierarchy, as had Albert. Ultimately, the power in all natural entities came from the divine. e celestial bodies played an intermediary role. In Aristotelian theory, something that was neither Form nor Maer joined the two. For Aristotle, it was the role of the Sun to bring about the fusion of the Forms with Maer.51 By the early modern period, as we have seen in earlier chapters, all the other celestial bodies were considered to participate as well in this alteration of terrestrial Form. But how does the Form “derived from separated substances,” a Form at a level above the celestial bodies, transfer into the Form in Maer? We might wonder, as Ficino may have (if there was not a clear transition from the metaphysical separate substance to the Form in the Maer), Was this really so different from the Aristotelian complaint that Idea was solely metaphysical and did not merge with Maer? Ficino could, as a Platonist, provide a more complete transition from the metaphysical Idea to the Form in the terrestrial world, and this becomes his first order of business in the opening of De vita 3.1. Book 3 provides his primary explanation of the powers in astronomical images, and the original title of its first chapter promised to explain how one


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drew in celestial powers via astronomical images.52 e fact that he devotes this first chapter of book 3 to the transition of Idea into Maer suggests that it was fundamental to his explanation of the power in astronomical images. Aquinas did articulate some things with which Ficino and the Platonists agreed, notably that the hierarchy of power was based on the degree of materiality: “erefore, because the forms of inferior things arise from the wisdom of separated substances through the intermediary of the power and movement of heavenly bodies, and in such a way, namely, that some are less perfect and closer to maer, while others, however, are more perfect and closer to superior agents. e most imperfect forms, though, and especially close to maer, are the forms of elements, of which the inferior bodies are composed as regards their maer.”53 Ficino will rely, not on these “most imperfect” elemental Forms for his argument for the power in the figure, but on much higher Form. He also repeats this issue of the relative powers in different types of Forms in his response in book 3.54 Aquinas summarized his understanding of substantial Form: “So all powers and activities of things . . . which exceed the virtues of the elements, arise from their proper forms, and are traced back to higher principles, to the powers of heavenly bodies, and still further to separated substances. For from these principles the forms of inferior bodies are derived.”55 He continues the passage, insisting that drawing a figure under a certain constellation would not give it any specific/substantial Form. e figure drawn by a person consists only of “order, composition, and shape.” e celestial Rays could neither elicit Form from that figure nor impress Form into it: For it is impossible that an artificial product can have or share in a heavenly body’s operation and virtue, in order that, through some endowed power, it might effect natural results transcending the virtue of the elements. If there were any such powers in artificial things they would not arise from a form impressed by heavenly bodies, since the form produced by the artisan is nothing other than order, composition and shape, from which such powers and activities cannot come. . . . And that a body has such and such a shape [figure] does not make it either more or less suitable for receiving the impression of a natural agent. us it is impossible, that images or sculptures . . . have their efficacy from heavenly bodies, although they seem to be made under certain constellations.56

Shape or figure is not Form. It is something inert and mathematical.57 erefore, the natural Rays of the heavenly bodies would have no natural re-

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lationship with such an arbitrary human-made shape or figure. e celestial Rays would pour through a figure, just as they poured through the terrestrial world. If the markings of the figure were on vellum, or paper, or a gemstone, or the figure was worked into a metal sculpture, the Rays would affect the material out of which that image was made—paper, gemstone, metal, pigment, ink, or other material—fading, strengthening, or otherwise altering that. But that was all that could happen by nature. e Rays from the particular celestial figure that had been marked would have no special connection with this arbitrary and artificial shape or figure and, thus, would not have any reason to be caught by it or in any way interact with it. As far as Aquinas is concerned, the figure itself is at best irrelevant and at worst a lure for demons. We will see in De vita 3.15 that, although he does not directly aribute it to Aquinas at that point, Ficino repeats this argument on the inconsequential nature of shape/figure (figuram) that Aquinas disparages and initially seems to agree with Aquinas’s assessment.58 But he does so only to set this issue up for his counterargument in 3.16–19. Ultimately, he will define shape or figure as a much higher Platonic reality exactly because it is mathematical and nearly immaterial. Aquinas concludes On the Occult Works of Nature by restating what he had set out to prove. Commencing his argument “necromantic images have effects which do not issue from forms they may have received, but from demons who are active in the images,” he now concludes that images, sculptures, and the like have no natural power, only the powers of demons and the superstitions linked with them.59 is text, Aquinas’s most complete statement on astronomical images, would have been cold comfort to anyone who believed in their efficacy. Aquinas recognized both Platonic and Aristotelian concepts of the relations of the heavens and the Earth, yet he found no argument possible in either philosophical tradition that could suggest that the artificial figure itself had any active relationship with the celestial figures. Rays can only affect the natural material out of which the astronomical image is made. He repeats these points forcefully in summary statements in his other works as well.60

Ficino’s Reply In order to successfully overturn Aquinas’s arguments and show the natural essence of the astronomical figure while at the same time trying to avoid a direct confrontation with the Dominican saint, Ficino needed to argue three


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points tactfully, which I believe he did in book 3 of De vita. First, he needed to show how metaphysical Idea descended naturally as Form into Maer via continuous mediators, responding to the objections of Albert and Aquinas on Platonic Idea, showing that it was a part of the essence of the actual natural world.61 Second, he had to demonstrate that an artificial figure participated in this descent of Ideal Form at a higher level in the hierarchy than simple elemental Form could and that, because it participated at this higher level, it could act powerfully in the celestial world. ird, he needed to show that, even though the artificial figure had this elevated status in the hierarchical universe, it was, nevertheless, composed of a type of natural Form that joined with natural Maer. is would show that the artificial figure was, in fact, an actual and natural entity, pace Aquinas. It could aract desirable celestial Rays and hold them without the assistance of demons.62

Idea Transitions into Maer (Issue 1) De vita 3.1, whose original title referred to the araction of celestial powers via images, opens with a lengthy explanation of the Platonic Idea’s relationship with the material world—its descent into Maer.63 As scholars have long noted, the Neoplatonic world was mediated throughout, providing a transition between dissimilar entities.64 Mediation brought these dissimilar entities into contact and provided a means of exchange whereby the power of the higher and less material entity moved into the lower. Ficino begins the explanation in more philosophical terms, before he turns from the metaphysical to the physical through a discussion of the descent via physical Rays and “chains.” First, Ficino tells us that the realm of Ideas was connected to the physical world through the mediation of the World-Soul, which, like the human soul, connects Mind and Body. is World-Soul permeated the physical cosmos. Within this World-Soul itself, there was an internal set of transfers because the World-Soul had both Exemplary (higher) Reasons and Seminal (lower) Reasons. Ficino suggests that the Idea transferred from the divine mind to Exemplary Reasons (examples or copies of the Idea within the World-Soul) and from the Exemplary Reasons to the Seminal Reasons within the World-Soul.65 ese lower Seminal Reasons, in contact with the corporeal world through the pervasive World-Soul, perform the function of Aristotelian Form and join with Maer.66 Idea has been transmied to Maer through these mediators, and material entities come into existence. In this Neoplatonic system, at the highest and least material level of the

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natural world the appropriate Seminal Reasons merged with the sheerest and purest Maer and formed the stars, planets, and other celestial entities.67 At the lowest and most material levels, the appropriate Seminal Reasons of the World-Soul produced the most material earthly elemental entities such as minerals and plants. Ficino explains that “every single species [here our usage of species] corresponds through its own seminal reason to its own Idea” and that a species could receive special gi s/Qualities from its continuing contact with its Idea through its Seminal Reason (or Form).68 e continued connection between the material entity and its Idea makes a repair of the natural entity possible. As a medical doctor, Ficino understood natural medicines in this context of repair. Lost or missing Qualities could be replenished or supplied via this continuing connection. As in the Aristotelian system, so too in the Platonic one could descend or ascend the hierarchy to understand the connections. But, where neither Albert nor omas really explained how metaphysical Form in the divine Intelligence joined with Maer, Ficino takes this responsibility seriously. He provides an explanation of a transition from metaphysical into physical—something that was easier to do in the Platonic system, which did not envision the strict separation of the heavens from the Earth on which Aristotle had insisted.69 When Ficino describes this system in its physical manifestation by adding a discussion of Rays, we learn that the celestial realms send down their Qualities (Form/Seminal Reasons/species/etc.) radially and that these join with Maer in the terrestrial world. ese Rays work through the World-Spirit.70 Ficino finally notes in De vita 3.1 this important mediator, the World-Spirit, discussed in chapters 3 and 4 above. It is an additional mediator between the World-Soul and the corporeal world, just as the superrefined yet material vapor or medical Spiritus of the human body mediated between the human body and its lower soul. World-Spirit ranges in purity from the rarest grade, which Ficino parallels with quintessence, to one that has refined elemental characteristics. Spiritus carries Qualities through a chain of descent.71 Ficino will give more detail on this in later chapters of De vita. As noted in chapter 4 above, perhaps Spiritus’s most important physical function for a person was its movement of Qualities from the external world into the mind.72 e Qualities moving via World-Spirit can be taken in physically, we learn, by ingesting or absorbing physical entities (from wine to powdered gems, from incense to sunlight) that contain them. Because the celestial bodies are, for Ficino, the points of origin for the chains of ingredients containing the Qualities needed on Earth, the celestials could repair needed Qualities in the


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sublunar world through the chain if one properly gathered and took in items from the required concatenation. Ficino concludes De vita 3.1 by explaining the practical applications for medical and psychological purposes that are inherent in this mediation from Idea to the terrestrial world through the chain because the chain contains “many things that are dispersed but which conform to the same Idea.” For instance, if you needed solar Qualities, he tells us, you could acquire them by combining as many items as possible from the solar line and ingesting them through foods or medicine, through ointments applied to the skin, through scents and incenses, and through “usages and habits” that included perceiving and thinking about these solar things.73 ese issues will concern us again in chapter 8. Ficino uses several of the chapters throughout book 3 of De vita to describe the already discovered or known entities in these chains that connected the terrestrial with the celestial and, ultimately, with Idea. For instance, the very beneficial solar chain allowed a person to combine in a medicine the powders of gems and metals that sparkle or are gold, plants that turn toward the Sun or are golden in color (but also many plants that are neither), and “the ram, the hawk, the cock, the swan, the lion, the scarab beetle, the crocodile, and people who are blond, curly-haired, prone to baldness and magnanimous.”74 Additional items can be found in Ficino’s other solar lists. Finally, one should get a lot of sunlight. It is obvious to us that even the most assiduous early modern investigator would not have hit on the fact that these entities “conform to the same Idea.” ese connections had been learned over many centuries of exploration, observation, and serendipity (somewhat like psychological and medical cures today). In sum, World-Soul is pervasive and contains the Exemplary and Seminal Reasons, the laer being the equivalent of Forms that combine with terrestrial Maer. e physical heavens are impressing or activating Form/Qualities in the sublunar world through their Spiritus Rays, shi ing the Forms, nuancing the details, as the Rays move and commingle. We learn that “there is nothing to be found in this whole living world so deformed that Soul does not aend to it, that a gi of the Soul is not in it.”75 is sharing of Soul and the Qualities of the chains explains why stones could be crushed and mixed with other ingredients and given as medicines or why an old man could find rejuvenation in sucking the milk of a young girl. ose in need had only to find the ingredients from the right celestial chain that would supply the deficient Qualities to body or mind because these ingredients conformed to the same Idea.76

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rough Ficino’s system, the lo y emanation from the divine Idea has descended to Earth. e material world has been constituted from Idea, and the ways in which the wise could make use of nature to recoup needed Qualities for physical and psychological health have been outlined in the first chapters of De vita, book 3. Ficino has shown a natural route from the most sublime heights of the nonmaterial to the lowest level of the material world, even if one is slightly sorry to see divine Idea descend to such an earthy state. is is nature, and it is not always prey. Slight regret will become stronger when we turn to the curative brews that Ficino cooks up later and that his pupil, the Medici pope Leo X, seems to have put into artistic practice.

Ficino Develops His eory: De vita 3.15–16 Against the general context that explains the transition from the metaphysical to the physical, and following several chapters that specify the natures of the planets and stars, especially what gi s or Qualities one can expect from each through their chains, Ficino then turns to more specifics on Rays, Qualities, and Forms. Aquinas had stated that the artificial figure was something made by an artisan consisting of “nothing other than order, composition and shape.” Ficino addresses this issue of shape in De vita 3.15 and does so in terms that suggest that it is a direct response to Aquinas’s critique. At this point, Ficino appears to agree with the saint. Within the context of medicines—artificial entities that were accepted as working through the laws of nature—he notes that, when astrologer-doctors collected ingredients, pounded them, and mixed and cooked them under a certain star, those ingredients gradually took on a new Form because they had a new Quality. By contrast: “But a metal or gem when it is engraved in a moment does not seem to receive a new quality [qualitatem], only a new shape [figuram]; that motion does not proceed by those due degrees of arrangement which natural change and generation characteristically observe.”77 Here, Ficino expresses the reason that medicines work and astronomical images do not. e medicine used natural ingredients to which natural processes of separation, pulverizing, mixing, heating, and the inflow of celestial Rays had been added. is resulted in the addition of new Qualities such as heat and whatever other Qualities the selected celestial Rays carried. As we know from chapter 3 above, and as Ficino here asserts, this addition of Qualities shi ed the existing relation of the Qualities in the Form and, therefore,


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changed it. By contrast, the engraving of an artificial figure did not “seem” to add “a new Quality, only a new shape.” De vita 3.15 appears to end with a repudiation of the figure as a natural agent of change. It is merely a shape, as Aquinas had stated, something that could be thought of as floating ineffectively on a surface. Ficino says that he trusts more in medicines. He admits, however, that he would not “categorically” deny that an astronomical image has power, and he reintroduces Plotinus at this point. He sums up the chapter: “As for me, I use medicines tempered in accordance with the heavens, not images.”78 He is only launching his rebual. e next chapter, 3.16, has a title that proclaims that it is devoted to the nature of celestial Rays and the powers they instill in images. is is a relatively long chapter, and Ficino uses it to discuss the two natural parts of an astronomical image: (1) the celestial Rays themselves and their characteristics and (2) the material substance of which an astronomical image is to be made, a material that should be coordinated with the desired celestial Rays. With this covered in De vita 3.16, Ficino can concentrate on the nature of the figure itself in 3.17. He also uses 3.16, as we will see, to weave an almost subliminal message that Rays work through images and that the figure itself is critical to this. Ficino knew the work of al-Kindi (whom he cites in De vita) and Roger Bacon. In 3.16, Ficino rehearses all the basic radiation theory relevant for astronomical images.79 We learn the following points familiar from my previous chapters on radiation: Rays penetrate all materials, even the Earth, in an instant. e strongest force of a Ray is achieved when it enters perpendicularly. Hardness of material offers no resistance to the speed (to which he slips in: “Let us now conclude that if the rays of the stars quickly penetrate the whole earth, it cannot easily be denied that they quickly penetrate metal and precious stone when they are engraved with images, and imprint in them wonderful gi s”). ese forces from the celestials are retained in the material for a period of time that is established by the heavens. In an earlier chapter (3.13), Ficino had suggested that the slower the gestation and the more durable the substance—rock versus wood, for example—the longer the material would retain the celestial power.80 (If one wonders about the durability of a painting, Gioo’s frescoes were in excellent condition and almost two hundred years old at the time Ficino was writing.) Ficino continues. e sensible or observable Qualities of a Ray, those that account for heating, dryness, and other mundane features, are not as wonderful as the occult celestial Qualities: “But who does not know that the occult virtus of things, which are called ‘specific virtues’ by natural philosophers, are

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made not by the elemental nature, but by the celestial?” is allows Rays to “(as they say) imprint in images forces occult and wonderful beyond those we know, just as they introduce them into all things.” is contrast of celestial and elemental Qualities will be an important issue in De vita 3.17, and Ficino has also de ly planted here another one of his subtle assertions that Rays work through images. Each celestial has its own unique allotment of Qualities: “ere are also in various stars various forces; and they differ among themselves in just this respect of their rays.” ese Qualities mingle as many Rays hit every point: “From the impacts of the rays falling in one way and another, diverse powers arise. . . . [D]iverse powers come into being in the combinations of rays with each other.” A er reciting this standard radiation theory, Ficino suggests that, a er the thorough consideration of this, astrologers are able to claim that “with an emission of rays forces are imprinted in images, and diverse forces from a different emission.” He also points out that Rays have their greatest effect on Spiritus, which is most like them in essence, and goes on to catalog the impressive occult powers in the visual Rays—those known to kill or to sicken others with a glance. If simple visual Rays can do this, why would one doubt “that the heavens act in practically the same way during the construction of an image?” Again, Rays work in images. Ficino then returns to the material itself. e material that will best absorb and retain a desired celestial radiation will be the one that had already been initiated by this desired radiation—a stone created in the Earth by the Rays of Jupiter will be the most suitable for absorbing the powers of Jupiter later. When the image maker draws or engraves the relevant figure on this material, “then forthwith it exposes it there to its own Idea; when the material is thus exposed, the heavens perfect it by that power with which they had also begun it.” Here, the figure itself is introduced as the catalyst that completes the circuit, catching the celestial radiation, and activating the related natural powers in the material. Ficino has used De vita 3.16 to summarize the relevant Ray theory and the requirements for the appropriate material substance as well as to subtly blend in the astrologers’ proposition that Rays do work with images. He then concludes the chapter, turning to a concept both simple and crucial to astrology, using the constellation Perseus as his example. e celestial figures were made by God and were part of nature. God had created the correlation between the celestial figures’ powers and the terrestrial consequences.


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Lower figures conformed to celestial figures. For example: “[e constellation] Perseus, when he has cut off Medusa’s head usually portends a beheading in store for some people.”81 is was evidence to answer the skeptics such as Augustine or Savonarola who charged that people had arbitrarily drawn the figures of the constellations—that the constellations were random groupings of stars and, as such, colorful figments of the human imagination. For Ficino and those who believed in astrology, such skepticism was refuted by observation. Perseus works. It was obvious that, if humans had arbitrarily determined a constellation’s shape by grouping stars together, there would never have been that increase in terrestrial beheadings that ancient and modern sources had recorded whenever Perseus transited. (e prisoner shudders as Perseus moves into position.) Although the information that Ficino has presented in De vita 3.1–16 is important for the maker of images and for Ficino’s full argument, the power in the drawn figure has only been suggested as Idea. e figure’s power to act will be explained in 3.17.

De vita 3.17, the Nature and Status of the Artificial Figure (Issue 2) Aquinas had contemptuously defined the astronomical figure as arbitrary, “nothing other than order, composition and shape,” a “mathematical object” of human manufacture. He may have considered that “figures are ‘like’ specific forms for art objects,” but they had no internal natural Form, the characteristic that caused natural change.82 Ficino will counter all these points in De vita 3.17. From this chapter we can deduce the following: e artificial figure is neither arbitrary nor, strictly speaking, the invention of a person. Rather, a divinely gi ed person discovers or perceives the Idea within the divinely created celestial figure, the celestial figure radiating from Perseus, for example. e core discernment will be the radiating mathematical essence of that celestial original. e resulting artificial figure does, indeed, have mathematical Form, but, far from being powerless, this specially discerned Form gives the artificial figure a very high status in nature. Ficino tells us that all God’s natural creation (we can here assume from stars to stones) has an inborn mathematical shape and that the inborn mathematical shape has “the greatest affinity with the Ideas in Mind.”83 Mathematical Form will now be a great, not a scornful, thing. Further, having discerned the mathematically radiating light/color of the celestial original, the

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image maker will copy that essence using the same celestial Qualities of color and light. is is why the artificial figure, which Ficino will define as composed of mathematical factors of light, is much closer to Idea than any terrestrial Form composed of the lower elemental Qualities hot, cold, moist, and dry could possibly be. e artificial figure made of these celestial Qualities has the power to act in the celestial world, with which it shares the Qualities, whereas the elemental Qualities that Aquinas required for natural change are suited for action only in the lower terrestrial world. Finally, this properly discerned and copied mathematical light figure will be joined with a material that contains the desired celestial Rays (those that participated in its generation). With this joining, the material is “perfected.” e selected celestial Rays flow into the properly selected material through the correctly drawn figure and synergistically activate the astronomical image. Because the figure/Form of the celestial original is now part of a material substrate that has some density, the arriving Rays will unlock the latent power in the material even as they are held in the image. From there, they will radiate out, altering entities nearby. Let us now turn to the detailed analysis of 3.17.

The Two Figures. Ficino’s argument in De vita 3.17 depends on the parallel that he establishes in this chapter between the power in a celestial figure and the power in an artificial figure, the figure-to-figure relation that I defined at the beginning of this chapter. e parallel is set in Ficino’s chapter title, “What Power Is in Figures—ose in the Sky and ose beneath the Sky”—and continues throughout 3.17.84 It can be difficult to follow this argument. Aware of its more than usual obscurity, Ficino has an imaginary listener, following a series of potentially confusing analogies, refocus the parallel of the two different types of figures toward the end of the chapter. is frustrated listener interjects: “‘So be it,’ . . . let celestial figures be as powerful in operation as you like, but what does this have to do with the figures of images made artificially?” To this the answer is again given that the power of the celestial figure can be captured in the artificial figure as long as it is made at the right time (i.e., under the appropriate sky) and is configured exactly (“examussim ad illas configurantur”) as the celestial figure: “For that figure perfects this figure.”85 Once the material “has received by art a figure similar to the heavens, [it] both conceives in itself the celestial gi and gives it again to someone who is in the vicinity or wearing it.” is statement—that the artificial figure selectively


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draws in the desired radiation—echoes Ficino’s statement introduced in De vita 3.16 and quoted above. ere, he had stated that, once it has been reduced to a similar figure by art, the correctly discerned celestial figure “exposes it [the material] there to its own Idea [say that of Jupiter]; when the material is thus exposed the heavens perfect it.”86 e drawn figure is the key component that connects the celestial and the material and, in that connection, unlocks the power. e quote from 3.17 provides the additional information that this astronomical image is now capable of transmiing that power to those in the vicinity.

The Two Figures are Similar Figures. Although Ficino refers to the constellations and other celestial bodies as celestial figures, there is also the more technical understanding intended in this. e celestial figure is seen because light Rays carry it mathematically to Earth and into the eyes. As noted in the definition given at the beginning of this chapter, the celestial figure is composed of the aggregate of Rays, a bundle of converging colored light Rays, coming from a heavenly original. e colored light Rays connect the surface of the original and a point on the Earth or inside the eye. In the astrological world of constellations from the Ram to Pisces, from Perseus to the Pleiades, the dark parts of the sky that our eyes do not sufficiently discern are also part of a celestial figure’s radiation. In other words, the converging colored light, properly discerned, shows, not just the points of starlight that we see, but the whole constellation of Perseus holding the head of Medusa. Further, this celestial figure arriving on Rays is the copy of the original celestial body or region of the sky, including both its power (Form, Qualities) and its radiating shape or figure. e celestial figure is, thus, both Form and form (shape) moving through media. Very few people in this culture doubted the power of this radiation. We can think of the artificial figure in these two ways as well, as a loosely drawn figure or, in the technical sense, as a mathematical figure copying in color/light the essential radiation (the celestial figure) of the celestial original. It is in this second sense that Ficino understands the artificial figure to share the Idea and some of the power of the celestial original through its figure. Its figure can here refer to both the celestial and the artificial figures because the two figures are configured exactly relative to the original. e two types of figure, celestial and artificial, are so similar in De vita that one scarcely notices when Ficino slips from one type to the other. Here is an

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example of his elision from the celestial figure that he has been discussing and that is composed of light Rays to the artificial figure made by the astrologers with the same Qualities: “What shall I say about light? For it is the action, or, if you will, the image [imago] of the Intellect. And colors are particular lights. On which account (so astrologers say), you should not rashly deny their statement that lights—that is colors, figures, and numbers—can do a great deal towards preparing our materials for celestial things.”87 e Qualities or “lights—that is colors, figures, and numbers”—are the components of the artificial figure marked on the astrologers’ materials, as we will see, and these are the same celestial Qualities that constitute the celestial figure. e two figures are hard to distinguish because Ficino has defined them in the same terms—both the celestial radiating figure and the artificial figure are composed of light, or, as we will learn, light in its factors of color, figure, and number. e connection of the two figures through light radiation calls for a closer look. When Ficino defines the two figures, we learn that they are configured exactly but that, ultimately, they are only “similar.” He is choosing his words carefully, and in the word choice there is an essential clue to this relationship— how the two can be configured exactly yet be only similar. is relationship is geometric. e celestial figure radiates from the surface of the celestial body toward a point on the Earth, or we would not be able to see it. Ficino suggests that the properly made artificial figure copies, or intersects, this radiation (a radiation that would have been described in either an optical or an intellectual art context as a cone or pyramid of Rays) close to the point on the Earth where the celestial Rays converge. rough this intersection, both figures—celestial and artificial—share the same geometric radiation and are also mathematically the same in their internal relation of parts to whole—their proportions. ey are configured exactly (“examussim ad illas configurantur”). It is significant that, of all the ways in which Ficino might have chosen to express exactly, he chose examussim, a geometric term. But the two figures are, ultimately, only similar, first, because they are of different scales (one very large, the other very small) and have a very different magnitude of power and, second, because Ficino, who loves to pun, cannot resist playing on the fact that the two would also have similar triangles in this geometric cone of radiation. I will point out below how this word choice is also related to the intellectual Florentine understanding of the artificial figure that is a painting. We might also consider that, if the image maker wanted to intersect the radiation com-


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ing from the celestial bodies, this could not be beer done than through the artificial figures in a vault fresco. e artificial figures draw in the selected radiation above and direct it below toward the person in the vicinity.

The Figure is Composed of the Factors of Light. e basic concept that a figure can have power derives from Plotinus, and scholars have traced the philosophical lineage of this part of De vita 3.17 to him.88 But the meaning of this chapter has not been examined for its physical implications. A er considering chapters 2–4 above, readers should not find it surprising that the celestial figure is a light-borne radial copy of a celestial body, a figure composed of powerful light Rays. It is less obvious why the artificial figure can be discussed in the same terms, yet this is the essence of 3.17. What does Ficino mean by this definition of the artificial figure as “lights—that is colors, figures, and numbers”—if we are focusing on the laws of nature? To find some understanding, we can look at the internal evidence of his text and then set his words into the context of intellectual Florentine art theory, also based on the laws of nature. First Ficino’s words. Ficino repeats light’s components through several permutations in De vita 3.17: “Lights (that is, colors), numbers and figures”; “lights, numbers and figures”; “figures, numbers, and rays”; “number, figure, and light”; “lights—that is, colors, figures, and numbers.” He has here described four factors of light in two basic pairs, light and color, on the one hand, and figure and number, on the other. Looking over his list, we see that light and color are sometimes silently combined simply as “light” or as “rays.” At the simplest optical level, light and color were linked because any visible light was considered to have color (at a minimum white); otherwise the light could not be seen. Other colored lights in the heavens, such as the red light of Mars, were also considered observable. Additional relations between color and light, especially how light altered the perception of color, were commonly discussed in optical treatises.89 It is not hard to understand, therefore, that light and color are necessarily interrelated. e two characteristics of the other pair, figure and number, are based on interrelated mathematical concepts. (It should be noted that, just as celestial figure and artificial figure are related yet distinctly different, this figure that is a factor of light is distinctly different from the artificial figure itself.) Figure, in this specialized context, is a mathematical shape of light. Because light radiates, it is always inherently mathematical. Whether light was considered macrocosmically as the first corporeal Form of the universe

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(chapter 2 above) or microcosmically as light Rays carrying the visible world into the eyes-mind of a viewer (chapters 3 and 4 above), students of light (then as now) understood it mathematically.90 Astrologers, or students of optics (or artists), were not normally thinking of light’s promiscuity—the punctiform analysis whereby every point of light from every side of a surface spread out in all directions.91 Rather, they generally considered light in its practical visible sense, that is, as Rays between a surface and a point—whether between the surface of the celestial object and a point on the Earth in the astronomical-astrological context or between the celestial object or any other object of sight and a point within the eyes in the optical or artists’ sense. is radiation constitutes the cone or pyramid of light that is common to astrology, optics, and art theories. is is the light-borne image/imago, the figure/shape of the original coming mathematically from the surface of the constellation Perseus toward the point in question, whether on the Earth or in the eyes. is is one kind of mathematical consideration of light that, as a writer on optics and an astrologer, Ficino has in mind. Ficino’s pairing of figure and number is also mathematical in at least two other ways. Ficino writes first of the internal “mathematical form” of all created entities, an exalted mathematical essence in the hierarchy of being: “In the order of being, mathematical forms precede physical ones.” is is so because, as he states, figure or shape is an essential component of the Idea of every species: Figures and numbers of natural parts possess a property peculiar to a given species [our meaning of the term] and inseparably linked to it; they [figures and numbers] have been appointed in the heavens along with species. Indeed, they have the greatest affinity with the Ideas in Mind, Queen of the world. And since figures themselves and numbers are species of a sort, represented in Mind by their own Ideas, they indisputably get their distinctive forces from up there. And therefore not only are natural species delimited by particular figures, but also natural motions, generations, and mutations are delimited by particular numbers.92

In this way, Ficino explains that in the natural world, whether celestial or terrestrial, every entity has a mathematical shape or Form that is specific to its species and that this shape comes from a particular Idea in Mind. e shape that is germane to a given species, its specific shape, is based on a mathematical relation of the parts to the whole and the scale relation of that species to others. To visualize this point in the terrestrial world, one might think of the


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species of horse. A horse has an internal proportion of parts to the whole that makes up the species’ recognizable figure or shape and a scale that is the ideal for that particular species. is is what God has done. erefore, Ficino points out, each species has an essential mathematical Form that is part of, has “the greatest affinity with,” its Idea.93 In the celestial part of the natural world, the same is true. e constellation Perseus has a God-given shape or figure that is internally unchanging, and this is also unchanging in scale and distance to other constellations. e gi ed image maker will perceive and then re-create this figure or mathematical Form in the artificial figure. Because the correctly discerned mathematical figure is the essential mathematical Form of an entity, and because Form has the power to act, we begin to see how an artificial figure is not inert but powerful in Ficino’s universe. And, because Idea is above earthly Form in De vita (Idea transfers to Exemplary Reason, which transfers to Seminal Reason—the laer acting as earthly Form), Ficino reinforces his point that, through its close proximity to Idea, a mathematical Form is above the prosaic terrestrial Form that Aquinas required to activate natural change. Beyond figure there is the related concept of Number. Although Ficino uses the term Number in a variety of ways, here he emphasizes it as a descriptor of a figure’s movement or changes. He tells us: “Natural motions, generations, and mutations are delimited by particular numbers.”94 is could be the simple movement of a horse or the shi ing geometric movement of a constellation’s radiation relative to a point on the Earth. It could also be, as we will learn in De vita 3.18, the mathematical movement of all the celestial bodies relative to each other and to a point on the Earth. As the stars and planets move around the Earth, their angles of radiation in relation to a given terrestrial point are changing, and this angular change is also described by Number. Finally, consider the four factors of light again, but now as a unified whole. Aquinas cannot complain that the artificial figure is not a real natural entity. It has both Form (mathematical Form) and Maer (light, the sheerest possible and, therefore, most powerful material substance). At the conclusion of De vita 3.17, we will see that Ficino gives the artificial figure an additional material substrate or density so that it can retain the celestial Rays.

The Relationship of Ficino’s Artificial Figure and the Florentine Art Community. Ficino’s description of the artificial figure as composed of the mathematical factors of light—with its implication that this figure is an intersection of a higher set of light Rays—might not be familiar to us,

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but it would have been so to intellectual Florentine contemporaries, including the artists and art patrons whom we will meet in chapter 8.95 His description draws from the understanding of a picture held in this art community. Although we may think of a painting as an object that hangs on a wall, we will see that these individuals thought of it first as a figural abstraction based on the mathematical analysis of objects, an analysis initially made possible, and then conveyed, through color/light. e painting thus bears the mathematical Idea at the core of nature as that is discerned by the gi ed artist and conveyed to the viewer.96 e arrangement of color/light on a surface, the painting, is considered like an intersection of visible radiation. ere are at least three mathematical aspects to this understanding shared by Ficino, and all are part of the discipline of optics or perspectiva as understood by the intellectual artists of the Florentine art world.97 is can be seen in Florentine art practice as well as in art theory. Fi eenth-century artists who were not satisfied with the superficial understanding of their cra pursued a deeper knowledge of painting through a study of the literature on vision.98 Several decades a er Brunelleschi had first incorporated this optical study into Florentine art practice, and many decades before Ficino wrote De vita, Ficino’s “Pythagorean hero,” the humanist Leon Baista Alberti, codified this practice in De pictura/Della piura.99 Ficino and Alberti use the same concepts to describe an artificial figure because both understand and use the same optical principles that artists were using. When Brunelleschi, Ghiberti, Masaccio, Donatello, Uccello, Piero, and others thought of the essence of an object that they wished to analyze in order to re-present it, they considered the object in at least three visually discerned mathematical ways, just as Alberti describes, a description to which Ficino alludes. ey observed (i) the internal mathematics of the object, that is, its proportional relations of parts to the whole (Ficino’s figures and numbers appointed to each species by the divine); (ii) the mathematical relation of the objects pictured to each other, that is, placement in distance and relative scale (larger parts to the whole, also included in Ficino’s figure-number); and (iii) the external mathematics that related the pictured objects to the eyes of the viewer, that is, the intersection of the pyramid or cone of visible Rays, or perspectiva. e mathematical analysis naturally depended on color/light Rays, or else the object of study could not be observed, visually measured, or subsequently translated for the viewer. In its Italian translation, Alberti’s theoretical work is dedicated to Brunelleschi and praises as well several of the artists named above. e three-book


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text is grounded in mathematics, and Alberti does not mince words on this point. But no sooner does he announce that book 1 will be entirely mathematical because nature’s roots are mathematical (here radici suggests a play on words with the mathematical term radius as well as with ray) than he quickly backpedals: “I earnestly wish it to be borne in mind that I speak in these matters not as a mathematician but as a painter. Mathematicians measure the shapes and forms of things in the mind alone and divorced entirely from matter. We, on the other hand, who wish to talk of things that are visible, will express ourselves in cruder terms.”100 Finding himself with the same problem as Galen, and afraid of losing not friends but readers (here in the opening lines of his disquisition), Alberti aempts to reassure the novice in this way. But he has a second point as well. As a painter, he will consider the mathematics in relation to visible Rays/the visual Ray (chapters 3 and 4 above). is is only right because many things could be measured only by sight. No one could touch and measure a mountain range, the constellation Leo, Europa’s bull in flight, or so many other entities that were to be pictured. e mathematician-painter will measure these optically through light Rays. In spite of Alberti’s beguiling statement—that he writes as a painter—the mathematics in this text must have been a shock to its early readers, especially if they had never seen such theoretical precepts demonstrated in the workshop.101 e treatise could easily have borne on its title page the legendary moo over the portal of Plato’s Academy, “Let no one ignorant of geometry enter here.” Just as a sophomore geometry text might today, the book begins with a discussion of points, lines, and planes or surfaces. Because Alberti is always the mathematician-painter in book 1, he intends the point on a surface to be one terminus of a Ray connected to another terminus in the eye of the artist (and, when the artist steps aside, a terminus inside the eye of the viewer). From this base, one of mathematical optics, he develops the understanding of mathematical Form and figure—the internal proportional relation of parts to wholes within a figure (observation i above) as the visual Rays of the artist measure these. He then moves to the mathematical relations of figures to each other in their scale and placement within the whole—a larger relation of parts to wholes (observation ii above) as the Rays of the eyes calibrate this. Finally, he concludes book 1 with the construction of mathematical perspective, connecting the image with the eyes of the viewer in a rigorously mathematical sense (observation iii above). From the outset of book 1, Alberti has discussed how the artist creates a picture in terms of visible and visual Rays, the reception of colored light by eyes

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and mind, and the book aests throughout to his familiarity with contemporary optical theories—how light Rays travel, what they absorb and carry, how they enter the eye mathematically, and how they pass into the imagination and move the soul of a viewer.102 e abstraction that is a painting—a mathematical figure defined by colored light—is o en missed in Alberti (and among Renaissance artists more generally), perhaps owing to the analogy he made between the surface of the painting and a window. He intends the analogy—the glass intersecting the visual radiation that connects the eyes of the beholder with the imaged objects—to assist the initiate with a mathematical concept that is difficult to visualize. is intersection of the visual radiation produces mathematical perspective, and the color/light on this intersection is the painting. Or to put this in Alberti’s words: “erefore, a painting will be the intersection of a visual pyramid at a given distance, with a fixed center and certain positions of lights, represented by art with lines and colours on a given surface.”103 A painting is to be thought of as a mathematical intersection of visible radiation. is intersection parallels the figure-to-figure relation that Ficino suggests when the artificial figure copies, or intersects, the celestial figure exactly but is still only similar. In either case, the mathematical perspective depends on similar triangles. e gi ed astronomical image maker produces such an imago or copy by discerning the radiation from the celestial original and then replicating it artificially through color/light on a surface. A vault painting provides a superb opportunity for such an intersection. e surface of the ceiling becomes this intersection with the real Rays, even as it is the base of the pyramid of the visible Rays connecting it with the eyes of the beholder. When we meet, for example, the artist Baldassarre Peruzzi, who produces one of the astronomical vaults discussed in chapter 8 (and who was himself adept in astrology), we will find that his vault closely follows the prescriptions common to his fellow artists, to Alberti, and to Ficino. Individual figures are portrayed according to their inner mathematical proportional relations. ey are related to each other according to the mathematical places that they hold in the space that the image represents—in Peruzzi’s case, their mathematical relations to each other by degrees in the whole space of the heavens. Peruzzi even goes to the trouble of fixing the viewer in a particular place in the room through precise perspectiva. is vault, or any astrological vault, can become the intersection of the visual radiation connecting the viewer with the heavenly Rays that lie beyond the vault and that are now figured into it. An important point about the abstraction that is a painting in this commu-


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nity must be highlighted. Despite the analogy of the painting as an intersection of visible radiation, the Renaissance artwork that correctly copies nature does not necessarily bear any visual resemblance to visible objects. Realism and naturalism were occasional by-products of the true goal—to communicate Idea/ideas. e artists, Alberti, and Ficino are all intent on a mathematically accurate inner reality and a mathematically accurate transfer of the pictorialized ideas between the mind of the artist and the eyes-mind of the viewer. It is not realism but this higher reality that is sought. is is why few Renaissance paintings look like a view through a window. Consider the examples of paintings that Alberti provides in his book or the vast repertoire of Renaissance artworks. No one looked out a window in Florence to see seminude mythological Graces dancing in the street or a judge with monstrous ears listening to Ignorance and Suspicion as a youth is dragged forward by the hair. Nor did anyone see the Virgin siing with saints from various eras aended by a local citizen or two or bulls flying through the air with maidens clinging. e replication of surfaces was a basic skill needed by beginners to convey ideas visually. e most complex and important ideas required parts or surfaces that might be realistically rendered, but these were analyzed and recombined in edited ways in the higher intellectual faculties such as the imagination and fantasy in order to produce the visual idea that is a painting. is prioritizing of essence over surface is part of a continuous tradition among painters throughout this period.104 Ficino was clear on this point as well. He reports that a painting represents “the objects the mind [of the painter] imagines.”105 If any are in doubt about Ficino’s understanding, they need only read his descriptions of efficacious astronomical figures in De vita 3.18, to which I will turn shortly. at these worked demonstrated that they were correct copies of the celestial figures. Yet few of these figures could be seen with the eyes. ey answered to, and replicated, a higher truth.106 It follows, then, that when we look to the works of the astronomical image makers—whether those who carved figures on gemstones or those who painted the monumental vaults discussed in chapter 8—we will not perceive what they saw. We, the nongi ed, see surfaces, not mathematical, light-borne essences. We do not have the rare talent to penetrate nature’s laws, to discern its mathematically radiating roots. We do not see Perseus raising his sword to decapitate Medusa. We see only a dark sky and points of light. But the gi ed image maker discerns the constellation with all its essential figure and proportion, even with all its (to us) dark radiation, and correctly copies its celestial

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model’s mathematical Form/Idea, its true reality. How otherwise could there have been so many beheadings?

More on the Material Nature of the Artificial Figure (Issue 3) As an intellectual (or as an intellectual artist) of this period would, Ficino has addressed the conceptual understanding of an artificial figure before further consideration of its corporeal reality. But now he turns to this point. At the end of De vita 3.17, we learn the third lesson needed to overturn Aquinas’s objections, and this concerns the corporeality of the artificial figure. Ficino reminds us that an artificial figure must, a er all, have an existence in some material or it can neither properly match the heavens nor properly retain the celestial radiation. For a Platonist, the heavens themselves have a very sheer corporeal existence, and, therefore, figure must have some sheer Maer, or it will not be congruent with the heavens. We also know from the Ray theory discussed in chapter 3 above that the artificial figure must have material density in order to snag and hold the celestial Rays.107 Elsewhere in his commentaries, Ficino had noted that astronomical images require something of the watery and the earthy.108 Happily, the reader learns at the very close of De vita 3.17 that the artificial figure is not solely a mathematical shape of colored light but is, a er all, joined to denser Maer that can catch and hold the celestial radiation: e material for making an image, if it is in other respects entirely consonant with the heavens, once it has received by art a figure similar to the heavens, both conceives in itself the celestial gi and gives it again to someone who is in the vicinity or wearing it. e same rule holds not only for figure but also for transparent, so-called diaphanous constitution. It is by its own nature something ineffectual and passive. Yet since a transparent constitution is in the heavens the proper receptacle of light, so wherever under the heavens it either exists naturally or is obtained by some means, the celestial light then available is instantly acquired, and also may be stored up, in cases where there is along with this light either fiery heat as in flame, or where there is something airy or watery and at the same time glutinous, as in lanterns, lamps, carbuncles, and perhaps, in a way, in camphor. Ponder for yourself what consequence for images follows from that fact.109

e passage begins with a point that Ficino has made many times. e material substrate of the astronomical image for the figure should be consonant


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with the celestial Rays being sought—a solar figure should be marked on a solar material, a Jupiterian figure on a Jupiterian material. But the more interesting point concerns the “transparent constitution,” which is, he tells the reader, “the proper receptacle of light” for both the celestial and the artificial figures. Once it exists, “the celestial light then available is instantly acquired, and also may be stored up.” In this passage, Ficino distinguishes between at least two types of diaphanous material in the sublunar world that can match the transparent constitution of the heavens: natural materials such as gemstones represented by the carbuncle (a gemstone typically used for astronomical images and one that he has cited elsewhere in De vita for this purpose) and material “obtained by some means.” e means of art are those typically set in opposition to those of nature, and this must be his point. e medium made by art requires something of the elemental Qualities of Fire, Air, Water, or gluten. As long as the material is, like the heavens, something transparent, “the celestial light then available is instantly acquired, and also . . . stored up,” in this transparent constitution. e materials that Ficino names in this passage can be found in Renaissance artists’ recipes for charcoal, pigments, varnishes, and grounds such as gesso and the lime of frescoes. is is the kind of transparent constitution, or medium, in which Florentine artists suspended the artificial figure. e colored pigments were ground from minerals or plants that are found in Ficino’s chains, and these pigments were held in sheer, watery and glutinous media—in water, oil, and resins. Among the many recipes in Cennino Cennini’s Libro dell’arte, one finds that a fine black pigment is made by heating linseed oil in a lamp and allowing its vapors to condense as soot on the bottom of a plate. A fine white is produced from “air-slaked lime”; the blue made from lapis lazuli includes pine resin, gum mastic, lye, and water. In contemporary handbooks, a “pictura translucida” is made when ground pigments are mixed with oil. Varnishes, known as gluten, were made of plant resins heated and mixed with oils. A transparent aromatic resin of pine, which the “Romans called ‘glassa,’” is recommended. Camphor is a transparent aromatic resin of an evergreen tree. We should not ignore Ficino’s repeated references to heat as a catalyst in De vita 3.15–18. Lime, the base of all fresco, became hot when it was mixed with water in preparation for painting.110 De vita 3.17 ends with one of Ficino’s more dramatic pronouncements, the mantic: “Ponder for yourself what consequence for images follows from that fact.”111 Ficino o en concludes one chapter with a hook leading to the next. In this case, it would seem that he is preparing the way for the astronomical

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images of 3.18 and 3.19, where ancient and contemporary figures made of pigments suspended in the translucent media of the painters are discussed.

e Style(s) of the Figure: De vita 3.18 Although he did not interpret Ficino’s artificial figure in the physical way in which I do here, Ernst Gombrich wrote on the real power aributed to a symbolic figure. e personification of Mars is not merely a symbol of Mars. If the figure has the correct forms found in ancient texts “so that they embody the ‘essential’ aributes of the planetary deities, they must, of necessity, receive something of the power they ‘represent.’”112 A true imago always carries some of the virtus of its original. In De vita 3.18, Ficino discusses a broad range of artificial figures that hold such power and have proved their efficacy over time. It is particularly here that we find the symbolic aributes such as those Gombrich noted, aributes believed to have the powers they represented. It is also here that we find the types of figures painted in the astrological vaults discussed in the next chapter. In spite of Ficino’s expressions of disapproval when it came to astronomical images (comments that I interpret as feints in his contest with those who censure them), Ficino catalogs many in De vita 3.18, producing for his readers almost a bowdlerized version of the controversial Picatrix. In his catalog, the artificial figures fall into at least four different style types. Among these four there is a wide range—everything from line drawings to fully fleshed and dressed personifications complete with aributes.113 Style is irrelevant to power. It is the mathematical, light-borne essence that gives these figures force. Type 1. First, Ficino points to figures that are “forms which are very conspicuous to the eye” such as Aries, Taurus, and the other zodiacal and extrazodiacal constellations.114 Augustine or Savonarola would have reacted with derision to the notion that Aries, Taurus, and other zodiacal constellations are visible. However, Ficino apparently assumes that these can be seen just as they had been traditionally depicted in paintings, manuscripts, maps, and other visual representations (see fig. 18). Type 2. Other “forms exist which are not so much visible as imaginable.”115 ese humans or hybrid creatures, the mythological population of the constellations and planets, are decked out with clothing and elaborate accoutrements. Ficino lovingly describes such efficacious figures as that of a “beautiful girl, seated, holding two ears of grain in her hand and nursing a child,” that is


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18. Taurus. From Hyginus, Poeticon astronomicon (Venice: Gerhard Ratdolt, 1482), fol. E2v. Courtesy of the University of Chicago Special Collections Research Center.

found in the first ten degrees of Virgo. e planet Saturn is depicted as “an old man siing on a rather high throne or on a dragon, his head covered with a dark linen cloth, raising his hands above his head, holding in his hand a sickle or some fish, and clothed in a dusky robe.” e planet Jupiter is portrayed as “a man crowned, siing on an eagle or a dragon, wearing a yellow robe.” ere are many more.116 We can all agree with Ficino that these are not figures discerned with the eyes. ese figures that ride chariots, suckle babes, brandish fish, spears, and other objects in the heavens, are surely pictured in the mind, intellectual rather than visible. But, because, according to Ficino and his sources, these have been known to work, we must assume that they also are correctly drawn figures that copy the celestial entity’s radiating Idea, its essential light, since it is this that controls the figure’s power to act. is type is featured in Renaissance astrological vaults. Type 3. A third type, “wrien characters of the signs and planets,” also works. ese sigla have powers, though they were o en considered the most dangerous by theologians. ey could be viewed as a wrien aempt to communicate with demons. is was the type commonly found on gemstones.

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ere is some suggestion, although the evidence is not clear, that these were incised in one of the vaults that we will examine, in addition to the more familiar symbolic images of planets and constellations. Type 4. Both here in De vita 3.18 and in 3.17, there is reference to the figures created by the movement of the heavenly bodies.117 e traveling celestials cast their Rays in shi ing relations relative to the four cardinal points. is suggests different expressions of the moving heavens such as the astronomical clock, armillary sphere, and celestial vault that Ficino details in his next chapter, 3.19 as well as the horoscope vaults discussed in chapter 8 below (cf. plates 7 and 10). rough these types, it is clear that style does not affect power.118 Ficino and others, such as the author(s) of the Picatrix, who describe efficacious astronomical figures, note key features of Idea or Form required for effectiveness, but they do not dictate the style or even the medium for most figures. Whether one engraved, sculpted, or painted was apparently also irrelevant, a point that can be noted as well in Ficino’s descriptions in De vita 3.19. ere, he outlines both two- and three-dimensional objects as “figures of the universe,” and their powers seem the same.119 e effectiveness depended on the successful re-creation of Idea in the figure. us, a sculpture of Mars swept into the Arno or a statue of Venus destroyed and buried on Florentine soil by the enemy Sienese held the celestial Rays of Mars and Venus just as surely as a gemstone with a sigla, as long as each was made of the right material at the right celestial time and had a mathematical essence that was configured to the essential mathematical Form radiating from the original.120

Summary According to Ficino (or the astrologers), light is the “action” and “imago of the Intellect,” carrying the Form/Qualities/Idea throughout the universe. Or, as Grosseteste wrote, Light was the essential corporeal Form of the universe, part of all entities. is Form is active. e celestial figure, a set of natural Rays that copies both the visible and the occult Qualities of the celestial body from which the Rays originate, is matched in its mathematical shape by the successfully made artificial figure, also composed of light/color that copies that celestial radiation. Because both the celestial and the artificial figures replicate the God-given mathematical Form of the celestial original whose Rays are being sought, and because both use the celestial Qualities of color/light to do so, the correctly made artificial figure is now a true imago of the original celestial


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body itself, and, in carrying its Form, its Qualities, it carries some share in the original’s power. Light transfers its virtus or power, radiating from the original celestial body into the artificial figure. Ficino, or the astrologers, seems to be thinking of this match as a precise focus of the celestial radiation. Since no light radiation is squandered in this radial congruence, the force is maximized. e chosen material is also in this same chain connecting it with the celestial Rays that formed it. Once the correct artificial figure is added to the material, the light match activates the astronomical image, exposing it “to its own Idea; when the material is thus exposed the heavens perfect it by that power with which they had also begun it.”121 e mathematical light match completes the connection between the celestial and the earthy. e celestial’s Qualities now exist with synergistically greater force within this Material image. Because it “has received by art a figure similar to the heavens, [it] both conceives in itself the celestial gi and gives it again to someone who is in the vicinity.” e astronomical image can now transmit the Rays. is explanation could not have pleased all. But, whatever objections remained, those who believed in astrology, or in the more recherché features of astronomical images, could meet them with the ultimate rebual—that the images had been witnessed to work. ey worked because the artificial figure had a very high status in the hierarchy that stretched from the sublime immaterial to the lowly terrestrial. According to Ficino’s account, this higher status accords the figure much greater power than Aquinas had understood when he insisted on an elemental internal life force based on the Qualities hot, cold, moist, and dry to produce change. De vita 3.15–17 allows Ficino to reverse Aquinas’s denigration of the artificial figure. It is no longer a powerless mathematical shape. Lest the reader doubt the status of a mathematical figure, Ficino, paraphrasing Plato, states in 3.17: “Mathematical forms precede physical ones . . . and they claim the most dignity in the primary, that is the celestial levels of the cosmos.” As a consequence, he tells us that “much comes about from number, figure, and light.” Or, as the astrologers aest, their figures “are the best prepared for catching the actions and forces of the celestial figures.”122 Because mathematics was an essential feature of Platonic philosophy, from the structure of the earthly elements themselves to the structure of the cosmos, Ficino considers the artificial figure to have a power more akin to that of the celestials. Later, in De vita 3.21, when he ranks the order of power in aracting Idea, he does not intend us to see an artificial figure in the lowest rank with “stones and metals.” ese were common material components of

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the astronomical image. But Ficino’s artificial figure per se must be in his fi h rank (or higher), where “Forms” are located among the “strong concepts of the imagination.”123 is status is commensurate with Ficino’s understanding elsewhere. It is paralleled in his Phaedrus commentary, where shape, which is described “through figures and numbers,” is the Quality of the animate world (in other words, above the corporeal) and higher still is color, “participated light,” while pure light surpasses all these.124 Whether we today might in the end agree with Aquinas that the mathematical figure is arbitrary and does not actually have any power to act, given the theories and evidentiary accounts then available Ficino has produced a stunning upset. Aquinas had thoroughly misunderstood the universe. To be a mathematical shape of light and color was to be a great deal. is was a powerful entity operating within nature. No demons required.

* Ficino’s argument has moved the reader from small-scale figures on engraved gemstones (De vita 3.15) to astronomical images appropriate for the large-scale figures in a vault painting (3.18). He has provided a natural trajectory from his chapter on the science of the figure (3.17) to the descriptions of efficacious figures (3.18). rough this transit, he has prepared us to accept that a correctly discerned and replicated two-dimensional artificial figure can actually capture celestial powers beer than its material substrate. is occurs because the figure is composed of light, color, number, and figure, the pure Qualities of the celestial realm, and is weighed down with only the sheerest transparent materiality. But the celestial power is not only aracted and then held in an astronomical image. It is also passed on to someone in its vicinity. How that power enters a wearer, viewer, or someone nearby will be the subject of my last chapter.

≤. .

e ig h t

. .≥

Look, Reflect, Be Changed The Great Astrological Vaults of the Italian Renaissance

Nor should one simply look at it [the figure of the universe] but reflect upon it in the mind. In like manner, in the very depth of his house, he should construct a chamber, vaulted and marked with these figures and colors, and he should spend most of his waking hours there and also sleep. And when he has emerged from his house, he will not note with so much attention the spectacle of individual things as the figure of the universe and its colors. But I leave this to those who make images. You, however, will fashion a better image within yourself when you know that nothing is more orderly than the heavens and that nothing can be thought of that is more temperate than Jupiter. m a r s i l io f ic in o

Ficino’s Figure of the Universe is chapter’s epigraph is taken from a description of a vault painting in Marsilio Ficino’s De vita 3.19, a chapter titled “How to Construct a Figure of the Universe,” that has long fascinated students of images.1 It goes without saying that such images could be thought provoking and intellectually curative in the 161


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ways in which Plato defined for the study of the actual heavens in the Timaeus. We are all changed by thought, and, ultimately, Plato values the looking only insofar as it improves one’s thinking. is, I believe, is also Ficino’s position. But whether the three objects described by Ficino in 3.19—an astronomical clock, an armillary sphere, and a vault painting—were understood to work physically as well as intellectually has continued to divide scholars. At least three types of evidence suggest that Ficino considers these objects to effect physical change in their viewers. ese are, first, the context in which this passage is situated, second, the implication that the three components of an astronomical image are present in these objects, and, finally, the admonitions to do physical things with the objects, such as sleeping under the vault for it to have its full effect, the full effect being its imprint in the mind. I will concentrate my remarks on the sheerest object of the three, the vault painting, for it suggests ways in which the monumental astrological vault paintings of Renaissance Italy were understood by their patrons.

e Context of is Vault Image within De vita e theme of the powers in astronomical images is fundamental to book 3 of De vita and reaches its culmination with the description of these images in 3.19, insofar as nature is concerned.2 e proem to the book notes astronomical images among the pharmaceuticals that Ficino will offer, couched in his usual equivocations: “Finally, if you do not approve of astronomical images, albeit invented for the health of mortals—which even I do not so much approve as report. . . . ” And he concludes the leer shielding himself: “In all things which I discuss here or elsewhere, I intend to assert only so much as is approved by the Church.” ere is no doubt that Ficino is fearful of what he has explained, but the subject of astronomical images pervades book 3 of De vita. An early title for 3.1 noted astronomical images as a means of drawing powers from the heavens. Ficino’s explanation of Idea’s connection with the physical world through the chains and the construction of the astronomical figure as well as of the astronomical images lead up to these figures of the universe of 3.19. e information moves from theories on Form and Maer in 3.1, to details on Spiritus and the specific chains in subsequent chapters, to Ray theories in 3.15–17. e next chapter, 3.18, contains a catalog of examples thought since antiquity to work. In 3.19, Ficino brings the astronomical image home to Florence and into

Look, Reflect, Be Changed


the body and mind of a viewer as he describes three images: (1) the large Florentine planetary clock, which he identifies as that recently made by Lorenzo della Volpaia; (2) an armillary sphere that could be carried; and (3) a roomsized ceiling painting. To this he will add a fourth, least material of all: the image that is carried in the mind once a person has spent time with these images.3 It would be an odd literary clunker if here, at the climax of 3.19, Ficino were to suggest that these images have no physical efficacy. But this is not the suggestion. Ficino subtly adds information to suggest how these images work. In the pharmaceutical sections of De vita, he tells those seeking health that they should spend time outside under the proper planetary and stellar Rays. Here, he gives the same advice, but it is now to spend as much time as possible under the painted vault. One should even sleep here to gain its benefits. is can be advised only so that the person continues to absorb the Rays from the image in his or her sleep. A er this period of looking, reflecting, and living under this image, it has, we learn, become part of the person’s mind. Following the descriptions of the figure of the universe, De vita 3.19 concludes with a long disquisition on Qualities. is reads like an early chemistry and physics lesson within the context of Ficino’s larger theme of the purification of the individual’s Spiritus. is cleansing of the Spiritus was also part of his discussion of the Material image in his Timaeus and Sophist commentaries discussed in chapter 4 above. e great vault painting of 3.19 fits with the description of the Material image in those commentaries. But now the secondary Material image (the radiation emanating from the painting and carrying Qualities) flows from the first material image (the painting) and is absorbed by the viewer, who has not simply looked but reflected, and who has also slept under the image. is second Material image is absorbed by the personal Spiritus, especially that in the visual Ray, and lodges in the mind. e following chapter, 3.20, is titled “What Great Power Images Are ought to Have Over Spiritus, and Spiritus Over Images. And concerning the Emotional State of the User and Operator,” continuing this theme.4 While it is certainly correct to consider this viewing of the vault painting in De vita 3.19 as an example of the Platonic notion of the curative power found in studying the heavens, it is also more than that.5 e vault painting is a material image that is also the Material image used by the wise men, the magi—one intended to enter the imagination of the viewer or bystander physically and, subsequently, work with the mind.


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e ree Components of the Astronomical Image Apart from the summative placement of this description within the context of the larger argument, the Florentine images of De vita 3.19 also have the three classic ingredients that will produce the astrological synergy—materials connected with the relevant celestials, an elected sky, and properly discerned artificial figures that have a mathematical essence or Form as well as specific colors. e three components are explicit in the first example, that of the planetary clock, and implied in the others. In fact, aentive reading suggests that these three items qualify as the same figure of the universe, albeit in three different media. From Ficino’s discussion we can extract the following. e planetary clock is made of metals related to the planets: bronze, silver, and gold. e elected time for the imprint of the figure (“at the right time in a thin gilded plate of silver”) is the moment when the Sun crosses the vernal equinox, a precisely measurable astronomical point.6 e work is to include “not only lines but colors . . . the three colors of the world . . . green, gold, and sapphire-blue, dedicated to the three heavenly Graces.” Ficino details this: Green is the color of Venus and also of the Moon. . . . [G]old is the color of the Sun, and besides not alien to Jupiter and Venus. Finally, sapphire-blue we especially dedicate to Jupiter, to whom also the sapphire itself is said to be consecrated. For this reason too, on account of its Jovial power, the lapis lazuli, richly endowed with this color, possesses the prerogative of curing black bile. Lapis lazuli comes into being along with gold. . . . [T]hus it is the companion of gold as Jupiter is of the Sun. . . . ey therefore judge it useful to look at these particular colors above all, in order to capture the gi s of the celestial graces.7

As he has reported previously, his “graces” are the beneficent planets, Jupiter, Venus, and the Sun, and their gi s are their Qualities. eir colors are gold, sapphire blue, and green, colors that predominate in the luxury vault frescoes discussed later in this chapter.8 e clock’s figure or Form is mathematical—it correctly copies the mathematical shape, ratios, and motions of the cosmic order. It is the proper imago of the universe, “an archetypal form of the whole world,” a “sphere equipped with its own motions.”9 For Plato, the true astronomer is principally a mathematician. Ficino goes beyond this, suggesting that it is this ability to under-

Look, Reflect, Be Changed


stand the mathematics of the heavens that demonstrates a partnership with the divine: “Who can deny that he [the gi ed astronomer-astrologer] is nearly of the same genius . . . and that he could, in a sense, make the heavens if he could obtain the instruments and the celestial maer?”10 When in De vita 3.18 he described figures that had been known to work, the figures ranged from the zodiacal constellations and extrazodiacal stars that he believed could be seen to a description of the four cardines and the complex commingling radiation in a horoscope chart. A horoscope also shows the mathematical measures, relations, and ratios of the heavens at a particular time. While the directions for the other two figures of the universe—the armillary sphere and the vault painting—are not specified, a lack of detail is typical in handbooks on astronomical images such as the Picatrix. e particular choices of style or medium were le to the sensitivity of the talented image maker and the particular needs of the client.11 A portable armillary sphere is, however, a smaller skeletal version of Volpaia’s horologium. It is so similar that it has been mistakenly conflated with the horologium in the scholarly literature.12 e vault painting is also described as a “figure of the universe” to be treated “in like manner” and “marked with these figures and colors.” is suggests that the two-dimensional painted universe must also have been begun at the proper celestial moment, with the proper materials, and, because its “figures and colors” show the proper relations of the celestial bodies to each other, it also carries the inner mathematical structure of the universe.

e Use of the Images Finally, the admonitions that Ficino provides on the uses of these astronomical images—touching, gazing at particular colors in order to take in the gi s of certain planets, and sleeping under this vault—are all aimed at a physical Ray reception familiar from the principles of universal radiation. is is especially true given his belief in the visual Ray and extramission described in chapters 3 and 4 above: “e adherent of those things should either carry about with him a model of this kind or should place it opposite him and gaze at it.” “But it will be useful to look at a sphere. . . . Nor should one simply look at it but reflect upon it in the mind.” In the vaulted room painted with the heavens, the person should “spend most of his waking hours there and also sleep.”13 As noted in chapter 4 above, the radiation from a Material image does not require light in Ficino’s commentaries. It enters on the world’s Spiritus and “secretly” into the


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person’s Spiritus. It would be useless to tote around such objects, gaze fixedly at them, or sleep under them if this were not to gain physically the celestial Qualities, the gi s, from these artificial images of the universe. e celestial Qualities radiate on World-Spirit and flow from the Rays of the heavens into these astronomical images, where they are caught and held. e stored Qualities also flow out from them, carrying celestial gi s into the Spiritus of the viewer, a bystander, or even a sleeper. Synesius’s De insomniis, one that Ficino not only translated but also seems to have used to develop his theory of Material images, breathes with Ficino’s dreamer under this vault.

e Real Heavens versus the Painted Heavens Before turning to Renaissance astrological vaults as Material images holding celestial powers, we ought first to consider one obvious question. Even if one believed that a properly made vault painting of the heavens could trap and transmit celestial Rays, could that be in any way comparable to absorbing the radiation from the real heavens? e answer must have been both yes and no. While the physical Rays of the heavens are far more powerful than any Rays coming secondarily through a painting, the astronomical image has two advantages. First, these are edited heavens in De vita 3.19, focusing on Ficino’s salubrious Sun, Jupiter, and Venus. Malevolent forces that always exist in the actual heavens can be controlled through the proper selection of the best sky. is selection, technically an astrological election, was commonly cited as a means of enhancing free will. As Albert the Great pointed out, knowledge of God’s plan helped one make better choices—in cases such as these, choices that would improve one’s physical, mental, and, ultimately, spiritual health. Second, the real heavens do not stop, and they do not return in the same configuration for millennia (the number of the millennial figure was debated, but the actual answer is never). If a person had been blessed with a particularly spectacular birth sky, there would have been no possibility of standing under those real heavens again. Even if the Rays trapped in an astronomical image are much weaker than the real heavenly Rays, they are semipermanent and always available to restore the person’s Spiritus at any time of day or night. e perfect sky exists only for a moment. e painted heavens could be relied on for many generations.14

Look, Reflect, Be Changed


An Ethical Question Ficino followed his mentors Plato and Galen (both acknowledged as such in De vita) in supporting a belief in the most material understanding of the visual Ray, which he described in tandem with Material images. ese Material images emanated out of objects carrying Qualities that were both visible and invisible. e extramied visual Ray of the person met this radiation and carried these external Qualities physically back into the body, especially into that sensitive part of the body, the eyes. From there, the Qualities continued into the lower soul for intellectual processing. is very physical understanding of vision is particularly apparent in De vita 3.17, where Ficino retails scientific stories that visual Rays could shape a fetus, infect a viewer with illness, or kill the recipient if a glance were sufficiently baleful. In 3.19, he advocates prolonged looking at, and reflection on, his astronomical images of the universe. is raises an ethical question. What are these Rays doing to the person in the vicinity or staring at them? It was axiomatic in astrological texts that different individuals had different celestial needs. Just as a healthy person today would not take someone else’s chemotherapy, astrologer-doctors carefully studied celestial Rays in order to supply the deficiencies needed by a particular patient. is basic principle of individual medical requirements underlies De vita and, indeed, all astrological medical practice. If we consider now the Rays thought to be issuing from a vault painting, we can suppose that the particular person being best served by those Rays is the vault’s patron. According to astrological precepts, the horoscopes of one’s friends and family generally had compatible radiation.15 Rays beneficial to the patron were, therefore, also beneficial to the host’s family members and true friends. But the Renaissance had so many frenemies. While we consider the therapeutic value of Renaissance astrological vaults for the original patron, his family, and his inner circle of friends, we should also consider the possibility that these vaults were viewed as apotropaic by their creators.16 ey may have been intended to fortify and protect the patron, his family, and his true friends and also to shield them from the as-yet-unmasked enemy sauntering through the room. e images of the universe described in De vita 3.19, featuring the great beneficent planets Jupiter, Venus, and the Sun, are healthy for all. But this is not the only type of vault subject found. Some of the most lavish astronomical vaults of the Renaissance represent key features of their patrons’ horoscopes.


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If these were astronomical images hidden in plain view, what could be gained by absorbing the Rays from someone else’s horoscope? Talismans, whether astronomical or not, were popularly believed to produce significant results—to bring love, ruin enemies, cure blight, and work in so many other ways beneficial to those who controlled them. ey did this regardless of whether anyone understood their science and, perhaps beer still, when the intended object of an apotropaic image was unaware of its presence. Many were buried for this reason. Ficino’s wise men catch Rays and cause them to enter the Spiritus of a bystander secretly.17 As long as an image was healthy, there was no ethical problem with viewing it repeatedly, and, certainly, Ficino encourages this with the vault painting discussed in De vita 3.19. e beneficent Rays of Jupiter, Venus, and the Sun enter like balm. Or if you were the person under your own horoscope vault, these were the Rays that brought you your power. But if we consider this from a different perspective—an image that could be harmful to some recipients— then repetition has questionable implications. A brief review of the optical tradition on visual memory is of interest here, for Renaissance astrological vaults encourage repetitive viewing. e ancient dilemma of “looking twice” was also an early modern (and is still a contemporary) concern.18 is is of special interest when the extramied Rays from the viewer’s eyes were believed to intersect and intercept the material Rays coming from the image.

Repeat Viewing in the Optical Literature e optical literature taught that visual recognition was not necessarily achieved with a glance. When more visual information was needed because something curious or initially incomprehensible had been viewed, a person looked longer, with more concentration, and even returned to look again, seeking understanding.19 When repeat scrutiny was required, either for recognition or some degree of further visual satisfaction, the reengagement of the eyes always required more intake, more focused thought, more memory comparisons, and, eventually, a deeper penetration of the image into memory.20 e premier authority on vision in the Latin West, followed later by the Perspectivists such as Bacon, Pecham, Witelo, and others, was the great eleventh-century Muslim scientist Ibn al-Haytham, who described repetitive viewing. If a person perceives the object

Look, Reflect, Be Changed


continually, a form of that kind will become ensconced in the soul, and the form will come to be impressed as a general representation in the imagination, . . . [T]he forms of the visible object persist in the soul. . . . us, imagining the forms of visible objects that a person saw before and still recalls when they are no longer present indicates that the forms of visible objects that sight receives reach the soul and are impressed in the imagination.21

Form is used here in the sense both of shape and of Form.22 ough Ibn al-Haytham argued the intromission theory, nevertheless, like Ficino, he recommended increased time for viewing, and he noted that a scrutiny of all details produced the best implantation of a viewed object into memory. Focused aention and longer time to study all the details produce beer retention. For those who followed the extramission or combination theories and considered vision to be more physical than did al-Haytham, the issue of visual memory becomes one stage more serious. Looking twice is always a danger, but all the more so as the looking is understood to be embedding the image more physically in the memory. When the intellect redirected the eyes back to the work, physical contact between the object and the eyes recurred. e Qualities of color and light, as well as the occult Qualities that could create love, sicken, or kill, were also entering again. Leonardo, who, like Ghiberti, used al-Haytham’s text, suggested that visual memory requires concentrated focus on the object and added that a person tended to remember the pleasing. Unusual images were also considered memorable.23 e monumental astrological vaults of the Renaissance are, indeed, full of figures, Ficino’s imaginabiles, that are both pleasing and unusual, and, if pictures can insist on anything, their beauty and mystery, their enigmatic presences, lure the viewer into repeat viewing. e human curiosity to recognize and make sense induces the viewer to look again. is return could embed the image only deeper in the mind. Ficino’s admonition in De vita 3.19 to observe and reflect for a long time, and carry the image in the mind and out into the world, suggests that he understands the image of the vault painting of 3.19 to have become part of the person, existing in the viewer’s physical imagination or memory. I do not doubt his good intentions. Some Renaissance vaults seem to follow his prescriptions, and these were, I think, also believed to have salubrious effects. But those patrons accustomed to extraordinary power were much more pragmatic than altruistic. At least two of the vaults seem to insist on repeat viewing and extended time for observation.


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e Monumental Vault Paintings of Renaissance Italy e most important monumental vaults of the Renaissance having astrological subjects follow the publication of the De vita in 1489. e most interesting of these were commissioned by patrons who either knew Ficino personally or shared his circle of friends. e first vault discussed here was commissioned by Agostino Chigi, reputedly the world’s richest man, the papal banker and intimate of Julius II and Leo X, the Medici pope who was Ficino’s pupil. Chigi employed the astronomer-astrologer Giorgio Benigno Salviati, Ficino’s close friend, to work on the project of calendar reform. It is this same Giorgio Benigno whom Ficino petitions for protection at the conclusion of book 3 of De vita.24 Pope Leo X commissioned the second vault to be discussed below. Ficino, in the employ of the Medici family, had a close relationship with Giovanni de’ Medici. From the young boy’s horoscope, he predicted that he would become pope. Later, Giovanni was also Ficino’s pupil. A er assuming the papacy, Leo made Tommaso de Vio Cajetan, a follower of Ficino’s who wrote on astrological images, a cardinal. e cardinal was an important humanist, and astronomical images were a shared interest of Leo’s, as we will see. Cajetan’s appointment in 1517 coincides with the time Leo’s Pontefici vault would have been under discussion.25 e third spectacular astronomical and astrological vault included here, that in the villa of the Farnese family at Caprarola, also has a Ficinian lineage. Pope Paul III Farnese, the founder of the family villa, a man deeply devoted to the belief that God directed him through the stars, was also a student of Ficino’s in Florence and a friend of Giovanni de’ Medici. Paul III passed on his devotion to astrology to his grandson, Cardinal Alessandro Farnese, the immediate patron of Caprarola’s astrological vault. e vaults created by these powerful patrons seem to fall into two groups. ere are those that were more general in nature and suggest something like Ficino’s intent that the ceiling painting of De vita 3.19 would have broadly beneficial effects for all. ese are simpler vaults. At least the first of these may have been planned solely to remind the viewer of the cosmic order. e complex vault decorations, however, were celestial maps related to their patrons’ personal horoscopes. e radiation of these would have been expected to affect different recipients differently.

Look, Reflect, Be Changed


Simpler Vaults Two vaults that may offer something like a general blessing for good health were created for the patrons Julius II and Agostino Chigi. e image of Astrology, painted for Julius ca. 1508, is part of a complex decoration in the ceiling of the Stanza della Segnatura, the papal library. It resembles Ficino’s description of the painted universe of De vita 3.19 (plate 8). Against an illusionistic gold mosaic ground, a female figure clothed in green peers down through the crystalline blue firmament that is studded with golden stars. Two winged pui carrying books accompany her. Delicately incised on the crystal sphere are the lines of the ecliptic, the meridian, and the celestial equator as well as some of the constellations. In the middle of this cosmos is the Earth. In Ficino’s words, “It is an image of the very universe itself. . . . [One should] look at these particular colors above all [green, gold, blue] in order to capture the gi s of the celestial graces.”26 Perhaps here the image is primarily meditational and intended to shape the mind intellectually. e real mosaic vault of Agostino Chigi’s burial chapel in Santa Maria del Popolo (Rome), designed by Raphael, also has general parallels with Ficino’s description of the universe (plate 9). In the center of this dome, the Creator, circled at a lower level by planetary deities with their zodiacal signs and guardian angels, raises his hands in what has been interpreted as a gesture of resurrection in this funerary chapel. John Shearman has described the brilliant illusionism of the vault. e Creator and the celestial deities appear in the blue heavens beyond the gilt ribs and “oculus” of the cupola. Blue, gold, and green, Ficino’s beneficent colors, predominate.27 e inspired choice of the light-reflecting mosaic, coupled with the real light of the eight drum windows, dazzles the eyes and increases the illusion as the visitor aempts to read the mosaic floating in the dome above. Mosaic may have been chosen, not simply for its optical effects, but also for its chemical components. ese fit well with Ficino’s description of materials at the conclusion of De vita 3.17. “Mosaic gold” (sal ammoniac, tin, sulphur, and quicksilver, melded between glass or crystal) gleams in the play of light from the windows and the flickering lamps and candles below. Mosaic becomes a powerful and ideal “diaphanous constitution,” “the proper receptacle of light” suspended over the viewer.28 Just as Ficino concludes his description of the universe in De vita 3.19 with praise of beneficent Jupiter, Jupiter here is also featured in the focal point directly opposite the Chigi chapel entrance. is focus is deliberate since the


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planets in their standard astronomical order (closest orb to most distant) had to be separated at one point so as to achieve Jupiter’s centering. e starry firmament, the “Eighth Sphere,” is placed between Mercury and Venus so that Jupiter falls directly in the sight line at the entrance. e words of De vita 3.19 come to mind: “You, however, will fashion a beer image within yourself when you know that nothing is more orderly than the heavens and that nothing can be thought of that is more temperate than Jupiter.” Look long, reflect, improve the Spiritus in the process.

e Complex Vaults—What Can Be Learned by Looking? Seing aside both of the simpler vaults noted above and focusing now on complex vaults related to their patrons’ horoscopes in the Villa of Agostino Chigi (the “Farnesina”), the Vatican Palace’s Pontefici, and Caprarola’s Cosmografia, there is one basic question that goes unexamined. What can one understand from looking at these complex cycles? To this one might add the corollary, How long must one look to understand the vaults? It would seem that only the simplest aspects of these vaults could be understood by looking, and even this minimal achievement would require steady and thoughtful study. e mathematics and messages seem deliberately hidden. Even a person who knew all the symbolic figures of planets and stars could not have understood the mathematical essence of these frescoed vaults without inside information provided by the patron. Today, we can unravel the meanings in these vaults because we have the considerable resources of detailed photographs, rare book repositories, and computers to calculate multiple celestial positions with a click. By contrast, for their original audiences, these vaults seem designed to hold a viewer’s gaze without the possibility of comprehension. is suggests that these were apotropaic and restorative images. If that is the case, the visitor, intrigued and fixed in the space of the room, eyes wide open, took in the radiating Qualities of the patrons’ particular celestial protectors as the celestial Qualities flowed out and into that person’s Spiritus. And, even if no one was looking, the Rays were considered to be working on anyone in the room. is argument will seem odd to the reader who has been schooled to think of these fresco cycles as aesthetic objects or iconographic puzzles. But this reader should consider that this was a culture in which many, if not most, took for granted the powers in talismanic images, whether these were to bring love

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or cures, disease to enemies, even defeat and death.29 Following the publication of Ficino’s De vita, the popular belief seems to have gained a learned expansion, especially where astronomical images were the subject. e many followers of Ficino discussed by orndike, Walker, Vasoli, Perrone Compagni, Weill-Parot, and others aest to a growing rather than declining intellectual interest in the powers that could be aracted into, held, and transmitted through images.30 We might also consider that, strange as the argument of my text may seem, astronomical images have had a certain fascination even in more modern times. A hard-nosed and highly educated businessman, proficient in several languages, J. Pierpont Morgan had the Morgan Library in New York decorated with a zodiacal frieze copied from the villa of Agostino Chigi. And, just as we will see at Caprarola, he had the constellations moved out of their correct zodiacal order. In his case, this was so he could enter his library under his “lucky stars,” Aries and Gemini. e richest banker of Europe in his day and one of the richest American financiers centuries later, each hoped for celestial assistance. In some form or another, images were believed to contribute in bringing this to them.31

Case 1: e Astrological Vault of Agostino Chigi’s Villa e same aractions in Chigi’s villa vault, its physical beauty and its enigmatic figures, have intrigued scholars for years and must have drawn many a repeat glance from the original guests. A er more than a century of research, several of the figures are still insecurely identified.32 Yet the initial effect of the vault suggests clarity and purpose. e visitor is drawn in by the appearance of clarity and trapped by the ambiguities. It is useful to imagine entering this room as it was planned for the original visitor in order to see both what was clearly communicated and what would have been much more difficult to understand. is loggia, located on the Tiber side of the villa, had its primary entrance from the gardens that sloped down to the river. e arriving guest would have passed an exterior fresco decoration with now weathered and barely visible figures. ese figures hold what appear to be symbols of Mercury and Virgo. is suggests that the exterior images once announced the astrological subject of the interior. Inside the loggia, the visitor looks up to see an illusionistic vault. Its trompe l’oeil perspective is so perfect that Titian supposedly did not believe that it was


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painted until he moved around the room (plate 10).33 Fictive marble frames separate the vault into twenty-six panels. ese display an impressive array of personifications, mythological figures, and symbols. Twelve of these, the two main ceiling panels and the ten hexagons on the pendentives, have a rich blue background; the other fourteen are in gold “mosaic.” Blue and gold thus help organize two different sets of figures. e first set—including the two large central panels that occupy most of the ceiling and the ten hexagonal images that descend vertically to the walls—has the greatest visual prominence owing to the monumental scale of the central panels and the vertical placement of the hexagons. ere, one finds figures that Ficino described in De vita 3.18: “Aries, Taurus, and similar zodiacal figures.” Trompe l’oeil marble pui riding mythical beasts and carrying torches frame the blue hexagons above, while beneath the hexagons fictive pui carrying tablets balance on hemispheres. e fourteen nearly triangular images against gold “mosaic” appear to recede horizontally in the decoration. ese too are noted in De vita 3.18—constellations “outside the zodiac” that one sees in the night sky.34 e “marble” frames are further embellished with green and gold. Blue, gold, and green are, as we have seen, favorite Ficinian colors. e personifications are frequently nudes, but, when clothed, they tend to wear garments accented with green or rose.35 e figures in the twenty-six separate images know that they are being watched. ey occasionally watch us (plate 10; figs. 19 and 20). Of course, we know that these are paintings, but that is not how they feel. Like tableaux vivants, the figures theatrically request our aention. ey hold their aributes ostentatiously, exchanging meaningful glances with each other, or occasionally they sneak a glance our way. e great gray bullock of the right central panel fixes us with his stare. is in a culture where it was apparently a normal concern that Michelangelo’s David be placed in such a way that he could not gaze at the citizens of Florence.36 We stare back at these figures posing for us, but what are we supposed to understand? Fixed by the perfect perspective (plate 10), one looks up to the two commanding panels that once flanked Chigi’s shield. e panel to the le displays a large winged female figure in a white gown with wings of green, white, and rose. Against the blue ground studded with gold stars she trumpets toward the shield. is is a familiar classical figure of Victory or Fame, announcing Chigi’s illustrious fortune. Beside her, an armor-clad figure with rose cape and green kilt grabs a snaky haired Medusa by the hair, about to decapitate her. Unambiguously, this is the constellation Perseus. Marmoreal figures emerge

19. Astrological vault in the villa of Agostino Chigi, detail of the Hydra, Baldassare Peruzzi, ca. 1511.

20. Astrological vault in the villa of Agostino Chigi, detail of the Swan, Baldassare Peruzzi, ca. 1511.


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enigmatically from a cloud border below Perseus and Fame and suggest Medusa’s victims turned to stone. In the paired panel to the right of the central shield, two handsome oxen pull a golden chariot driven by a maiden wearing a green and rose gown. A cloud bank doed with cherubs’ heads appears to propel the group through the skies. e large gray bull turns its limpid eyes to look at us looking at him. Contrast this animated and intriguing visualization with the precise mathematics of the vault’s astronomy. As I have argued previously, if we know that Agostino Chigi was born on November 29, 1466, and if we know the celestial coordinates of Chigi’s hometown of Siena, and if we have access to a set of the Alphonsine tables and know how to use them accurately, we might figure out that the maiden in the chariot must represent Cynosura, the North Star, and that the important star of the le panel must be Algol, the head of Medusa.37 Together the North Star and Algol defined the meridian over Siena at 9:30 p.m. on November 29, 1466. is particular understanding of the two main panels locks Chigi’s birth time to the minute. is is not something that can be interpreted by looking at, and reflecting on, these images. First, the nymph in the chariot has several possible identifications, and, just as the figure of Victory or Fame to the le is not a constellation, she might not have been one either. e first problem, then, throughout the vault, is to determine which figures in an image maer and which do not—Perseus per se does not; the Head of Medusa does. e ten hexagons have always been easier to understand. ese ten present the twelve symbolic figures of the zodiac (four of them are paired), and with them are found representations of the seven planets. Knowing the location of the seven planets around the 360 degrees of the zodiacal circle, one can derive a date. One might possibly have derived the birth date from the planetary and zodiacal information of the surrounding series of ten hexagons, therefore, as Warburg, Saxl, Beer, and others tried to do. But, again, there is an identification problem since both typical and atypical symbolic images identify the constellations and planets, and it is not clear which symbolic figure goes with which. Looking to the start of the zodiac and Aries, we find a ram above a seated male figure, the laer garbed in gold and holding thunderbolts as he looks at a woman about to mount a white bull (plate 11). We might appropriately interpret that the ram is Aries, that the woman in green with the bull is Europa, and that her bull stands for the zodiacal constellation Taurus. e male figure is obviously the planet Jupiter, but whether Jupiter was to be associated with Aries or Taurus stumped historians until 1984.38 Now that we

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know the birth date, we have no doubt that Jupiter is in Taurus. And so it goes around the ceiling. Deriving a date from the kind of visual information presented through these ten hexagons would have required an exceptional memory and access to an exceptional library. Once one recognizes the zodiacal signs, add to these resources an ability to compute the intersection of seven planetary sets of positions—positions only ambiguously shown in a thirty- to sixty-degree range of the zodiac. Even if one suspected this to be a horoscope, there were many horoscope dates that might have been commemorated—the birth of the patron, the foundation of the villa, a date for the patron’s upcoming marriage, perhaps even the commencement of his meteoric entrepreneurial ascent. Faced with the planetary and zodiacal possibilities, knowing the coordinates of Siena and Rome, and equipped with a good set of tables, a rare mathematician might through trial and error have isolated a certain number of dates that could have been represented. If the key figures of the two central ceiling panels had been correctly discerned, the same person might have found the exact time of birth. anks to a series of efforts stretching over a century, scholars, possessing photographs, texts, and computers that no Renaissance intellectual owned, worked out the significance of the figures frescoed against the blue grounds. What original guests would have been able to do this? en there are the fourteen symbolic images against gold grounds. About half of these can be recognized immediately as specific extrazodiacal constellations. Some, such as the Triangle, the Arrow, the Lyre, and the Dolphin, are obvious from the symbols carried by the personifications. Others challenge the viewer or are still uncertainly identified a er more than a century of inquiry. Take, for example, the image shown in figure 20 above. A seated woman holds a rudder. A person adept in the science of the stars might suspect that the figure represents a constellation located near the Dolphin and the Horse since these recognizable figures are nearby. If this person also knew that the rudder was a symbol of Nemesis and remembered that Nemesis was raped by Jupiter under the guise of a Swan, then Cygnus would be a good candidate for this image. e Swan is near the Dolphin and the Horse, and Hyginus’s Poeticon astronomicon, published in 1482, gives the story of Nemesis and Jupiter as the reason that the Swan is in the heavens.39 Look and reflect as much as one might, the answers to one’s questions will not come by staring. rough comparisons with astronomical and astrological handbooks of the period, I have suggested that this complex secondary cy-


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cle refers to the paranatellonta for the sign of Virgo and that this, in turn, points to Chigi’s conception horoscope, one that we know was also studied as the point of a person’s “first beginning.”40 e moment of conception, unknown to doctors today, was, in the Renaissance, confidently derived from the position of the Moon in the birth horoscope of a child. erefore, since the Moon at Chigi’s birth is painted in Virgo’s hexagon, Virgo is Chigi’s Ascendant of conception. Both the array of paranatellonta associated with Virgo and the personification of the Moon with Virgo in Chigi’s vault suggest that stars important to Virgo are featured here to underscore Virgo’s importance for the newborn. If this is so, the visitor to the room would have also needed an unusual memory of astrological handbooks and astrological poetry or have studied the images and worked them out later in an excellent library. Study these, and the Rays are already working. ere is lile chance that anyone entering and gazing at this vault without inside information would have known it to be Chigi’s birth horoscope down to the minute, perhaps accompanied by his conception horoscope. It is equally unlikely that one looking at this resplendent and intriguing vault for the first time would look only once. e very staging of these figures, looking at each other and at us, prods us to pay aention. e diagrammatic appearance to it all—divisions into compartments, the organization into two groups by colored ground, the symbols prominently displayed by the personifications— gives the immediate impression that the vault has a meaning. Yet the familiar are frustratingly mixed with the irrelevant and the ambiguous. e visitor is meant to stare, yet it is unlikely that visual communication was the primary purpose of this vault. e poet Blosio Palladio, in Chigi’s employ and writing on the villa, introduced his fresco cycle: “But having admired the work, now I desire that you marvel at that which lies hidden under it, and the story that is weighted with a hidden sense.”41 ose who knew the heavens well must have been challenged to memorize these images, then go home to their studies and work this out. ose who did not know the heavens still must have stared and wondered. Chigi enticed his guests with what might seem to be a charmingly lighthearted vault. But the mathematical Forms of the universe are here hidden under the proper celestial figures—zodiacal and extrazodiacal—and matched to a point on the Earth. e vault preserves the mathematical relations of stars and planets at a precise moment. As recommended in De vita 3.19, the planetary spheres are grounded in blue, and the “golden stars” have been added. e figures are suspended in the sheer materials suggested in 3.17 and were

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once highlighted with real gold. Like the villa itself, this frescoed horoscope was probably begun at a propitious moment. e mathematical perfection of this vault’s perspective may have been designed to hold the viewer in place for a more powerful imprint of the Rays. e most powerful would have come from the stars in the central axis connecting Algol and the North Star. Vasari, writing some fi y years a er the fresco was completed, summarized the vault in a sentence: “ere is Medusa turning men into stone, there is Perseus cuing off her head.” Whether Vasari had a particular source or knew this from rumor or oral tradition, he does have it right. Indeed, the whole vault could be summed up in that single memorable central panel of Perseus and the Gorgon. ere was the head of Medusa, the star Algol, gliering at the zenith over Siena on the winter night when Chigi was born. If we read the astrological handbooks, this is a powerful and ominous sign. Ficino noted Algol’s strength in possessing the natures of Saturn and Jupiter and located her at 18° Taurus, where she is found in Chigi’s natal chart (fig. 16 above). e handbooks teach that if Medusa is at the zenith and is culminating with Jupiter—both astronomically true in Chigi’s birth horoscope—then the newborn will have the power of life and death over others.42 e power of life and death over others is one that we know Chigi exercised. He hunted a former business associate to Venice and had enough power there, within the exclusive halls of the Venetian government, to secure the man’s trial and execution over a business deal gone sour.43 Perhaps Chigi’s knowledge of his birth date and time (one that, as we know from the Sienese baptismal archives, was not rectified) made him particularly aentive to Ficino’s discussion of Perseus in De vita 3.16: “Perseus when he has cut off Medusa’s head usually portends a beheading in store for some people.”44 Medusa, the Gorgoneion, one of the most powerful apotropaic images of the classical world, had protected him from birth. He must have believed that it protected him here too. In spite of the cheerful look to this fresco cycle, I think that Chigi expected more from it than decoration. Astrology was taken seriously in this culture, and this patron was one of its most assiduous practitioners. He was certainly one of the most important patrons of astrologers, including the vault’s designer and painter, Baldassarre Peruzzi, known for his knowledge of the science.45 With his vault, Chigi reified the radiation of his first beginnings through astronomical figures suspended in the medium of fresco.46 In the belief of Ficino and astrologers, the astronomical images were radiating as he and his guests sent out their visual Rays to touch the images, Spiritus to Spiritus. ose same visual Rays carried the radiating Qualities back into the person’s eyes and mind. In


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this major entrance hall, Chigi’s celestial Rays were always available to fortify and protect him. He may even have imagined that the radiation of the central axis, especially that from Algol, penetrated his guests secretly as they entered his home and looked up to marvel. Talismans of all kinds were most effective if their intended target was unaware of their presence. Shortly a er Chigi died, his brother, Sigismondo, moved into the villa and seems to have undone Chigi’s good fortune. He was the major beneficiary of the death of Agostino’s new wife, rumored at the time to have been poisoned. He was later indicted for neglecting the children previously born to the couple and entrusted to him in his brother’s will. Sigismondo must have believed that he was also protected by the Rays, for he was family.47

Case 2: e Astrological Vault of the Sala dei Pontefici in the Vatican e Sala dei Pontefici presents an interesting case of an astrological vault that also seems to have been considered more than a decoration by its patron, the Medici pope Leo X (plate 12; fig. 21).48 is vault too hints at a radiation intended to enhance the health and fortunes of its patron and perhaps also to screen his guests in this, the large audience hall at the entrance to the Borgia apartments, the rooms located immediately below the four Stanze of Raphael. According to legend, Marsilio Ficino was standing by at the birth of Giovanni de’ Medici and, from the newborn’s horoscope, predicted that the boy would be pope. His birth at dawn was under the special tutelage of the rising Sun and the Sun’s planetary domicile, Leo. Leo was the zodiacal ruler of Rome. Years later, Giovanni de’ Medici reportedly took the papal name Leo in recognition of this celestially determined destiny.49 Although the papacy was purchased for him while he was still in his thirties, this good fortune provided by his birth seems only to have confirmed for him his divine selection for office. As noted above, a follower of Ficino’s, Tommaso de Vio, who wrote enthusiastically in support of astronomical images, was made Cardinal Cajetan by Leo around the time this vault was planned. Elsewhere, I have argued that the current ceiling decoration was altered in important respects ca. 1800.50 e learned and progressive Pope Pius VII seems to have taken advantage of the Napoleonic occupation and ensuing vandalism within this room to whitewash the original message when he returned from captivity in France. Pius probably knew just enough about astrology to correctly suspect that this was the strange prophylactic of a disgraceful predecessor.

21. Pre-Napoleonic print of the vault of the Sala dei Pontefici. From Mary Williams, e Hours of Raphael in Outline (Boston: Lile, Brown, 1891), plate 1.


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e vault today has an elegant geometric design that pays tribute to Renaissance discoveries of ancient fresco decorations such as those in Nero’s Golden House. Owing to the remodeling of the early nineteenth century, however, it is not clear whether the present “Pompeian” reds and other background colors were those of the original vault. Against the current red, blue, green, gold, and white grounds, symbolic figures ride chariots, dance, or appear to float in the heavens beyond the hall. e program circles outward from a large oculus in the central red square (plate 12). is oculus features four winged Victories hovering in the blue-painted heavens beyond the room. Each of these women carries an object: a trumpet, the papal tiara, a censer, and a ewer or ointment jar.51 On either lateral side of the central oculus, a row of small repeating figures, stock images in neoclassical taste, has now replaced an original series of women. e women that were removed will be discussed below, for they were far more interesting than their current nineteenth-century replacements. Flanking this square are four rectangular panels with blue grounds. Each rectangle displays a figure: the Sun Apollo drives his quadriga in one; opposite him is his zodiacal sign, Leo. In the two remaining, a white swan is featured across from a dark bird, usually identified as an eagle but possibly a hawk or a raven. At either end of the room, the longitudinal axis of the ceiling is completed by a keyhole-shaped feature. e top of each keyhole has a white semicircular area decorated with a thin blue canopy and harboring a collection of figures al antica. Although not part of the original plan, today the lower square of each keyhole shape is filled with a stucco figure riding in a chariot—Saturn at one end, Venus at the other.52 Twelve smaller squares—eight frescoed, four in stucco—fill out the central vault. ese carry the images of eleven of the twelve zodiacal constellations. (As noted, the twel h, Leo, is featured in the center of the vault with its planetary ruler, the Sun). ese zodiacal signs follow an astrological, not an astronomical, order. Each is positioned as a planetary domicile, rather than in its astronomical position around the ecliptic. Below every two of the twelve squares one pendentive carries the vault decoration vertically to the cornice, and originally each pendentive was painted with an oval depicting one of the six remaining planets. Each planet, just as the Sun in the vault center, is personified, riding in its chariot and pulled by its traditional animals. e now displaced Venus and Saturn once coursed with this group (fig. 21). For the astrologically astute, it would have been obvious that each sign of the zodiac is aached to its planetary ruler, featured on the pendentive below

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it. e planets of the original vault are in their standard order from the Moon, closest to Earth, out to distant Saturn, an order that was all the more obvious before the positional switch of Venus and Saturn around 1800.53 Because the Moon, like the Sun, has only one domicile, one of the twelve squares remained to be filled. e bright star of summer, Sirius, was painted in this remaining square. We will see that Ficino also focused on Sirius as the great star from which the solar chain descended. Claudia Rousseau has pointed to slight but significant anomalies in the symbolic figures of this vault.54 Gemini is not normally shown as a man and a woman together, and, in this case, the woman holds a rose. Rousseau points to hermetic texts for this and indicates that the keyhole frames have sigla of the type used on talismans. In fact, she has speculated that the vault operated as a “monumental talisman.” While I have not been able to see the sigla and, therefore, cannot judge this evidence, for other reasons, obvious from my text as a whole, and for more specific reasons that I discuss below, I agree with this general assessment on the nature of the vault. Considering the work of earlier scholars in light of the changes made to the vault ca. 1800,55 I have argued that the main images of the vault have a fairly simple scheme. e Victories in the central oculus announce the fame of the pope as they incense and prepare to anoint him. e Sun, rising when he was born, is paired with the Sun’s domicile of Leo. e two flanking birds, one a swan and the other possibly an eagle, may have represented the paranatellonta rising with the Sun at his birth, though these may have another, or an additional, meaning in a Ficinian universe. Beyond this, the large northern constellation of the Bear, a compliment to Leo’s Roman Orsini mother, and the Ship, the largest constellation of the Southern Hemisphere and a perennial symbol for the church, suggest that the pope would rule the world from pole to pole by divine fiat. e planets with their domiciles circle in support. e great solar star Sirius fills out the program. But now we should consider what was eradicated as the program was cleaned up ca. 1800. Apart from the changes previously noted—the most important being the move of Venus and Saturn at the ends of the hall, taking them out of their original oval frames and remaking them in stucco in the frames immediately above their original positions, a change that made the vault much less obviously astrological—there were other significant alterations. Most interesting is the removal of the group of twelve women that once flanked the central tondo below the four ecstatic angels holding the papal


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22. Pre-Napoleonic vault of the Sala dei Pontefici, woman carrying a small furry animal, with the sigil of Saturn nearby. From Mary Williams, e Hours of Raphael in Outline (Boston: Lile, Brown, 1891), plate 5.

tiara, sounding the trumpet, swinging the censer, and carrying ointments. Today, only Victorian coquees (figs. 22–25), copies of the original figures, remain to indicate in any detail what were once the original twelve. Because these nineteenth-century prints match the iconographic detail of the preNapoleonic engraving that records the original ceiling, they can be relied on in substance, though not in style. e twelve figures carry peculiar aributes. Moving from le to right above the long rectangle featuring the swan, we find these six: (1) a heavily veiled woman holding a small furry animal, accompanied by the sigil of Saturn (fig. 22); (2) a woman holding alo a symbol of the Moon; (3) a woman holding a small bird, possibly a dove or an owl, with a sigil

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of Venus (fig. 23); (4) a woman swinging a censer that billows with smoke while the sigil of Jupiter is adjacent; (5) a woman holding a bat and carrying flowers or herbs (fig. 24); (6) a woman with buerfly wings holding a swan with the symbol of Mercury nearby. Moving to the other side of the central tondo, and looking now above the rectangle depicting the dark bird, from le to right we find these: (1) a woman holding what may be a sundial; (2) a woman holding a small bird, apparently an owl, and perhaps carrying poppies with the sigil of Mars nearby (fig. 25); (3) a woman holding an hourglass; (4) a woman holding a torch and carrying flowers, possibly roses; (5) a woman with buerfly wings spilling vapor from

23. Pre-Napoleonic vault of the Sala dei Pontefici, woman carrying a small bird, with the sigil of Venus nearby. From Mary Williams, e Hours of Raphael in Outline (Boston: Lile, Brown, 1891), plate 6.


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24. Pre-Napoleonic vault of the Sala dei Pontefici, woman carrying a bat and flowers or herbs. From Mary Williams, e Hours of Raphael in Outline (Boston: Lile, Brown, 1891), plate 14.

an urn held over her head; (6) a woman holding stalks or herbs with the sigil of the Sun nearby. is entourage has not been treated in the scholarly literature. A er Pius VII’s return, the figures disappeared, and the meaning of the vault was interpreted as a kind of neoclassical image of cosmic time. e twelve signs of the zodiac, even though wildly out of calendrical order, were nevertheless suggested to represent the twelve months of the year, and the seven planets were linked to the seven days of the week. When prints of the twelve female figures were finally found, they were popularly dubbed the twelve “Hours” of Raphael.56

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Owing both to the lack of clarity in the print evidence now remaining and the occult nature of the images, it is possible that we will never know what this series actually represented. But these are not Hours. Rather, these women carry the ingredients for brews found throughout the Picatrix—bats, owls, small furry animals, flowers such as poppies and roses, herbs, vapors, incense, and symbols of the time required to compost such a cocktail. Ficino owned a copy of the Picatrix and claimed to have incorporated the best of it into book 3 of De vita.57 e offerings carried by these vault figures parallel passages of his text.

25. Pre-Napoleonic vault of the Sala dei Pontefici, woman carrying a small bird and flowers, with the sigil of Mars nearby. From Mary Williams, e Hours of Raphael in Outline (Boston: Lile, Brown, 1891), plate 3.


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If we compare the celestial chains that are featured in book 3 of De vita, most contain similar elements—small animals, several kinds of flowers and herbs, and different types of incense. e objects in the chains were recommended as ingredients to collect and ingest in order to absorb the needed Qualities of the celestial body from which the chain depended. Personal rejuvenation was then to occur through one’s Spiritus. Ficino’s solar chain includes several of the objects imaged in Leo X’s vault. First, the solar chain descends from the great star Sirius, which filled the one empty vault square. In this solar chain, one also finds a hawk or a raven (perhaps the dark bird of the central rectangle?), a cock (one is found in the vault with the planet Mercury), roses (atypically shown with the zodiacal sign Gemini and probably held by one of the twelve female figures), the lion and swan (both animals in the rectangles of the central vault, with another swan held by one of the twelve women), hot vaporous air (held by one of the women, and possibly also intended by the winged Victory swinging a censer in the central tondo), and several types of flowers and herbs, including palm and laurel (both carried by subsidiary vault figures), and the chain has an additional assortment of small animals. Popular astrological handbooks link colors, herbs, and animals to specific stars, primarily as part of astrological medicine and the making of pharmaceuticals.58 Ficino further recommends that one put on “Solar clothes and live in, look at, smell, imagine, think about, and desire Solar things.”59 D. P. Walker has studied disciples of Ficino’s De vita.60 Especially interesting among these is Francesco Diaceto, who claimed to have followed Ficino in everything. Diaceto similarly describes how one acquires solarian benefits. In a ritual seing, including a priest wearing solarian garments and crowned with laurel, we find solarian incense billowing and astronomical images of the Sun or the Sun with a raven made when the constellation Leo is propitious. e priest, anointed with unguents made from a mixture of cock or goat, solarian flowers, spices, and honey, sings Orphic songs accompanied on the lyre and dances with a joyful simplicity and gravity: “To all these he adds what he believes to be the most important: a strongly emotional disposition of the imagination, by which, as with pregnant women, the spirit[us] is stamped with this kind of imprint, and flying out through the channels of the body, especially through the eyes, ferments and solidifies, like rennet, the kindred power of the heavens.”61 e physical nature and intake of this viewing is apparent. One imagines Ficino’s prescriptions for cosmic dance, complete with incense, taking place under this frescoed ceiling.62 Leo, devoted to music (one of

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the chief cures recommended by Ficino) as well as to astrological medicines, could easily have been this priest in solarian garb.63 Did Leo envision ambassadors, as they waited their turn for admission to the inner suite, sending out their visual Rays, wondering, looking, intrigued, and looking again at this vault? Did those Rays touch these images and carry back, solidified “like rennet,” the celestial effects that would work on their bodies and minds?64 In the understanding of the pope’s mentor, Ficino, the light/color of the visible Rays carried also other Qualities, bringing health to some recipients and neutralizing or perhaps bringing harm to others. In a unique way, Leo X, a pupil of Ficino’s, has here constructed a figure of the universe. It is complete with the twelve major constellations and the seven planets and has a focus on certain important stars such as the chainoriginating Sirius, the hot solar star of midsummer. As does the universe, it has an embedded astronomical and mathematical essence based on the order of the planetary orbs, and that essence is suspended in the materials of fresco and stucco. e colors are planetary, though as these exist today those of the beneficent planets, blue, green, and gold, do not predominate. is decoration had a fitful series of starts and halts; perhaps some of those coordinated its timing with the inflowing Rays of the most propitious heavens.65 It is hard to guess what one of the worst popes in history might have thought his original vault would do for the viewer or the person in the vicinity. For all the grace of figure that can be discerned in these women, they are closer to the weird sisters of Macbeth than to Hours, Graces, or any other classical series. Whatever its exact sources or Leo’s goals, and despite its diagrammatic clarity, this astronomical image could not have been intended primarily for visual communication. Aspects of Leo’s birth horoscope are linked with a secondary set of creatures from the murky world of astrological medicine. Like the Chigi vault, it covers a large entrance hall and may have been considered apotropaic as well as restorative as the Qualities flowed from the Material image into those in the room. If in Leo’s time this vault seemed medicinal, by Pius VII’s it could appear only demonic. Whatever Leo’s intention, the erudite Pius VII could not get rid of this fast enough. No surprise that the gi -bearing women were eradicated, probably by 1803, and that the vault was remodeled as a Canova-style neoclassical clock. A luxury book published a er Pius’s return from captivity in France, complete with new engravings, commemorated the “restoration,” promoted the new interpretation, and erased some of the most interesting aspects of Leo X’s original fresco.66


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Case 3: Caprarola, the Sala della Cosmografia Cardinal Alessandro Farnese (later Pope Paul III), a student of Marsilio Ficino’s and the founder of the Farnese family’s villa at Caprarola, and his grandson, Cardinal Alessandro, the patron of the Sala della Cosmografia vault, were devoted to astrological beliefs and practices.67 Paul used astrologers to elect the time for journeys, consistories, even important audiences. His grandson shared the belief that God had wrien important information in the stars for those who knew how to read it. In spite of this, the beautiful vault of the heavens in the main audience hall of Caprarola could not appear a less likely candidate as a working astronomical image (plate 1). Against its deep blue ground, this celestial map displays the forty-eight Ptolemaic constellations represented through handsome figures in the maniera of Michelangelo. Rich gold tones with accents of white and rose pull the figures out of the blue. e vault is studded with gold to mark the stars within the constellations, and the lines of the celestial equator, the ecliptic, and the Tropics of Cancer and Capricorn are incised. Nearly lost among the constellations is the solitary planet Jupiter, about which, in the context of the vault painting of De vita 3.19, Ficino had noted: “Nothing can be thought of that is more temperate.” As I pointed out at the opening of chapter 1, this figure of Jupiter hurls a lightning bolt from one end of the ceiling to the other, striking the equally anomalous figure of Phaeton and his quadriga at the far side of the hall (plates 1–3).68 Jupiter was particularly important in the birth horoscope of this patron. Paul III named his grandson Alessandro a cardinal at the age of fourteen because he believed that the position of Jupiter in the boy’s birth chart indicated this as the will of God (fig. 2 above; plate 2). e planet’s position was 14°13’ away from the Midheaven. Following the astrological doctrine of Directions, Paul’s astrologer, Luca Gaurico, wrote that the position of Jupiter at the cardinal’s birth meant that he should become a cardinal when he was “fourteen years, two months, and fi een days old.”69 And so it happened. Yet this is not communicated or understood by looking at this vault. Jupiter’s importance to Alessandro, whether as a young boy or a mature older cardinal, was in evidence throughout his life. Jupiter was the subject of his principle impresa and had a meaning that evolved with his career.70 Jupiter in Scorpio, its zodiacal position at Alessandro’s birth, was prominently displayed over frescoes of Cardinal Alessandro’s property of Caprarola that deco-

Look, Reflect, Be Changed


rated the entrance loggia of the nearby Villa Bagnaia. is villa was owned by Alessandro’s close personal friend and relative Cardinal Gambara. As we will see below, a further reference to the importance of Jupiter and Scorpio is featured in one of the four main images in the series of pictures that circle the room immediately below the vault. Phaeton also seems to have had special astrological significance for Alessandro.71 A brilliant circle of light radiates between Phaeton’s feet, suggesting the point where Jupiter’s bolt of lightning has hit (plate 3). Phaeton is shown against the great constellation of the River, and this strike occurs at the location of the River’s first-magnitude star Achernar. e star has the astrological nature of Jupiter, and, for this reason, the planet Jupiter is sometimes called Phaeton by Paul’s astrologer Gaurico and others. More importantly, Achernar’s longitude at approximately 21° Aries dramatically highlighted critical points in the horoscopes of three of the cardinal’s most important family members.72 e Lot of Fortune in Pope Paul III’s natal horoscope, the Lot of Fortune and the Ascendant in the birth horoscope of Cardinal Alessandro’s father, and the Ascendant in the birth horoscope of the cardinal’s brother were all in Aries. It seems unlikely that many beyond the immediate family would have known this essential information on Alessandro’s astrological inheritance and the probable reason that a circle of light radiates between Phaeton’s feet in the decoration. An ornate and undulating zone connects the ceiling fresco with the walls below. Although typically described as a frieze featuring the zodiac, the frieze is not continuous, and the zodiac is deliberately disordered. If we begin with Aries and consider the zodiacal signs as numbered from one through twelve, beginning with the Ram, this is the order that circles the four walls: 12, 1, 2 // 9, 10, 11 // 5, 3, 4 // 6, 7, 8. In a culture where the zodiac was common on church portals, city fountains, and city clocks, not to mention in manuscript illustrations, woodcuts, and fresco cycles, this would have been as odd as scrambling the months January–December in our culture.73 ere have been several unsatisfactory scholarly explanations for this strange order.74 Stepping back for a view, one notices that the design of this zone echoes the curves of the vault above and the wall images below and it also blends with the decorative framing of the doorways (see fig. 1 above).75 Large and richly encrusted stucco frames with the cardinal’s other imprese interrupt the zone at its four corners. Each side displays a collection of three framed pictures—a substantially larger one flanked by two smaller—and this triad is further


Chapter Eight

framed by caryatids, pui, and cartouches. e three centered pictures of each wall present mythological representations of the twelve zodiacal signs, but it would seem that only the enlarged central zodiacal sign is relevant to the cardinal and his family. If we think of this, not as a zodiacal frieze, but rather as four separate compositions that focus the viewer on a large central image flanked by appropriate zodiacal fillers, the zone makes an astrological point. Comparing the Farnese family history and horoscopes, the enlarged central zodiacal image on each wall was especially important to the family fortunes. e two long walls showcase the large centered constellations of Capricorn and Libra, both critical to Cardinal Alessandro himself. e two shorter end walls draw aention to the oversized Aries and Gemini, the key signs for the family’s ascendancy. e myth of Capricorn is rehearsed elsewhere in this villa, and the name Caprarola is based on the myth as well. Astrologically, Capricorn was the cardinal’s birth Ascendant, the point from which the houses commence in his horoscope (see fig. 2 above).76 Saturn, an o en dangerous planet (although friendly with Jupiter, a point relevant below), was considered of great benefit for the longevity of oneself and one’s buildings and gave promise of great wealth. Saturn, in the cardinal’s chart, was propitiously located in Capricorn, one of its two astrological homes. Further, Saturn was at 26°52’ of Capricorn at Alessandro’s birth. is gave the planet the same longitude as Jupiter’s constellation the Eagle, just two degrees from the Eagle’s great star Altair and easily in conjunction by orb. Altair had the nature of Jupiter and Mars, and, moreover, Altair joined with the Ascendant was believed to have already given the papacy to two Renaissance popes, an office Cardinal Alessandro ardently desired.77 Directly across from the entrance and centered on the long southern wall is the zodiacal image of Libra. In an unusual pictorialization, Jupiter’s Eagle (Altair) grasps the Balance (Libra) and rises with it.78 In Cardinal Farnese’s birth chart, Libra held the ninth house, known since ancient times as the house of God. Beer still, the Sun had its astrological “delight” in Libra and was in this sign at Alessandro’s birth. is was the planet associated with rulers. e Sun’s strength was greatly enhanced in the cardinal’s natal horoscope because it was joined with beneficent Venus in her domicile of Libra. e cardinal must have placed great hope in Libra, where the Sun and Venus were found at his birth in the house of God, at a time when he of all cardinals was considered most papabile. Noted earlier, the sign Aries, the zodiacal sign centered on the eastern wall of this zone and marked in the central ceiling by the strike of light at the giant

Look, Reflect, Be Changed


star Achernar, was the critical zodiacal sign linking the cardinal’s grandfather, father, and brother.79 is was part of Alessandro’s astrological genealogy, and his brother Oavio was responsible for the future of the family line. e final centered sign of the zone, Gemini, refers even more clearly to the Farnese future (plate 13). is future hinged on the birth of twin boys born to Oavio, grandson of the pope, and his wife, Margarita of Austria, the daughter of the emperor Charles V. e couple named each of the twins a er one of the inlaws. e baby Carlos seems to have died shortly a er birth, but Alessandro, named a er the Farnese pope, was already a distinguished military leader and diplomat when this room was decorated. e family poetry of this time is filled with imagery on twinning, with specific references to the Farnese boys as Castor and Pollux, the twins painted in this image.80 From leers on this decoration that were exchanged between Cardinal Alessandro and Fulvio Orsini, his adviser, it is clear that a great deal of precise planning went into its design. e project was apparently of an astrological nature if we are to judge from the specific mention in the leers of the need for an expert who had both learning and also “practice” and was knowledgeable in the astrological poet Hyginus. e tone of the leers is almost as strange as the zodiacal order of the frieze, for something covert is being protected. e leer recipient must have understood much more from the references and allusions made than anyone else’s eyes were intended to comprehend.81 e vault decoration of this room, again the main reception hall of the villa, looks like a simple map of the heavens, supported by a zodiacal frieze. But I think that, for its patron, it too was an astronomical image hidden in plain view. At least we can agree that the reason for the planet Jupiter’s presence and Phaeton’s crown of light, which required a detailed knowledge of the cardinal’s birth chart and those of his family members, and the references in the upper zone to horoscope degrees important for the Farnese, each of these with its precise and hidden mathematics, could not have been understood by looking. Visual communication was not the primary purpose. ere is one further hint that this vault with its all-but-hidden Jupiter, its flashpoint at Achernar, and its zodiacal displacements was intended as an efficacious astronomical image. As noted at the outset of chapter 1 above, apart from the secrecy in the leers and the insistence on an expert in astrology, once the right artist had been selected, he had to await a particular time designated by the cardinal before he could set out on the journey from Rome to Caprarola. Here sits the cardinal’s painter of chapter 1, waiting. is sounds like the astrological doctrine of elections, where the time was precisely chosen


Chapter Eight

to begin a journey that had important consequences. As we have seen, there were o en multiple beginnings, whether for cities, buildings, or people. is was probably also true for large painting cycles in the increasingly complex world of astrological practices. If this was an elected time for the initiation of one important aspect of the vault’s manufacture, there would have been others to come that would mark critical stages of production. If the vault of Caprarola’s main audience hall was planned as an active astronomical image, the ceiling and upper zone seem to have had all the requisite ingredients: the right figures, the right materials and colors, and a propitiously elected time. Astronomical images were on the fringe of astrological practice, always a bit too close to superstitious magic to be overtly promoted. At Caprarola, there were at least two other reasons to conceal any suggestion of celestial activity. is cardinal, who so openly hoped to follow his grandfather to the papal throne, could not have risked a public endorsement of them, particularly a er the reforms of Trent. On the pragmatic side, if such images were intended to have, not simply a restorative, but also an apotropaic function, they were believed to work best if their presence was unsuspected.

* Today, astronomical images are typically thought of as gemstones carved with small sigla. ose could never have held the eyes of visitors in the ways in which the great vault images do. ings that are beautiful hold the eyes longer. ings that are strange do likewise. Centuries later, we are still looking, wondering, and reflecting, snared by these visually radiating images, just as their patrons intended.

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is book, which began with Plato’s Timaeus, may fiingly conclude with it. Framed in the central archway in Raphael’s School of Athens, Plato holds this text and points heavenward (plate 14). Plato’s children, not the popular planetary children of chapter 1, but his true intellectual progeny over the centuries— mathematicians, astronomers, and philosophers, both his contemporaries and their early modern expositors—surround him. Standing, siing, gesticulating, their energy invites us into their world of learning, just as the knowing glance of the white-garbed figure on the le fixes us with his welcome. It has o en been reported, to Vasari’s shame, that he badly garbled the description of this painting, confusing its subject with that of the theological Disputà facing it. Vasari tells us that the School of Athens depicts “theologians reconciling philosophy and astrology with theology.” Returning to the fresco a second time, he describes it as “philosophy, astrology, geometry, and poetry in accord with theology.” Subsequently, he refers to the whole fresco with the shorthand title “Astrology.”1 e aentive reader of the preceding pages will understand that he is right. In the early modern period, astrology—from its base in elemental chemistry, physics, and mathematics to its endorsement of the intricately connected universe made by a single creator—was the highest scientia known. Whether we read Plato, the ancient poet Manilius, the thir195



teenth-century scientist and saint Albert the Great, or the fi eenth-century cardinal Pierre d’Ailly, it was considered both implicitly and explicitly “natural theology.” In this fresco, Plato’s Timaeus is the source of the excitement that flows outward.2 It sowed the seed of the mathematics and protochemistry, the epistemology and theology that underwrote the early modern study of the heavens. Aristotle, carrying his Ethics and extending his hand over the Earth, is not only the philosopher who provided the basic university theories of physical astrology, but in this text he also proclaims learning as the central feature of a just and ethical society on Earth. e fresco as a whole represents both the mystical and the moral dimensions of a theology based on the science of the heavens.3 Our patrons are here in the Stanza della Segnatura as well. Like classmates crowding around their teacher, they gather together around the reigning pope, Julius II, the patron of these frescoes, as well as of the new Saint Peter’s (see fig. 26). Standing beside him are the future popes Leo X and Paul III Farnese. e profile of the secular figure entering at the right compares closely with the profile on the portrait medal of Julius’s banker, Agostino Chigi.4

* Intellectual communities across cultures and across time have sought to understand the structure and nature of the cosmos, the human position within it, and how that position might be improved by utilizing the laws of nature. is text focuses on the Renaissance aempt to manipulate the heavens for human purposes through the use of light radiation—a radiation that was understood to alter the terrestrial world of objects, including artworks, and also to enter the senses, where, especially through vision, it ultimately affected the soul. It has been my argument that, once one understands early modern science at its most chemical and physical level and the ways in which art theorists combined this knowledge with mathematical precepts, then the physical relationships that these thinkers proposed connecting the heavens, art and architecture, and the human mind are logical. at cities, their buildings, and even the frescoed decorations within them were considered capable of aracting and holding the optimal celestial radiation further suggests that these wellknown artworks were much more than aesthetic objects for their creators. e architecture and paintings were to function physically, altering their viewers and even those in the vicinity.

26. Julius II with entourage, including the future popes Giovanni de’ Medici (Leo X) and Alessandro Farnese (Paul III), Raphael, Stanza della Segnatura ca. 1511. Courtesy Scala/Art Resource, NY.



To advance this argument, I have supplied the tools by which the reader can judge the case. Chapter 1 examined the ancient and early modern metaphysical tradition that related vision, astrology, and theology—a tradition traced through the texts of Plato and the ancient poet Manilius as well as through those of later Christian thinkers. Look outward, and see the divine order; look inward, and recognize the divine soul. is study of the heavens shapes that human soul for its return to the Creator. is is Plato’s message as later natural philosophers read it. Chapter 2 turned to the basic astrological background needed for the text as a whole, beginning with an explanation of the structure of the universe and the mapping of the heavens over the Earth through a horoscope chart. Chapters 3 and 4 examined the scientific theories of change related to light radiation, with a focus in chapter 4 on that type of radiation that carries Qualities from the natural world into the eyes and mind of the viewer. Al-Kindi, Robert Grosseteste, Roger Bacon, and Marsilio Ficino are the primary sources here. Within the discussion of visual Rays, I introduce a concept described by Ficino as the Material image. If Rays affected both maer and sense, as the natural philosophers supposed, then that radiation could move, not just into the solid body, but directly into that much more permeable sense vehicle the eyes and, from there, into the soul. Two sciences were merged in this understanding: a medical astrological tradition and an ancient and sophisticated optical tradition. Medical doctors trusted in evidence that showed the power of astronomical images, popularly thought of as talismans, to work in curative, apotropaic, or baleful ways. Intellectual medical doctors such as Ficino studied optics to understand how this could be so. is radiation theory of chapter 4 provides the theoretical background for the understanding of paintings as astronomical images in chapters 7 and 8. Against the broader theories and astrological practices of the first four chapters, I focused in chapters 5 and 6 on how celestial radiation was understood to affect ecosystems, urban plans, and architecture. Students of an early environmentalism examined the ways in which the movements of the Sun, Moon, and stars affected the earth, water, and air quality of a place and its people. Selecting the best sky under which to commence a work, it was believed, would allow the most propitious radiation to flow in, bringing health to the city or the building under construction. is salubrious beginning would then continue to influence the entity and its inhabitants over the longue durée. To illustrate this in practice, I have discussed city horoscopes of Florence, Venice, Rome, and points in between and also provided in-depth studies of the founding of architectural sites. Among the laer are the horoscopes for Saint Peter’s Ba-



silica, the Villa Farnesina, and the triple horoscope for Sforzinda. is correlation of the optimal celestial radiation at a commencement may be a forgoen practice now—remaining only vestigially in civic ceremonies for the laying of cornerstones—yet the horoscopes cast for Saint Peter’s alone should convince of its former import and widespread acceptance. And, while the subject of this book concerns Italy, the correlation of the heavens and the Earth through astrological practices was equally compelling in the Protestant North. With chapter 7, I returned to an enlarged discussion of the Material image, now as it can be seen in Ficino’s De vita, in order to analyze how those in his circle could have considered astronomical vault paintings to work. at chapter investigated how the wise can selectively trap the optimal radiation in an image. Chapter 8 explained how those Rays are transmied out and into a person. Seing De vita into the larger debate on the nature of Form and Matter, I argued that Ficino positions his Platonic views against those of the Aristotelian Aquinas. e saint had taught that, if astronomical images worked at all, they did so, not by natural means, but by demonic. Ficino patiently reveals how the astronomical image, a special type of Material image, can work entirely through the laws of nature. In this explication, he relies on the definition of an artificial figure that was current in the Florentine world of the “Pythagorean Alberti” and the most intellectual artists of the city.5 When Ficino discloses this theory of astronomical images, a theory risky enough that he must weave it unobtrusively through his work, his logic finds its culmination in De vita 3.19. e discussion of a vault painting there opened my chapter 8. Ficino advises that the painting of the heavens be lived under, slept beneath, and so thoroughly internalized that the person imbibing the Rays held in and transmied through this celestial vault will emerge changed. No longer troubled by the details of life, the individual now internally carries the image and understanding of the cosmic order, and this correctly orients his life. In Plato’s dialogue, Timaeus had instructed his listeners in the contemplation of the real heavens. In De vita, Ficino showed how the properly constructed artificial image of the heavens could also reciprocate with both intellectual and physical gi s. Long excoriated by theologians such as Aquinas as a belief in magic or in the blandishments of demons, this trust in astronomical images, Ficino demonstrates, is neither. e careful astrological construction of the image has ensured that the most propitious Rays will move subsequently from the image to the person in the vicinity, carrying the radiating Qualities, elemental and occult, into that person’s body. Powerful effects materialize as



these Rays enter the eyes and mind. e patrons of the major horoscope vaults must have seen their images in this way. rough these, they could intellectually and physically align their lives with the priorities impressed by the Creator at their births. A group of important art patrons, all connected with Ficino, and all steeped in astrology and its practices, produced monumental astrological vaults in Renaissance Italy. Agostino Chigi’s in the garden loggia of his Roman villa, Leo X’s Sala dei Pontefici at the Vatican, and the Farnese Sala della Cosmografia at Caprarola demand a closer look. Even the design of these seems calculated to prolong observation and reflection. But viewer beware. Chigi believed that he held the power of life and death over others, a power that he exercised. e Medici pope Leo X had no doubt that he also had this privilege. e Farnese were condoieri before they were churchmen. As light Rays carried the vaults’ images, and their stored radiation, to the bodies, eyes, and minds of their viewers, they were calculated to serve their patrons and families salubriously and others apotropaically. e Chigi, Medici, and Farnese made no small plans. When they designed their vaults to affect their guests physically and mentally, they expected that influence to last for centuries, even to our own day.

* While some of the assumptions and factual information behind the disciplines of optics, astronomy, and astrology have proved unreliable, the theories created by these philosophers and scientists remain impressive. Without telescopes or microscopes to assist their observations, these intellectuals watched, measured, reflected, and created concepts regarding the connectivity of the universe, the place of mathematics, and the nature of human thought that still frame scientific research today. Mathematical astrology allowed theories of radiation to be applied to human concerns, including urban plans, architecture, and paintings. ese artworks were then considered activated with Qualities both occult and visible, providing the ultimate power, the ultimate seduction in art.

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It is a final pleasure in writing this book to thank those who have helped me. I picture each of you as I read your names and remember with great gratitude your many kindnesses. First, I am grateful to the scholars who took on the Herculean task of reading chapters in early dra form: Christopher Celenza, Joseph Connors, Lillian Doherty, Stephen Dumont, David Lindberg, John Marino, William R. Newman, John O’Malley, and Noel Swerdlow. I am also grateful to those who inspired me through stimulating conversations over the materials here presented: David Freedberg, Anthony Gra on, Dale Kent, Marilyn Lavin, Diana Robin, Ingrid Rowland, Darrel Rutkin, Mark Smith, Bruce Stephenson, Robert Westman, and Ronald Wi. e readers for the University of Chicago Press, now revealed to be Brian Curran, Armando Maggi, and Michael Shank, contributed many important and saving suggestions. Without special help from each of these scholars, this work would never have been finished or, if finished, would have been much less of a book. I apologize in advance to those whose advice I have either misconstrued or insufficiently pursued. As we all know, the remaining mistakes are my own. It was my great good fortune to have had Ernst Gombrich as a teacher. His influence will be felt at many points throughout this study. Jozef IJsewijn is 201



next on this list, along with Edward Basse. Although they are no longer with us, the continuing inspiration of such mentors is still vivid to me. Each was imbued with that exemplary Aristotelian marker of humanity—the quest for knowledge. anks also to intellectual friends and colleagues who have sustained me in many different ways over the years during which this research was in progress: Amanda Barne, Sinclair Bell, Charles Cohen, Marilyn Dunn, Paul Gehl, Hjordis Halverson, Rebecca Houze, Helen Nagata, and Catherine Raymond. For help with classical sources, I thank Raymond Heisler and David Mathers. Special librarians also made this work possible: John Aubrey, Ron Barshinger, Cliff Golden, Robert Hohl, and the awesome Debbie Siegel. Obtaining images, and the permissions to publish them, can be an ordeal. I was spared this thanks to the magic of John Powell, Mauro Fresco, and Davide Tolomelli. Amy Whitesides did the horoscope images with patience and promptness even as she set aside her own design deadlines to help me with mine. I count as one of my luckiest inspirations having sent this manuscript to my editor, Karen Darling. I thank her for her unfailing kindness and editorial wisdom—especially her judicious use of the exclamation point! anks also to the wizardry of Abby Collier, who knew everything about images. I thank my copyeditor, Joseph Brown, for his elegant surgery and my production editor, Yvonne Zipter, for her sympathetic management of the production process. anks also to the many others within the University of Chicago Press whom I have never met but who have kept this project moving smoothly and who have allowed me to be part of the production process. e clear intelligence behind each email or phone call was duly admired. anks to the following institutions and their experts: e Newberry Library, the Adler Planetarium and History of Astronomy Museum, and the American Academy, Rome, a research home away. anks to the philanthropy of the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Mellon Foundation, and the College Art Association’s Millard Meiss publication fund. anks also for the subvention support from the Division of Research and Graduate Studies and from the College of Visual and Performing Arts at Northern Illinois University. Finally, I thank my fellow travelers—WTT, MCQ, JAQ, ACS—some of whom were still young when I started this project, and all of whom served generously as readers, editors, or goads along the way. Lastly, immeasurable thanks to Bill. His energy and comedic genius have sustained me since the day we met.

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Preface 1. Ficino, De vita, 332–33 (3.17). Introduction 1. Savonarola, Contra l’astrologia, fol. 10v/Contro gli astrologi, 58: “piú si confidano in questi uomini e nella loro vanità che in Dio.” Behind Savonarola’s text stood Giovanni Pico della Mirandola’s Disputationes. Pico’s text, as we have it, was posthumously edited by his nephew, probably making it more radically antiastrological than Pico intended. 2. For the Renaissance popes and the patron Agostino Chigi cited in the text above, see my studies noted in the bibliography. For a glimpse of astrological practice among intellectual astronomer-astrologers such as Copernicus, Kepler, and Galileo, see Westman, e Copernican Question; Lindberg, “eory of Light,” 31–33 (on Kepler); Rabin, “Kepler’s Aitude”; and Rutkin, “Various Uses of Horoscopes,” esp. 168–72. See also Stephenson, Kepler’s Physical Astronomy, and e Music of the Heavens; and Voelkel, Kepler’s “Astronomia nova.” For Galileo’s horoscope for his son, see Favaro, “Galileo astrologo”; and Ernst, “Aspei dell’astrologia e profezia.” “Galileo’s Astrology” (special issue, Culture and Cosmos 7, no. 1 [2003]) is devoted to Galileo’s astrological interests and practices. A history of astrology is beyond my scope. Each student interested in the area will have a particular pursuit, and there are several print and online bibliographies that can be consulted for both general and specialized works. See, among others, those provided yearly by Isis: e Journal of the History of Science and Its Cultural Influences or the online bibliographies compiled by scholars at the Warburg Institute of the University of London, the University of Cambridge’s Department of the History and Philosophy of Science,



Notes to Pages 1–2

or Cielo e Terra, the Italian association for the history of astrology. Culture and Cosmos: A Journal of the History of Astrology and Cultural Astronomy is devoted to the history of astrology. Many of the great European libraries have digitized rare books relevant to the history of astrology so that they can now be read online. O en individual author entries in WorldCat or Wikipedia (especially the Italian version) link to such texts. For a survey of the history of astrology, one should consult Bouché-Leclercq, L’astrologie grecque. orndike’s History of Magic and Experimental Science provides information on astrology and its textual sources, both those published and those in manuscript collections. See also Garin’s seminal Lo zodiaco della vita as well as Federici-Vescovini, Astrologia e scienza, “L’astrologia tra magia, religione e scienza,” and “Peter of Abano and Astrology”; Vasoli, “La polemica contro l’astrologia”; Zambelli, “Astrologi hallucinati,” and “Many Ends for the World”; Ernst, “Aspei dell’astrologia e profezia”; Faracovi, Scrio negli astri; and Newman and Gra on, eds., Secrets of Nature. Tester’s History of Western Astrology is a good survey in spite of mistakes that would have been corrected had the author lived to oversee its publication. Smoller (Pierre d’Ailly, 4–6) supplies a succinct historiography. Whitfield’s Astrology: A History provides a good survey for a more popular audience. John North explains much of the intellectual history of astrology. For an introductory piece, see North, “Celestial Influence.” See also North, “Medieval Concepts of Celestial Influence,” “Astrology and the Fortunes of Churches,” and Horoscopes and History. Rutkin’s “Astrology, Natural Philosophy and the History of Science” expands the base of intellectual history in this area. For additional cultural and intellectual history, see also Lemay, “e True Place of Astrology”; Faracovi, Scrio negli astri; and Rutkin, “Various Uses of Horoscopes.” For astronomical and astrological instruments, see Stephenson, Bolt, and Friedman, e Universe Unveiled; and Florence’s online Museo Galileo (hp://www For early illustrations, see Saxl, Verzeichnis astrologischer und mythologischer illustrierter Handschrien. Perhaps the most important work for understanding the history of astrology has been provided by scholars who have edited and translated sources from the original Arabic, Hebrew, Greek, and Latin. eir work is cited throughout my notes. 3. For a sense of astrology’s popularity and uses in the early modern West, see Newman and Gra on, “e Problematic Status of Astrology.” See also Rutkin, “Astrology” (2006). 4. Among examples of indiscriminate uses, see Bacon, Opus majus, 1:128–29, 264, where both disciplines are called astrology. Meanwhile, cf. Albert the Great on this point in Zambelli, e “Speculum astronomiae,” 208–9: “ere are two great wisdoms and each is defined by the name of astronomy.” (I accept the Speculum as the work of Albert, following Zambelli. Ficino, De vita, 340–41 (3.18), did as well. But see Weill-Parot, Les “images astrologiques,” 278–80, where the evidence is presented as probable, not certain.) Smoller (Pierre d’Ailly, 27) notes that the terms astrology and astronomy are used interchangeably by d’Ailly and o en inversely to our usage. 5. For the merits of astronomy and astrology as sciences, see Ptolemy, Tetrabiblos, proem. For astrology’s status in Renaissance Italy, see Swerdlow, “Science and Humanism in the Renaissance,” where Regiomontanus’s praise of astrology as “queen” of mathematical studies is noted. Astrology was appreciated for its beneficial applications of astronomical data. However, mathematical astronomy had a special value for the elite intellectuals who understood it. For many of them, the study of mathematical astronomy was seen as a means to shape and purify the soul—no small maer. Burne (“‘Ptolemaeus in Almagesto dixit’”) points to the prologue of the Almagest (mistakenly understood as the work of Ptolemy),

Notes to Pages 2–3


which praised mathematical astronomy in this way. Plato’s Timaeus stood squarely behind this tradition, a point I make in the text. One final potential confusion of terms—the Renaissance use of mathematician or mathematici. One might today expect that to have been the designation of the astronomers, but it was o en used instead for the astrologers. Savonarola, e.g., used the term contemptuously when pointing out that mathematicians (i.e., astrologers) had been damned by civil law (Codex 9.2): “De maledictis et . . . mathematicis” (Contra l’astrologia, fol. 5v). “Et per larte mathematica intende la astrologia divinatoria” (ibid., fol. 8v). 6. For the potential spiritual improvement to be had through the study of mathematical astronomy, see n. 5 above. For the basic understanding of a horoscope, see chapter 2 below. e value of astrology’s applications for the benefit of humankind had been articulated in secular as well as Christian sources. Ptolemy (Tetrabiblos 1.1, 1.3) makes this point. Early Christian critics such as Cassiodorus (Institutions 2.7.4) considered the practical applications of natural astrology for agriculture or navigation to be the only value of such study. Centuries later, the altruistic goal is still in the foreground for intellectual astrologers. See, e.g., Regiomontanus, Ephemerides, unpaginated introductory directions. Ficino (De vita, 236–37 [proem to bk. 3]) also points to natural astrology’s medical and spiritual benefits. 7. Savonarola admits that natural astrology has its validity. For examples, see Contra l’astrologia, fols. 12, 17, 17v, 20, 31, 32. Astrology was also fundamental in the medical school curriculum. A host of ancient and early modern authors dealt with this issue, among the beer known of whom are Hippocrates, eophrastus, Galen, Ptolemy, Firmicus Maternus, Peter of Abano, Arnaldus of Villanova, Cecco d’Ascoli, Giovanni de Dondi, Marsilio Ficino, and Girolamo Cardano. A substantial bibliography exists on each of these. For different approaches to the history of medical astrology, consult orndike, History of Magic and Experimental Science; Klibansky, Panofsky, and Saxl, Saturn and Melancholy; and Siraisi, Medieval and Early Renaissance Medicine. For special studies, see Federici-Vescovini, “Peter of Abano and Astrology”; French, “Astrology in Medical Practice”; Arnaldus de Villanova, Aphorismi de gradibus; and Siraisi, Taddeo Alderoi, esp. chap. 6. 8. orndike, History of Magic and Experimental Science, 1:513–14; Reisch, Margarita philosophica 7.2.8. e astrologer Biagio Pelacani (see chapter 4 below) had to recant his deterministic position ca. 1400 and returned to the traditional position that the stars incline the human will. But, since the stars were created by the divine, for some this seemed like hairspliing. In the Protestant North, where predestination was accepted, there was more sympathy for astrology. Melanchthon promoted the science. See Caroti, “Melanchthon’s Astrology.” 9. Savonarola (Contra l’astrologia, pts. 2–3) catalogs objections of the scientists and internal contradictions in the discipline. Owing to the precession of the equinoxes, the observable constellations had moved several degrees beyond the places assigned to them by convention. is meant that the astrological characteristics of a constellation, let us say those of mighty Leo, were derived from a location in conventional degrees that no longer matched the location of the observable stars. Further, the zodiacal constellations were not at all uniform in size, yet they were all accorded thirty degrees along the ecliptic. Were astrological characteristics then owed to nature or to human imagination and artificial definitions? See Savonarola, Contra l’astrologia, fols. 16, 23, 23v (citing Augustine and others). Pico’s Disputationes developed these points even further. For another contemporary


Notes to Pages 4–7

critique, see D’Amico, “Contra divinationem,” 286, where the argument on free will is set within the issue of mathematical inaccuracies, here of instruments. e mathematical problems were long known. For Robert Grosseteste’s concerns, see n. 13 below. Critics of astrology were also concerned about scriptural pronouncements, and Savonarola’s text leads off with these. But Scripture could be cited both to support and to criticize astrology. See chapter 1, n. 3, below. 10. On physical bodily factors that affect one’s behavior, compare Plato, Timaeus 86b–c. For this assumption in Aquinas, see Summa contra Gentiles 3.84–85, where the celestials affect skill, fortune, and disposition and can indirectly affect the intellect. ey cannot affect the will. See also Savonarola, Contra l’astrologia, fol. 24v; and Ficino, De vita, 280– 81 (3.8). 11. See, e.g., Albertus Magnus, Speculum astronomiae, 218–21. See also Poppi, “Fate, Fortune, Providence and Human Freedom,” 641–67, esp. 667. 12. Bacon, Opus majus, 1:262. For the same point, see Ficino, Scrii sull’astrologia, 90. 13. See Ptolemy, Tetrabiblos 1.2.6–9, where it is noted that astrology was not yet an exact science and that sloppy astrologers were ruining the credibility of an important discipline. is was a point that intellectual astrologers repeated and expanded. Ficino (Scrii sull’astrologia, 72, 100–101) added that Ptolemy advised astrologers to consider the nature and quality of the parents, the place, the food, and the habits of people when interpreting a horoscope. On the problems with too strict an interpretation, see Bacon, Opus majus, 1:262–64. (So sure was Bacon of Augustine’s support of the general principles of astrology that he could proclaim that Augustine—one of the most fervid opponents of astrology—opposed only bad astrologers.) For Grosseteste’s concerns about the inexactitude of the mathematics causing predictions to be inaccurate, see Dales, “Grosseteste’s Views on Astrology.” 14. Aristotelian natural philosophy was based on an analysis of four causes, one of which was purpose or function. Aristotle, e Physics 2.3, 2.8. 15. Or the details concerned the devil. Most troubling were the links between astrology and demonology. Isabella d’Este was admonished by her astrologer to pray when the celestial bodies would be propitiously aligned. On Isabella and her astrologer’s advice to pray when Jupiter was joined with the head of the Dragon at the cusp of the tenth house, see Federici-Vescovini, “L’astrologia tra magia, religione e scienza,” esp. 185–87. (For the relation of stars and planets to the horoscope, see chapter 2 below.) is same blend of superstition and astrology can be found in witchcra literature. For examples, see Institoris and Sprenger, Malleus maleficarum, 1:69–70, 91–111. For Ficino and daemons, see chapters 7–8 below. 16. Ptolemy, Tetrabiblos 3.1.105. For astrology in medical practice, see n. 7 above. 17. See, e.g., Gaurico, Tractatus astrologicus, which concludes with a set of horoscopes predicting violent ends, including lurid details. On one such astrological demise, see my “Caprarola’s Sala della Cosmografia,” 1073–75. See also Rutkin, “Astrology” (2006), 542–43, and “Predicting the Pope’s Death.” 18. For Pico’s predictable death, see Gaurico, Tractatus astrologicus, fol. 58. On Pico and Savonarola, see Cardano, Opera omnia, 5:490. 19. Albertus Magnus, Speculum astronomiae, 218–21. Personal choice was particularly enhanced by the astrological practice of “elections,” where the astrologers chose a future sky for an important endeavor. Price, “e Physical Astronomy and Astrology of Albertus Magnus.” 20. Savonarola, Contra l’astrologia, fol. 31.

Notes to Pages 7–12


21. On ancient sources, with occasionally caustic remarks on the incompatibility of the authorities blended, see Bouché-Leclercq, L’astrologie grecque, 5–34. 22. See Burckhardt, e Civilization of the Renaissance in Italy, “Influence of Ancient Superstition” (vol. 2, pt. 6, chap. 6), which has much valuable archival information on astrological practices of the period. Burckhardt assumed astrology to be a magical practice. For the epigraph to this introduction, see Gombrich, Art and Illusion, 113–14. I avoid the use of the word magic, though it was o en used in the early modern period in a neutral or even positive way to indicate the work of a magus or wise man. e mistaken notion that there was a steady evolutionary progress from magic to science was a cornerstone of early anthropology. See Bell, Ritual, 47–48. e study of astrology contributed in some ways to the development of science, even as it was also used as part of magical practice. For more on this as well as limits, see esp. orndike’s History of Magic and Experimental Science but also the work of the many historians of science included throughout my notes. For issues of Renaissance magic, see chapters 7–8 below.

Chapter 1 1. For a discussion of the detailed correspondence between Cardinal Alessandro Farnese and one of his principal advisers, Fulvio Orsini, concerning the careful selection of the painter and the time of departure, see my “Caprarola’s Sala della Cosmografia,” 1068–72. For Jupiter and Phaeton, see ibid., 1064–67. e painter is not named. Orsini wrote: “non havendolo inviato prima, per aspearne l’ordine, che mi portò hiersera il Gambara, da V.S. Illustrissima” (quoted in Partridge, “Room of Maps at Caprarola,” 443). For the leers generally, see ibid., “Room of Maps at Caprarola,” app., 442–43. For Partridge’s analysis of them, see ibid., 413, 416, and n. 4. 2. Caprarola was a large estate, and, although it is possible that the cardinal was cutting corners on food or lodging or did not want a painter in the midst of the room preparation, the tone of the series of leers is secretive, and practicality is not the apparent aim of any of them. For horoscope basics, see chapter 2 below. 3. ere were distinct differences between an ancient pagan philosopher’s understanding of the divinity and the theology of Christians, Muslims, and Jews who studied the heavens (see n. 9 below). But medieval theologians in all three traditions studied and wrote on the science. ey had a deep respect for the ancient authors and considered them to be at a disadvantage because they lacked revealed scriptures. See, e.g., Bacon, Opus majus, 1:36–74, esp. 65. Before I begin this chapter with the pagan philosophers, I would like to set aside the most important type of religious text for the majority population in this culture. Sacred Scripture contained many passages that might seem to support astrology (the magi who traveled from the East following a star or the report of the darkened sky that marked the Crucifixion); however, these and other biblical accounts were understood by learned astrologers to be miraculous interventions on the part of the Creator. As such, they were outside the laws of nature and would not be predictably repeated. See Cassiodorus, Institutions 2.7; and Sacrobosco, e “Sphere” of Sacrobosco, 116–17, 142. (e Sphere was the standard university text.) By contrast, my focus is on the ways in which astrology was understood to act within the laws of nature. ere were also many pronouncements in the Hebrew, Christian, and Muslim scriptures that mentioned astrology in ways that could be used both to support and to deny


Notes to Pages 13–15

its validity. But, because these comments neutralized each other, they could not finally determine intellectual allegiance on this issue. 4. Smoller, Pierre d’Ailly, 3, 6, 22–23, 49, 122–23. Smoller points out that, in this, d’Ailly was a traditionalist. For the understanding of astrology within the divine order at the end of our period, see Gallucci’s eatrum mundi, which begins with this science as part of God’s plan. See also my conclusion. 5. I use the term metaphysical in a broad sense to indicate theoretical and philosophical principles derived from observations of the physical world. e term had many meanings. For a sense of the range, see Lohr, “Metaphysics,” esp. 537–38. 6. For the interrelation of astronomy and astrology in this period, see my introduction. At the most basic level, astronomy provided the means to track the celestial bodies mathematically. Astrology combined the mathematical data thus derived with a focus on, and an interpretation of, the physical radiation that connected the heavens and the Earth. For the “chemistry” in this, see chapter 3 below. 7. Plato, Timaeus 27a, 47a–b. 8. e philosophical-religious questions posed by ancient philosophers studying the heavens have reemerged in contemporary philosophy. See Gray, “A Rescue of Religion.” 9. As posited by Plato, the Demiurge did not create the original Maer. Plotinus’s theory suggested that all creation depended on the eternal being, a concept central to the monotheistic traditions. See Plotinus, Enneads 2.1.5. Although Plotinus did not espouse astrological precepts (Enneads 2.3.4), his work was adapted to astrological theory by subsequent natural philosophers. See the work of Ficino described in chapters 4 and 7 below. For Plotinus’s influence on theologians such as Augustine, there is a large bibliography. 10. ere is a long tradition on the relation of metaphysics to physics via light. For well-known and influential texts, see the biblical tradition of the Creator making the world of light and Christ commonly referred to in terms of light, both with large commentary traditions. See also Plato, Republic 6.508b–e and its many commentaries; or Plotinus, Enneads 5.1.6 (cf. also Enneads 1.6.3). Augustine considers the theme of light in metaphysical and physical senses in several texts. See, e.g., Augustine, On Genesis, 156–61. Particularly apposite for my text on physical radiation are developments in al-Kindi’s De radiis stellarum, followed by those in Robert Grosseteste, Roger Bacon, Marsilio Ficino, and other philosophers discussed in this and later chapters. Lindberg (introduction to Multiplication of Species, xxxvi–lvi, esp. xxxviii–xxxix) provides a good survey of the metaphysical to physical connections with many additional sources. 11. For Grosseteste, see also chapters 2 and 3 below. For Ficino, see also chapters 3–4 and 7–8 below. While I focus on De vita, Ficino’s medical-astrological work, the essential Plotinian principles are also expressed in Ficino’s Platonic eology. 12. e most important astronomer and mathematician of the fi eenth century, Johannes Regiomontanus, selected Manilius’s text as one of the essential works to make available in early printing. e editio princeps appeared in 1472. e important astrologer Lorenzo Bonincontri, whom we will meet later, put out another edition in 1484. Marsilio Ficino, a philosopher and astrologer who will figure frequently in these pages, mentions Manilius in the same breath with Ptolemy. See Ficino, Platonic eology, 5:73 (15.5), and Opera omnia, 1:851, 2:1610. Aldus Manutius included Manilius’s Astronomica in the Scriptores astronomici veteres, a luxury anthology published in Venice in 1499. For additional information on Manilius’s dissemination in the Renaissance, see Goold, introduction to Astronomica, cxiii. e art patron Federigo Gonzaga of Mantua used Manilius’s poem as a source for one of the friezes in his Palazzo del Te. See Gombrich, “e Sala dei Venti.”

Notes to Pages 15–19


Manilius seems to have served as a source for the astrological vault of Agostino Chigi. See my “Astrological Vault” as well as my “Time-Telling Conventions.” In popular imagery, Manilius was usually honored as one of the four great authorities on the heavens. See Warner, Sky Explored, 71–72. 13. Manilius, Astronomica 1.483–531. 14. Albertus Magnus, Speculum astronomiae, 220–21. 15. Plato, Timaeus 89e–90d, 91d–e; Ficino, Platonic eology, 6:102–15 (18.4–5). 16. Plato, Timaeus 41–42e. Some Renaissance astrologers posited different assignments to the stars and the planets (bodily characteristics to the former, psychological traits to the laer). See, e.g., Soldati, La poesia astrologica, 169. 17. See Tester, History of Western Astrology, 117–19. On the theory of the portals, cf. Ficino, Platonic eology, 6:112–13 (18.5). 18. See also De sphaera d’Este, the luxury manuscript produced in Milan at the Sforza court ca. 1460 aributed to Christoforo de Predis, or the series of frescoes in the Borgia apartments of the Vatican Palace, painted by Pinturicchio ca. 1493. Poeschel, Alexander Maximus. e subject was popular through the sixteenth century as well. For commentary on the soul’s descent in the Timaeus, see Proclus, Commentaries of Proclus on the Timaeus, 2:386, 421–37; and Ficino, Platonic eology, 6:102–15 (18.4–5). 19. Vasari, Vite, 6:4–5. e 1550 edition provided only the date of birth. Vasari expanded this in the 1568 edition: “Nacque dunque un figliuolo soo fatale e felice stella . . . l’anno 1474 . . . il sesto dì di marzo, la domenica, intorno all’oo ore di noe, al quale pose nome Michelagnolo, . . . come si vidde poi nelle figure della natività sua, avendo Mercurio e Venere in seconda nella casa di Giove con aspeo benigno riceuto [sic]: il che mostrava che si doveva vedere ne’ fai di costui, per arte di mano e d’ingegno, opera maravigliose e stupende” (ibid., 6:4–5). See also Kemp, “e Super-Artist as Genius”; and Malmanger, “Michelangelo—Humanist or Stonemason?” 20. Manilius, Astronomica 2.105–25. 21. Ibid., 4.886–95. 22. Kristeller, e Philosophy of Marsilio Ficino, 118–20 (quotation, 119). (For a slight variant of the translation, see Ficino, Platonic eology, 4:176–77 [13.3].) Kristeller comments on this passage and Ficino’s consideration of the human soul: “Finally, when he [the individual] understands the laws of the universe by his thought, he proves himself as an equal and worthy companion of the divine creator” (e Philosophy of Marsilio Ficino, 120). e original text is found in Ficino, Opera omnia, 1:297. 23. For a point paralleling Plato’s, see Neugebauer, “Exact Science in Antiquity.” 24. For the extended passage, see Plato, Timaeus 47a–c. See also Ficino, All ings Natural, 132. For more, see Plato, Republic 7.529c–530c, esp. the commentary of Shorey (in Plato, Republic, 2:185–86). 25. See Plato, Timaeus 91d–e: “e tribe of birds are derived by transformation . . . from men who are harmless but light-minded . . . who, being students of the worlds above, suppose in their simplicity that the most solid proofs about such maers are obtained by the sense of sight.” Foolishly relying on the eyes without the mind, they are no longer human but merely animals flying toward the heavens. (Was it Plato’s intuition or observation that convinced him of the extraordinary intelligence of birds? Compare the avian phenomenon Alex of recent memory.) See also n. 24 above. 26. For Plato’s understanding of sight, see also Plato, Republic 529c–530c; and Taylor, Commentary on Plato’s Timaeus, 294. For Proclus (Commentaries of Proclus on the Timaeus, 1:211), sight is the messenger and intellect the king. See also Ficino, Platonic eology,


Notes to Pages 19–22

4:62–63 (12.5). Mueller, “Mathematical Method and Philosophical Truth,” 192–94 (on Plato with respect to astronomy). Smith (“Big Picture”) points out the key relation between sight and thought for Perspectivists, a theme of chapters 3–4 and 7–8 below. 27. For the fundamental reliance among astrological theorists on Aristotle’s De generatione et corruptione, see chapter 3 below. For Aristotle as a putative authority on astrology, see Bacon, Opus majus, 1:264. 28. Aristotle, Metaphysics 1.1.1–2, 1.2.9. 29. Bacon, Perspectiva, 2–3, 6–7 (see generally 2–9). 30. Manilius, Astronomica 4.915–33. 31. Al-Kindi, De radiis stellarum, 139ff. 32. Ptolemy wrote the most important ancient texts on optics, astronomy, and astrology. In his text on astrology, he pointed out that the laws of astronomy could be disputed “only by the blind” (Ptolemy, Tetrabiblos 1.1). I discuss Ficino’s use of the three disciplines throughout my text. Also of note, in his commentary on Vitruvius, De architectura, fols. x–xi, Cesare Cesariano provides, not only the image I use as the frontispiece to my text, but also a commentary linking astrology and optics through mathematics. For more on Cesariano, see chapters 3–4 below. e astrologer Luca Gaurico, whom we will meet later, edited the basic university primer on optics, John Pecham’s 1504 Perspectiva communis. For an important survey of the relation between vision of the heavens and knowledge in the fourteenth and fi eenth centuries, see Federici-Vescovini, Prospeiva medievale, 197–201, 204–10, 214–15, 247–51. e publications of David Lindberg and Mark Smith have made ancient and early modern optical texts by Ptolemy (Smith, Ptolemy’s eory of Visual Perception), al-Haytham (Alhazen, Alhacen’s eory of Visual Perception, trans. Smith), Bacon (Perspectiva and Multiplication of Species, both trans. Lindberg), Pecham (Pecham, John Pecham and the Science of Optics, trans. Lindberg), and others accessible. For more on optics and astronomy-astrology, see also Eastwood, e Elements of Vision; Swerdlow, “Science and Humanism in the Renaissance”; and Shank, “Natural Knowledge,” 96–105. 33. Plato, Timaeus 47c, 90d. Plato affirms that, insofar as immortality is possible, the return to the divine is achieved through the pursuit of wisdom. is is formed by the mathematical study of the heavens with their perfect revolutions that nurture the intellectual soul, readying it for its return to the divine. e fuller quotation reads as follows: “But he who has seriously devoted himself to learning and to true thoughts, and has exercised these qualities above all his others, must necessarily and inevitably think thoughts that are immortal and divine, if so be that he lays hold on truth, and in so far as it is possible for human nature to partake of immortality, he must fall short thereof in no degree; and inasmuch as he is forever tending his divine part and duly magnifying that daemon who dwells along with him, he must be supremely blessed. And the way of tendence of every part by every man is one—namely to supply each with its own congenial food and motion; and for the divine part within us the congenial motions are the intellections and revolutions of the Universe . . . ” (ibid., 90b–d). For this Platonic understanding, see Taylor, Commentary on Plato’s Timaeus, 634. 34. For the assumption of a divinely created and moved cosmos, see Ptolemy, Almagest, preface. For astrology’s benefits and altruistic purposes, see Ptolemy, Tetrabiblos 1.3.10–15. e theme was central to Arab astrology. See introduction, n. 5, above; and Lemay, Abu Mashar and Latin Aristotelianism, 42, 49, 52, 59–60. It was a fundamental point for al-Kindi as well. See also Bacon, Opus majus, 1:117–18 (paraphrasing Ptolemy’s point).

Notes to Pages 22–26


35. Albertus Magnus, Speculum astronomiae, 220–21. 36. Plato, Timaeus 90d. Although the rational intellect was not unambiguously defined by Plato, it was later identified with the immortal part of the human soul. See, e.g., Plato, Timaeus, 69b–e, 73 b–d, 89e–90d; and Bury, introduction to Timaeus, 9. 37. e Renaissance astrologer Girolamo Cardano’s commentary on the Tetrabiblos, In Cl. Ptolemaei Pelvsiensis IIII de astrorum iudicijs, thus also begins with a leer extolling astrology as a means of knowing and admiring God’s work. 38. See Dante, Paradise 4.22–49. 39. Ficino, De vita, 236–37 (proem to bk. 3). e theme is found in Ficino, Platonic eology, 2:12–15 (5.1), 280–81 (8.11), 360–61 (8.16), 6:128–29 (18.8). See also Ficino, All ings Natural, 132. 40. Ficino, De vita, 346–47 (3.19). is theme runs throughout my text. 41. Ficino dedicated bk. 1 of De vita to Giorgio Antonio Vespucci, the uncle-tutor of Amerigo Vespucci. See also Ficino, Platonic eology, 2:383 and n. 5 (6.1), and Scrii sull’astrologia, 232; and Miles, “Vision.” Another overlooked painting is Raphael’s School of Athens, noted in my conclusion. 42. is argument is developed in chapters 3–4 and 7–8 below.

Chapter 2 1. A large bibliography exists on the hexameral literature (a er the Greek word for six, referring to the six days of creation described in Genesis). Much medieval science is located in these commentaries. 2. See Grosseteste, “De luce,” 5–6, where Riedl points to Grosseteste’s use of prior hexameral texts by Saint Augustine and Saint Basil. See also Lindberg, Western Science, 234, 255. 3. Grosseteste, “De luce,” 3–5, where Riedl noted that Grosseteste is relying on an Aristotelian-sounding concept of Form and Maer, though, for Grosseteste, Light is not identical with Aristotle’s Form. For Grosseteste’s Light as first corporeal Form, see chapter 3 below. Grosseteste’s Aristotelian background is apparent in his use of Aristotle’s works, while he also refers to arguments in the Timaeus. See Grosseteste, “De luce,” 11–12. For the broader theory of light, including optics and astrology, see Federici-Vescovini’s Prospeiva medievale and her updated work in Le teorie della luce. See also Bartholomew the Englishman, “Concerning the Properties of ings”; and Lindberg, “eory of Light,” passim, esp. 24, where Marsilio Ficino’s use of the creation tradition is pointed to. For related studies of the physical and metaphysical understanding of light, see Pecham, Perspectiva communis, 19–20, 35–36; and Lindberg, introduction to Multiplication of Species, xxxv–liii, and introduction to Roger Bacon and the Origins of “Perspectiva,” xxi, xxv–xxvi, xxviii–xxxii. 4. For a survey of Grosseteste’s life and work, see McEvoy, Grosseteste. For a general introduction to the scientific work of al-Kindi, see al-Kindi, De radiis stellarum; Travaglia, Magic, Causality, and Intentionality; and Adamson, Al-Kindi. For a general introduction to Abū Ma’shar, see Abū Ma’shar, Kitāb; and Lemay, Abu Mashar and Latin Aristotelianism. Roger Bacon’s work on light and radiation has been especially studied by Lindberg. See Lindberg, “eory of Light,” introduction to Multiplication of Species, introduction to Perspectiva communis, and introduction to Roger Bacon and the Origins of “Perspectiva.” Ficino’s theories are discussed in detail in chapters 3–4 and 7–8. 5. For a good primer on the mathematics of light, see Grosseteste, “Concerning Lines,


Notes to Pages 26–28

Angles and Figures.” Lindberg (Western Science, 234) sums up Grosseteste’s cosmogony: “Set within a broadly Aristotelian framework, [it] should be seen primarily as an attempt to reconcile Neoplatonic emanationism—the idea that the created universe is an emanation from God, as light is an emanation from the sun—with the biblical account of creation ex nihilo.” e standard early modern university text on light and optics was Pecham’s Perspectiva communis, which adds to these concepts (e.g., ibid., 82–83 [prop. 1.6(8)], on the sphericity of light). 6. Lux and lumen, both translated in English by the same word, light, are specialized terms in this context. In general, lux means “light” and lumen “illumination.” ese two terms have an important corollary in the technical relation of the “original” to the “imago” (i.e., copy). e original (e.g., the Sun) sends out its copy (illumination), which carries some of the power of the original yet never diminishes the original’s power. Natural philosophers and astrologers frequently distinguished the two terms, but, although the distinction was common, it was not always consistently followed. See Lindberg, “eory of Light,” 11; and Bacon, Multiplication of Species, 4–5, where Bacon notes that the terms are used interchangeably. 7. For the subsequent creation, see Gen. 1:14–19. Light already exists, as it should, in the Sistine ceiling panel that precedes the creation of the Sun and the Moon. For more on Michelangelo’s intellectual interests, see chapter 1 above. Prime Light was commonly discussed. See its casual mention as a point of consensus in Ficino, Philebus Commentary, 298–99. 8. Grosseteste, “De luce,” 10–17. In addition to the standard astrological concepts found in handbooks, Grosseteste notes the penetration of Light into the Earth (ibid., 10, 13, 15). According to Grosseteste, the Light of the four elements is “impure, weak, and far removed from the purity which exists in the first body.” ese elements “possess the denseness of Maer which is the principle of resistance and stubbornness” (ibid., 16). See this same concept of Light within the Earth in the astrological discussion in Ficino, De vita, 320–21 (3.16). Opinion differed on whether the celestials had Maer. See Grant, Planets, Stars, and Orbs, 245–68. 9. For surveys, see Federici-Vescovini, Prospeiva medievale, and Le teorie della luce; and Lindberg, “eory of Light,” introduction to Multiplication of Species, and introduction to Roger Bacon and the Origins of “Perspective.” As noted in this chapter’s epigraph, Grosseteste tells his reader: “It is clear that every higher body, in virtue of the light [lumen] which proceeds from it, is the form [species] and perfection of the body that comes a er it” (“De luce,” 15). Lindberg points out concerning Plotinus’s theory of emanation: “Everything that exists produces an image or likeness of itself, which it directs into its surrounding.” He continues: “e argument was designed for metaphysical purposes . . . but in the end it had significant fall-out in the physical realm, affirming that all things radiate likenesses of themselves” (introduction to Multiplication of Species, xxxviii–xxxix). For a survey of the theme and a bibliography on ancient and early modern philosophers, see ibid., xxxv– liii. See also Lindberg, introduction to Perspectiva communis, 19–21. And cf. Grosseteste, “De luce,” 12 and n. 3, with Ficino, as discussed in this and later chapters. 10. Grosseteste, however, believed that the radiation of the universe was too complex to be described in mathematical computations that would provide reliable astrological predictions. See my introduction. 11. In this text, I will refer to the heavens moving around a stationary Earth since that was the normal understanding of ancient and early modern scientists. Among the observations that seemed to demonstrate that the Earth was spherical were these: the

Notes to Pages 28–34


Earth cast a round shadow on the Moon during eclipses, and ships coming into port “rose” over the spherical Earth with the top of the mast appearing first. at the Earth was at the center seemed intuitively correct from simple observation of the heavens: the fixed stars circled around the North Pole in what appeared to be an outer sphere, while the planets seemed to move inside this starry background around a beltway known as the ecliptic that circled the Earth. is seemed also theoretically correct when one considered the weight of the elements, as in Grosseteste’s description of creation. Not insignificantly, Plato (Timaeus 33b) had come to define sphericity as the perfect geometric shape, and Aristotle considered spherical motion to be eternal and never self-depleting, as linear motion was. See Lindberg, Western Science, 56–57. For a survey of ancient astronomy, see Evans, e History and Practice of Ancient Astronomy. For the theoretical concerns in the medieval and early modern world, see Grant, Planets, Stars, and Orbs, 308–23. (We no longer define a center since the outer limits are unknown.) 12. Additional spheres were postulated beyond the sphere of the fixed stars to account for metaphysical issues (Grant, Planets, Stars, and Orbs, 315–23), but these are not relevant to the discussion here. In our period, if one could not understand the intricacies of Ptolemy’s Almagest, the standard school text was Sacrobosco’s Sphere. For one practical application of this astronomical knowledge in architecture, see Heilbron, e Sun in the Church. 13. e mathematical conventions of astronomy, notably the 360 degrees of the circle and the sexagesimal system of measuring the locations of the heavenly bodies, had been set in Babylonian times. For details, see Swerdlow, e Babylonian eory of the Planets. For Babylonian astronomy and omens, see Swerdlow, Ancient Astronomy and Celestial Divination. 14. See Toomer, “Ptolemy”; and Neugebauer, “Exact Science in Antiquity,” 23–25. For a survey of the developing understanding, see Lindberg, Western Science, 86–109. 15. For a rich summative treatment of Copernicus’s achievements in their historical context, see Westman, e Copernican Question. 16. For a detailed analysis, see Ptolemy, Geography. 17. For a range of astrolabes from luxury objects for princes to those that a student could make, see Stephenson, Bolt, and Friedman, e Universe Unveiled, 64–67. 18. is “point” was only theoretically that precise. For Renaissance positions, see Regiomontanus, Ephemerides, unpaginated introductory directions. For more tables, see the handbooks cited in n. 21 below. Tuckerman’s Planetary, Lunar and Solar Positions can also be used for positions that should then be checked against Renaissance tables. 19. e figure here is a horoscope for the birth (or foundation) of Rome, 572 BCE. For more on the foundation horoscopes for cities, see chapters 5 and 6 below. 20. Bacon, Opus majus, 1:159. 21. Astrologers used a more nuanced list, and there was some variety among astrological handbooks. For a sense of variations, see North, Chaucer’s Universe, 202–3; Schoener, Opera mathematica; and Lilly, Christian Astrology, 50–56. ere were many astrological texts available for consultation in Renaissance Italy. Apart from Ptolemy’s Tetrabiblos and the Pseudo-Ptolemaic Centiloquy, Abū Ma’shar’s Kitāb was authoritative. Alcabitius’s Introduction to Astrology appeared in nine editions in Italian cities by 1521. See Alcabitius, e Introduction to Astrology, 192–94. Schoener was translated into Italian (see Schoener, I tre libri delle natività). But even a text with directions in Latin such as Angelus’s Astrolabium planum has so few words and so many tables and images that it could have been used by someone with lile or no knowledge of the


Notes to Pages 34–39

language if a colleague were to demonstrate its applications. Over time, Gaurico, Giuntini, Cardano, Gallucci, and many others swelled the discipline with their new works as well as with commentaries on the classics. For bibliography, see also my introduction. 22. For the different mathematical house systems in use, see North, Horoscopes and History. 23. Galen, Usefulness of the Parts, 2:490–92, 502. Galen’s context was a discussion of rays, the eyes, and vision, a topic that will be developed further in this and subsequent chapters. 24. Bacon, Opus majus, 1:272: “since every point of the earth is the center of its own horizon.” 25. See the interesting discussion of the very different fates of the Farnese twins in Gaurico, Tractatus astrologicus, fol. 48. See also my “Caprarola’s Sala della Cosmografia,” 1083–84. 26. For development of this, see chapters 3, 5–6, below. For a fuller discussion of the practice, see Bonincontri, Tractatus electionum, fol. M2v; and my “Proposal for the Foundation Date,” 249 and accompanying notes. 27. For the various house systems, see North, Horoscopes and History. For Cardano’s system, see also Gra on, Cardano’s Cosmos, 66. 28. See Kennedy, Astronomy and Astrology in the Medieval Islamic World, esp. chaps. 17 and 20. e abbreviations for the cardines—Hor., MC, Oc, IMC—are o en marked on the chart. 29. For the moment, I consider a ray to be mathematically defined as a segment of a straight line. For additional understandings of a Ray, see chapter 3 below. 30. For a good description in English of finding the cusps, including practice tables the reader can use, see Lilly, Christian Astrology, B–C4 (bk. 1, introductory material). e cusp degrees were given in a conventional notation related to the zodiacal signs, Aries through Pisces; e.g., 12° Taurus = 42° since the 30 degrees of Aries had elapsed and now the cusp had moved 12 degrees into Taurus. 31. For the strength of rays, see al-Kindi, De radiis stellarum, 224. For an excellent primer on the math, see Grosseteste, “Concerning Lines, Angles and Figures.” Bacon follows and expands this. For a glimpse at the essential importance of mathematics in the Platonic cosmos, see esp. chapters 1 above and 3 and 7 below. 32. Because they knew that the Moon had the reflected light of the Sun, some scientists believed that all the other planets and stars had the Sun’s reflected light as well. See the varying opinions in Grant, Planets, Stars, and Orbs, 394–400. 33. For the natures of the celestial bodies, see Alcabitius, Alcabitius cum commento, 62–87 (chap. 2), which is typical, or consult the astrological texts cited in n. 21 above. For more nuance, see Ptolemy, Tetrabiblos 1.4–24. 34. Grosseteste, “Concerning Lines, Angles and Figures.” 35. Another mathematical model should be noted here—the issue of “punctiform analysis.” Al-Kindi had defined this ray theory. For a summary, see Lindberg, Western Science, 315–16, and eories of Vision, 19, 30. See also chapter 3 below. While the rays are usually discussed as issuing from a point and moving in every direction—suggesting sphericity—see Pecham, Perspectiva communis, 82–83 (prop. 1.6[8]), in relation to visible rays. Visible radiation might be hemispherical or less. Astrologers considered both visible and invisible radiation, however. 36. Most important was also relative. It depended as well on the life concern governed by a house and the ruling nature of the celestial body in question. 37. For the orbs of influence, see Schoener, Opera mathematica, fols. 32v, 35 (canon 13).

Notes to Pages 39–45


e allowance varied with the perceived power of the planet: Saturn 9°; Jupiter 9°; Mars 8°; Sun 15°; Venus 7°; Mercury 7°; the Moon 12°. 38. See North, Horoscopes and History. 39. My “Foundation Horoscopes for St. Peter’s” presents case studies of the practice. 40. Giuntini’s Speculum astrologiae provides a calendar of the birth dates and times for Renaissance notables. For baptismal records, see also Rowland, “e Birth Date of Agostino Chigi,” 192–93. For the many birthdays of Julius II, see my “Foundation Horoscopes for St. Peter’s,” 739–40. 41. Luca Gaurico, a famous early modern astrologer, did not hesitate to publish several rectifications alongside original horoscopes in order to show that the original time had been incorrect. See Gaurico, Tractatus astrologicus. For his political motives, see Zambelli, “Luca Gaurico.” Political bias and astrological proof were o en conjunct. 42. See my “Foundation Horoscopes for St. Peter’s,” 726–31, 734–40. 43. See my introduction. 44. For those who give astrology a bad name—bad mathematicians and charlatans who, for the sake of gain, mingle astrology with practices that are not based on the laws of nature—see Ptolemy, Tetrabiblos 1.2. But Ptolemy adds that even the pure astrologers in a developing science will occasionally err, just as navigators on ships or doctors with patients might, owing to the complexity of the situations and the number of variables.

Chapter 3 1. For an excellent survey of early scientists from the pre-Socratics to the Stoics on the early chemistry and physics of astrology, see Bouché-Leclercq, L’astrologie grecque, 2–29; as well as other sources in my introduction. 2. For an accessible survey of this, see Lindberg, Western Science, 27–52. 3. Plato, Timaeus 56c–57c. Plato’s devotion to mathematics is well-known, and this influence on Ficino is discussed below. Lindberg points out that, for Plato, “the cosmos is essentially mathematical.” Plato considered, “not that the elements have triangular shapes, but that the elements ultimately are triangular shapes.” e transformation of the elements is “the dissolution and recombination of triangles.” For Plato, “‘mathematical objects are closer to the Forms than physical [objects are]’” (“On the Applicability of Mathematics to Nature,” 4–5). is last point is important in chapter 7 below. Truth is found in God, angels, and number. See Ficino, Platonic eology, 2:280–81 (8.2). 4. For an interesting blend of Platonic and Aristotelian science on the concept, see Ficino, Platonic eology, 3:302–3 (11.6). See also Maier, “e eory of the Elements.” 5. More complicated understandings are described in this and later chapters. 6. My summary is drawn from Bouché-Leclercq, L’astrologie grecque, 1–34, where the intellectual history of the Hellenic world is provided. For Aristotle’s text, see ibid., 25–27. North (“Celestial Influence,” 45) also considers Aristotle’s De generatione et corruptione 2.10. See also Rutkin, “Astrology, Natural Philosophy and the History of Science.” As these and other scholars have shown, Aristotle’s concept of Form and Maer in relation to astrology is found throughout the works of Albert the Great, omas Aquinas, Marsilio Ficino, Giovanni Pontano, and others. Despite this Aristotelian foundation, however, ultimately we should heed Bouché-Leclercq (L’astrologie grecque, 27 n. 3) contrasting the influence of Aristotle with that of the Platonists and Stoics, the laer two groups being “pour les astrologues des alliés plus sûrs.” is was so because Platonists and Stoics believed that the cosmos was unified throughout and that the celestial radiation was directly connected


Notes to Pages 45–47

with the Earth, while Aristotle posited a sharp divide between the eternal heavens and the earthly world of change, making influences a more difficult case to argue. For a discussion of the scientific basis of astrology in the later sixteenth century, see Gallucci, eatrum mundi, 2–4 (chap. 2). 7. For the analogy, see Ficino, De vita, 427–28 n. 4, where Kaske discusses it in relation to Ficino’s “Seminal Reasons.” Seminal Reason is a term that Ficino uses as an equivalent to Form. See my text below. 8. Form is a complex concept, and different authors used it in different ways. On the debate over Aristotelian Form, see Newman, Atoms and Alchemy, 50–65. (is text also demonstrates how crude the term Aristotelian is, for Newman shows the sharp debate among Aristotelians who espouse different principles, each of which had a distant point of origin in Aristotle or Pseudo-Aristotle.) Lindberg (Western Science, 287) defines Form generally as the “agent, bearer of the properties of the individual thing.” For most astrologers, a very simple definition seems to have been the norm. Ficino (Platonic eology, 2:234–35 [7.6], 2:296–97 [8.4], 3:214–15 [11.3]) considers Form to range from the ideal Form to that which is sullied in its combination with Maer. For a typical example of Qualities as Form in a scientific and astrological context, see Ficino, De vita, 318–19 (3.15), where Quality is the agent of change. See also Kristeller, e Philosophy of Marsilio Ficino, 106–8; Allen, “Ficino’s eory of the Five Substances,” 29–30, 37, 39, 43–44; and Celenza, “e Revival of Platonic Philosophy,” 87. 9. e inflowing Qualities were considered to be either observable, such as the elemental Qualities, or unobservable, i.e., occult. e occult, such as the Quality for magnetism, were known from the effects consistently produced. 10. For the relation between Form and Seminal Reasons, see Ficino, De vita, 242–47 (3.1), 427–28 n. 4; and Copenhaver, “How to Do Magic, and Why,” 155–56. On Ficino’s use of Qualities, see also nn. 8 above and 12 below. We will see several other terms used synonymously with Ray, but that is a larger issue treated below. Compare also Newman, Atoms and Alchemy, 76–81, where alchemy and astrology nearly intersect at the level of the Seminal Reasons. For the typical use of Species to indicate Aristotelian Form, see Lindberg, “Alhazen’s eory of Vision,” 335–38, where it is pointed out that Bacon considered the terms Species and Form to be synonymous. For varieties of usage for Form and Species among Bacon’s followers Pecham and Witelo, see Lindberg, “Nature and Multiplication of Light,” 393 n. 6. e term Species applies to all radiation, not just that of light, as Bacon makes clear (Multiplication of Species, 4; see also Lindberg, introduction to Multiplication of Species, lv). See also Bacon, Opus majus 4.2.1–2; and Species defined according to Grosseteste, Bacon, and Pecham in my text. For Form and Species, see also this chapter’s epigraph. 11. For the basic understanding of Substantial or Specific Form (the Form that determined a species) and Accidental Form (the Form that determined the individual characteristics within the member of the species), see Lindberg, Western Science, 287– 92. Grosseteste’s Light is yet another type of Form, “first corporeal Form,” which has only a single Quality, Light, that gives dimensionality to Maer. is was a qualitative precondition for Maer’s reception of elemental Form. See also Pingree, “Some Sources,” 3. 12. Learned astrologers such as Albert the Great, Bacon, Ficino, Pontano, and others strove to synthesize the best parts of the diverse ancient traditions. Note that Ficino, who has an Aristotelian base as well as a deep Platonic allegiance, believes that the Rays are

Notes to Pages 47–49


directly sending down Qualities. See Ficino, De vita, 266–67, 274–75 (3.6), 288–89 (3.11), 298–301 (3.12). 13. Ptolemy, Tetrabiblos, 5–6 (1.2) and n. 4. I believe that Robbins is incorrect to identify this with Aristotelian aether or quintessence. is is Stoic pneuma and similar to the later Platonic World-Spirit. Ptolemy describes it as follows: “A certain power emanating from the eternal ethereal substance is dispersed through and permeates the whole region about the earth” (ibid., 4–7). For Ficino, see De vita, passim on Spiritus; or Kaske, introduction to De vita, passim. Ficino frequently refers to Spiritus as aether or quintessence, a superrefined substance linking the heavens and the Earth. On the grades of Stoic pneuma, see also Lindberg, Western Science, 80–81—the pneuma or soul has “total mixture or interpenetration, both substances occupying the same space.” is is also the case with Spiritus. 14. Abū Ma’shar (Kitāb, 1:37) castigated Ptolemy for a lack of aention to Aristotle’s quintessence. Aristotle himself was disinclined to astrological belief, in large measure because he saw a complete divide between the heavens and the Earth—on the celestial side the perfection of the quintessence and of eternal circular motion, on the terrestrial the corruptible elements and self-depleting linear motion, where things came into existence, lived a short time, and died. 15. Among many possible examples, see Ptolemy, Tetrabiblos 1.1; al-Kindi, De radiis stellarum, 221 (chap. 2); Grosseteste, “Concerning Lines, Angles and Figures,” 386; Bacon, Opus majus, 1:267; and Ficino, Scrii sull’astrologia, 96. 16. Grant, Planets, Stars, and Orbs, 570–615. 17. Al-Kindi, De radiis stellarum, 218–21. Marsilio Ficino echoes this point: “In the stars, moreover—in their figures, parts and properties—are contained all the species of things below and their properties” (De vita, 244–45 [3.1]). As a consequence of this: “No one should doubt that we ourselves and all things which are around us can, by way of certain preparations, lay claim to celestial things. For these lower things were made by the heavens, are ruled continually by them, and were prepared from up there for celestial things in the first place” (ibid., 248–51 [3.2]). In this second passage, a medical and psychological repair process is described—the Qualities produced by the celestials in earthly things can later be ingested, physically taking in the needed (because missing or deficient) Qualities with the earthly entities that contain them. 18. Ptolemy (Tetrabiblos 1.4–24) provides a more nuanced understanding than the convenient charts found in the handbooks. For the same concepts, see Ficino, De vita, 348–49 (3.19) and passim in 3.16. e nature of a planet, or its Qualities, could also vary by position. At noon, the Sun’s dominant nature was hot and dry, but, during the night, it was less hot, which some describe as cold. Ibid., 266–67 (3.6), 348–49 (3.19). 19. See nn. 4, 8, above. Maier (“e eory of the Elements”) points out the dilemma in the way in which the debate was framed, and additional complications are noted in the medical tradition. See Arnaldus de Villanova, Aphorismi de gradibus, 1–136 (chaps. 1–6). 20. For Pontano, Bellanti, Pico, and Savonarola, see Pontano, De rebus coelestibus, fols. 95r–98v; Pseudo-Ptolemy, Centum Ptolemaei sententiae, fol. 18v (Pontano’s commentary); Bellanti, Defensio astrologiae, q. 14, art. 5; Pico della Mirandola, Disputationes, 1:70–71; and Savonarola, Contra l’astrologia, fols. 10, 14v, 17, 20 (disparaging the pompous use of Aristotle among astrologers). is interest in serious science continues throughout the early modern period. See, e.g., Gallucci, eatrum mundi, 2–4. 21. For Ficino and others on this, see chapters 7 and 8 below. ere is a large and important bibliography on the Picatrix and related magical texts that is beyond the scope


Notes to Pages 49–52

of this project. e German edition of the Arabic Picatrix—“Picatrix”: Das Ziel des Weisen, ed. Rier and Plessner—seems to me the place to start even if the Latin version was more commonly read. For the Latin, see Picatrix: e Latin Version, ed. Pingree. For a French edition, see Picatrix: Un traité de magie médiéval. For differences between the Arabic and the Latin versions, see ibid., 27–30. For the fortunes of the text, see Perrone Compagni, “La magia cerimoniale del Picatrix.” See also Pingree, “e Diffusion of Arabic Magical Texts.” 22. As Pecham put it: “even if the stars should be quiescent” (Perspectiva communis, 108–9 [prop. 1.27]). (For the extended passage, see this chapter’s epigraph.) is probably refers to such astrologically potent, yet invisible, parts of the heavens as the Lots or astronomical-astrological points such as the nodes of the Moon. 23. Ficino, De vita, 236–37 (proem to bk. 3): “scientia et prudentia.” e king’s health, however, did not follow the predictions of his stars. 24. Lindberg, introduction to Multiplication of Species, xxxviii–xxxix, commenting on Plotinus’s concept. For a survey of the natural philosophical tradition leading up to Bacon’s theory of the multiplication of species, including Plotinus, Augustine, Proclus, al-Kindi, Grosseteste, and others, see ibid., xxxv–liii. See also Grosseteste, “De luce,” 16; and Ficino, De vita, 300–301 (3.12). Ficino mentions al-Kindi in De vita, 354–55 (3.21). I treat al-Kindi and Bacon as fundamental sources for Ficino’s scientific understanding of radiation because he uses the same technical terms and also the same basic premises of Ray theory, although with one important divergence. See what I designate as theory B below. ere is a very large bibliography on the natural philosophers named here. e student interested in the more scientific works of these early modern philosophers might begin with Federici-Vescovini’s Prospeiva medievale for a survey. For introductory bibliography on al-Kindi and Bacon, see also Lindberg, eories of Vision, Introduction to Multiplication of Species, “e Genesis of Kepler’s eory of Light,” introduction to Roger Bacon and the Origins of “Perspective,” and e Beginnings of Western Science; and chapter 2 above. For Ficino’s science, see esp. Copenhaver, “Scholastic Philosophy and Renaissance Magic,” “Renaissance Magic and Neoplatonic Philosophy,” and “Iamblichus, Synesius and the Chaldaean Oracles”; and Kaske’s introduction to De vita. Although Allen focuses more on Ficino’s philosophy than on his natural philosophy, his notes to Icastes have rich passages of scientific analysis. See Allen, Icastes, 168–204. On these, see also chapter 4 below. 25. Federici-Vescovini (Prospeiva medievale, 244) points out that Ray and Species had come to be synonymous from the thirteenth century on. For the many synonyms of Ray used by early modern scientists, see Lindberg, “eory of Light,” 4–42. Ficino (De vita, passim) uses the terms Ray and Species interchangeably. Our term species, referring to a biological category, should not be confused with this technical term, but the two are, nevertheless, related. Since a Form or Species determines a biological species (i.e., the Form for monkey created a monkey in the substrate of Matter), it can be seen how the technical early modern term Species (i.e., Form) and our species are related. We will see a similar relation of Form and form in chapter 7 below. 26. See above, nn. 10 and 25 in chap. 3. e root of the Latin word species means “look” or “appearance.” e Greek for idol, eidolon, also derived from a root meaning “see.” 27. Bacon, Multiplication of Species, 2–7. Although, as Bacon suggests, Species is used “with respect to sense and intellect,” it is also the synonym that he uses for all radiation. On meaning, see ibid., 24–25. 28. Ficino uses these synonyms throughout De vita and in the commentaries on Plato discussed in chapter 4 below. He intends the aggregate of the Qualities as a Form. For

Notes to Pages 53–55


examples in Platonic eology, see n. 8 above. For examples in De vita, see De vita, 324–27 (3.16), 328–29 (3.17). Even when Ficino uses Form, he thinks of it as something on the move. See, e.g., Ficino, Philebus Commentary, 298–305. 29. Grosseteste, “Concerning Lines, Angles and Figures.” On Grosseteste’s text, see also Lindberg, “eory of Light,” 17. Grosseteste continues to point out that the effects naturally differ by the materials receiving the agent. 30. Bacon, Multiplication of Species, 6–7. For the mathematics of the Ray, see ibid., 91–177. 31. Pecham, Perspectiva communis, 108–9 (prop. 1.27). 32. Bacon describes the effects on sense in, e.g., Multiplication of Species, 24–27, 32–35. 33. For punctiform analysis, see also chapter 2, n. 35, above. Since light rays shot out spherically from every point on a surface, every surface point was conceptualized as sending out spherically, not a single ray, but innumerable rays. On the receiving end, any point was also struck by innumerable rays coming from the surfaces of objects facing this surface point. Some of these rays were stronger than others, depending on their nature and on their angular relation to the point in question. e ray that hit that point perpendicularly (the shortest distance) and had a very powerful nature was considered to have the greatest strength there. Light rays were the observable rays and studied as the paradigmatic case of radiation. us, the laws of reflection, refraction, and punctiform analysis in universal radiation were developed on the basis of the study of light. 34. e frontispiece, from Cesariano’s translation of Vitruvius’s De architectura, gives some sense of this convergence of the radiation from the celestial bodies intersecting with the radiation from the eyes of the viewer. See also chapter 1 above. Cesariano understands vision in the extramission tradition of Ficino (described below) and dedicates his translation and commentary to Ficino’s pupil Pope Leo X. 35. See n. 58 below. 36. In Aristotelian science there was no empty space. For the basics of radiation, see Bacon’s Multiplication of Species. Bacon’s text is long and o en repetitive. For some of the principles I highlight, see ibid., 56–69 (on the Qualities of the entire entity existing in every Species or Ray), 44–57, 70–91, 90–95 (on the point-to-point movement as the agent produces change out of the “potentiality of the Maer”—the agent causing the recipient to receive the Qualities of the more powerful object and, thus, to resemble it), 96–105 (on the five types of lines, including the twisting ray that moves through the optic nerve), 188–91 (on the Species having corporeity in the medium), 128–29, 204–13, 258–59, 264–69 (on the effects of rarity and density). While Ficino describes radiation throughout De vita, the most concentrated summary of Rays can be found at 3.16. Although he relies throughout on principles described in al-Kindi’s De radiis stellarum and Bacon’s Multiplication of Species, as I note immediately below (theory B), his theory differs from Bacon’s in that he considers the Rays to have World-Spirit as a medium, just as in the Stoic tradition pneuma was the vehicle. 37. Bacon, Multiplication of Species, 46–47. 38. Corporeity (extension in space) and materiality (having physical maer) were distinguished as two different things by ancient natural philosophers. But from Bacon to Kepler the two terms were commonly used interchangeably. Bacon points out this use in Multiplication of Species, 180–81, 190–91. Lindberg (“eory of Light,” 24 n. 60, 36) remarks that Ficino is not consistent in the distinction—apparently few were. On the nature of light, see Grant, Planets, Stars, and Orbs, 245–68; and Lindberg,


Notes to Page 56

“eory of Light.” For Ficino’s complex understanding of light, see Lindberg, “eory of Light,” 25–27. Lindberg points out Ficino’s ambiguous position on the nature of light. See also Kaske, introduction to De vita, 34, where this ambiguity is also noted. When Ficino writes of light as “quasi-corporeal” and “quasi-spiritual,” the ambiguity is lessened, I believe, if we think of the seamless continuity he envisioned from the supercelestial to the terrestrial world. In that continuum, Prime Light is solely Form and, therefore, immaterial, but at the other end of the spectrum the light of a campfire is material. e celestials are somewhere in between—“quasi-corporeal” and “quasi-spiritual,” as Lindberg noted. is is Grosseteste’s point: “e form [Grosseteste’s Latin: species] and perfection of all bodies is light, but in the higher bodies it is more spiritual and simple, whereas in the lower bodies it is more corporeal and multiplied” (“De luce,” 15). (Note that spiritual is probably Spiritus as defined here.) 39. On gradations, see the previous note. at World-Spirit is material. See Ficino, De vita, 254–57 (3.3), where the shi ing nature of Spiritus, a highly refined “medium” that is “a more excellent body—a body not a body, as it were”—is developed in some detail. For a corollary point, see ibid., 242–45 (3.1), where the stars, largely composed of World-Spirit, are in a special category that is, nevertheless, “not wholly separate from maer,” and 246–47 (3.1) and 256–57 (3.3), where the World-Spirit is defined as the fi h essence. (But this quintessence should not be thought of as Aristotle’s quintessence since Ficino insists throughout his work that the heavens and the Earth are continuous and that the fi h essence is mixed with the other elements in the terrestrial world. See ibid., 246–47 [3.1].) See also ibid., 256–57 (3.3), where its composition is defined. In its “virtus” “there is very lile of the earthy nature, but more of the watery, more likewise of the airy, and again the greatest proportion of the stellar fire. e very quantities of the stars and elements have come into being according to the measures of these degrees.” For a typical Ficinian example of the correlation between celestial Rays and personal Spiritus, see ibid., 322– 32 (3.16). 40. e function of Spiritus is to transfer and activate. Ficino even finds that, if properly separated by the alchemists, the Spiritus in gems and metals can be used to generate more metals and gems. See Ficino, De vita, 256–57 (3.3). See also ibid., 246–47 (3.1). e “chains” considered in chapters 7 and 8 below rely on this principle. 41. is is pervasive throughout the text, but, for examples, see ibid., 290–91, 296– 97 (3.11). 42. As other scholars have noted, this intercourse between the celestial and the earthy goes back to the Stoics, but the Arab tradition of al-Kindi and the Picatrix is in some ways closer to Ficino’s De vita. See Kaske, introduction to De vita, 50–51. 43. Ficino, De vita, 254–55 (3.2): celestial gi s/Qualities enter people via the mediation of World-Spirit as this flows into the medium of personal Spiritus “and from above by way of the rays of the stars acting favorably on our spirit, which not only is similar to the rays by nature but also then makes itself more like celestial things.” is is a basic theme. See also ibid., 258–59 (3.4), 280–81 (3.8), 288–97 (3.11), 306–9 (3.13), 318–21 (3.15), 322–27 (3.16). In 3.16, the person’s Spiritus is “most similar to celestial rays.” Kaske (Ficino, De vita, 434 n. 5; Kaske, introduction to De vita, 4, 42) points out that a person’s Spiritus is sometimes identified as stellar Fire or quintessence. For the most condensed explanation of Rays, see Ficino, De vita, 3.16, where Ficino’s Rays and Bacon’s seem identical but for the Spiritus. More on this in chapter 7 below. For references to both natural and artificial means, see, e.g., Ficino, De vita, 258–59

Notes to Pages 57–59


(3.4), 280–81 (3.8), 298–301 (3.12), 304–9 (3.13), and passim, 3.15ff. Chapters 4, 7, and 8 below are devoted to the artificial means. 44. See also Grosseteste, “De luce,” 14. e celestial bodies came into being when light returned toward the center of the cosmos. Returning inward, it gathered the Maer into the celestial bodies, forming also their spheres. Here for Grosseteste, the heavens and the celestial bodies have Form and Maer and are both material and corporeal. 45. For the effect of the Qualities in the media that they encounter, see Bacon, Multiplication of Species, 70–91 (1.5–6). For Bacon’s general principles, see n. 36 above. 46. Density also affects the refraction or reflection of Rays. See n. 49 below. But I describe only the simplest movement here. 47. Bacon, Multiplication of Species, 259 (6.2). See also ibid., 264–69 (6.4); and the broader commentary in Lindberg, introduction to Multiplication of Species, lxviii–lxix. For the same concept—that density preserves the Qualities (in this case in the eye)—in another author, see Pecham, Perspectiva communis, 112–15 (prop. 31[34]). 48. Albertus Magnus, De mineralibus, 137. What was considered a year varied by the celestial body. e movement of a single planet around the Earth was its year, while the return of all the planets to their original places at creation was a Great Year, estimated to be ten thousand or more years. Ficino (All ings Natural, 115), noting differences, estimates a Great Year at fi een thousand years. 49. Ficino, De vita, 308–9 (3.13), 322–23 (3.16). A second point regarding the movement of the Qualities relates to density. e Qualities are moving according to the mathematical laws of all rays. In other words, they move in a straight line as long as they are passing through a medium of the same density. When the density changes, the ray can be reflected or refracted, while a single perpendicular ray can enter the medium directly. Bacon, Multiplication of Species, 96–105 (2.2), 129 (2.5); and Lindberg, introduction to Multiplication of Species, lxiv. is law of radiation applies to Rays entering the Earth and the eyes. 50. See chapter 7 below. 51. Ficino, De vita, 332–33 (3.17). Ficino uses gis to mean the celestial properties or Qualities, but he may also mean the Spiritus that holds the Qualities. See also nn. 41, 43, above. 52. Ibid., 348–51 (3.20), 376–77 (3.24). 53. Ibid., 274–77 (3.7). Ficino refers here to election horoscopes for cities and buildings when he mentions the fixed stars and cities. is alludes to Pseudo-Ptolemy, Centiloquy no. 36 (on the horoscope of cities). See also my “Proposal for the Foundation Date,” 248–49. For more on the best sky when founding cities and buildings, see chapters 5 and 6 below. 54. For this concept in Ficino, see De vita, 372–73 (3.23). See also the preceding note. 55. Lindberg, Western Science, 315–18. For the base theory, see al-Kindi, De radiis stellarum. 56. On the power in earthly entities, see n. 15 above; and Grosseteste, “De luce,” 16: “e light in them is impure, weak, and far removed from the purity which it has in the first body.” 57. On the power of Rays to move through walls, see Bacon, Multiplication of Species, 129–31. For astronomically protective clothing, consult the handbooks s.v. “election.” For much more on the practice, see orndike, History of Magic and Experimental Science, indices. Astrological handbooks commonly include election rules to calculate horoscopes


Notes to Pages 60–62

for clothing as well as for cities and buildings. All three seem to have been considered a protective carapace for the individual. For the casual reference to these by Ficino, see De vita, 382–83 (3.25); and nn. 52–54 above. But cf. Ficino, Scrii sull’astrologia, 97. 58. See, e.g., Ficino, De vita, 320–21 (3.16): “As all astronomers confess, . . . all the rays of all the stars penetrate in a moment the mass of the earth.” See also Pecham, Perspectiva communis, 132–33 (prop. 1.51[54]). But not all astrologers would go this far. See North, “Celestial Influence,” 73. e Rays were also typically credited with the creation of gemstones within the Earth. 59. Ficino, De vita, 322–25 (3.16). For the distinction between the celestial power and any other, see also ibid., 290–91 (3.11). 60. Lindberg, eories of Vision, 58 (see also 8–10, 12–13, 58–59, 71, 79, 80, 84, 86, etc.). 61. Because visible Rays are observable, the mathematical analysis of radiation was developed by studying them. 62. At this point, I wish to keep my word choice with regard to Rays direction neutral. e controversy over Rays’ direction—the debate over intromission and extramission—is treated immediately below. 63. is theory is also referenced in magical texts such as the Arabic Picatrix. See “Picatrix”: Das Ziel des Weisen, ed. Rier and Plessner, 57–58: “Die Sinnesempfindung ist eine Veränderung in der Mischung der Qualitäten der Sinnesorgane, die durch die Berührung derselben mit den wahrgenommenen Gegenständen hervorgerufen wird. Die sinnliche Wahrnehmung besteht nun darin, dass den betreffenden empfindenden Krä en die Veränderung in den Qualitäten der [Sä e]mischungen der Sinnesorgane bewusst wird. So wirkt z.B. die Sehkra im Auge; sie hat ihren Platz innerhalb der beiden Pupillen in dem Organ der Augenha igkeit, d.h. der Linse; und ebenso ist es mit den übrigen Sinnen. Die sinnliche Wahrnehmung besteht also darin, dass diesen Krä en etwas bewusst wird und so durch sie Erkenntnis zustande kommt.” In the context of understanding a talisman’s efficacy, the author declares that sensory perception is caused by a change in the mixture of the Qualities of the sense organs. In the case of vision, this change comes about through contact with the observed objects. Once the perceptive faculty becomes aware of the change in the eyes, perception occurs. anks to my colleague Sinclair Bell and to Tobias Sperlich for help with this passage. For further ramifications, see chapters 7 and 8 below. 64. Pecham, Perspectiva communis, 108–9 (prop. 1.27). 65. Bacon, Opus majus, 1:164. 66. A discussion of these texts forms the basis of chapter 4 below. 67. Bacon, Multiplication of Species, 129–31; Ficino, De vita, 324–25 (3.16). 68. See Smith, Ptolemy and the Foundations, 28–30. As Smith points out, even Plato suggests both extramission and aspects of intromission (ibid., 3–6), as does Galen (ibid., 9–11). e traditions were already blended to some degree in the reporting of eophrastus, who had studied with both Plato and Aristotle. Ficino (Opera omnia, 2:1472–73) subscribes to the visual Ray tradition, which was, he claims, held by just about everybody: Platonists, Aristotelians, Stoics, and more. Lindberg (eories of Vision, passim) surveys the three main traditions of intromission, extramission, and the theory that combined both. ere were various theories as to how the Qualities returned to the eye among the Platonists, Galenists, and others. Ficino is not mentioned in Lindberg’s survey, but Ficino’s medical “father,” Galen, refers to pneuma. See Galen, Usefulness of the Parts, 2:501. is is comparable to Ficino’s visual Spiritus. Bacon and other Perspectivists followed a theory that was primarily intromissive but had an extramissive component according to which the visual Ray also participates in seeing. is dual radiation suggests why Ficino thinks

Notes to Pages 62–67


that there is widespread consensus. e visual Ray was also discussed East and West prior to our period. See Nelson, “Introduction: Descartes’s Cow and Other Domestications of the Visual”; and Hahn, “Visio Dei.” Visual Rays will be met again in chapters 4 and 8 below. 69. For the Stoic pneuma, see Galen, Usefulness of the Parts, 2:501. Bacon (Perspectiva, 86–93 [1.6.4]) contrasts the two different meanings of spiritual and Spiritus. Pecham (Perspectiva communis, 118–19 [prop. 33(36)]) concludes: “From there [inside the eye] the species is carried to the place of interior judgment by the way of spirits [Spiritus].” For the basic understanding of the physical power in a visual Ray, see Ficino, De vita, 324–25 (3.16). See also Ficino, Platonic eology, 3:112–13 (10.1), 4:62–63 (12.5). Kaske (introduction to De vita, 42–43) aptly reports on the concept Spiritus: “e notion is so pervasive as almost to constitute the work’s [De vita’s] real subject.” For Spiritus in Ficino, see Walker, Spiritual and Demonic Magic, 3–59, 75–84. 70. I refer here not to Ficino’s understanding of Aristotelians—those who “agree” with Platonists (see n. 68 above and chapter 7 below). is seems to be the intentio, one of the synonyms for Form. Aquinas, Commentary on Aristotle’s De anima, 551–63 (bk. 2). 71. Bacon, Opus majus, 1:164. 72. Ficino, De vita, 324–25 (3.16), where he includes several other physical consequences of glances. 73. Dante, La vita nuova, ii. For an extended study of Dante’s optics, see Gilson, eories of Light in the Works of Dante. For Augustine’s views, see Miles, “Vision.” Other authors also treated the theme. See, e.g., Leone Ebreo, Dialogues of Love, 164, 171–83. Chapter 8 below considers the issue in relation to frescoes.

Chapter 4 1. Rays into touch is a secondary consideration. Students of optics considered vision to be a kind of touch via Rays. 2. Ficino’s Platonic eology is devoted to this. See also Blum, “e Immortality of the Soul,” esp. 213–17. 3. Ficino destroyed his youthful commentaries on Lucretius, seemingly as part of a crisis of faith (Kristeller, “Per la biografia,” 202–3), but he is still flirting with a Lucretian concept here late in life. Compare Allen, Icastes, 192–93. 4. For Pelacani, see Federici-Vescovini, Astrologia e scienza, and Prospeiva medievale, 239–67. For the larger issues of heresy and university teaching, see Kessler, “e Intellective Soul.” Kessler (ibid., 486–88) calls Pelacani “the most highly esteemed Italian philosopher at the turn of the century,” a man on friendly terms with Coluccio Salutati and other early humanists. On this changing religiopolitical climate ca. 1489, see ibid., 493–95. 5. Ficino had reasons to worry. On his equivocations, see chapter 7 below. Beyond worry, however, Platonic writers o en concealed deeper concepts, as they believed Plato had. See Celenza, “e Revival of Platonic Philosophy,” 81. In this sense, Ficino may be forcing careful reading and analysis through his difficult style. is tendency to guard precious information from the ignorant was common to other scientists. See, e.g., Newman, Atoms and Alchemy, 74. For Ficino’s essential commitment to healing the body and the soul and his understanding that the physical and the metaphysical work together, see Celenza, “e Revival of Platonic Philosophy,” 81–84, 88–89, where this physical-metaphysical continuity is contrasted with that of post-Cartesian moderns who posit a mind-body dualism.


Notes to Pages 67–69

6. e commentaries were wrien ca. 1492 but expand on earlier work, including Ficino’s earlier translation of Synesius’s De insomniis. For the date, see Kristeller, introduction to Supplementum Ficinianum, cxxi. 7. Lindberg’s eories of Vision provides the basic survey, though his focus is the period ca. 1200–1600 CE. For a survey of the ancient period, see Smith, Ptolemy and the Foundations, 23–49, which provides a synopsis of the Atomists, Plato, and Galen—Ficino’s main sources on vision and Material images, a point that will be developed below. See also Federici-Vescovini, Prospeiva medievale; Smith, “Big Picture,” Ptolemy and the Foundations, Ptolemy’s eory of Visual Perception, and Smith’s commentary in Alhacen’s eory of Visual Perception; Alhazen, e Optics of Ibn al-Haytham, vol. 2 (Sabra’s commentary); Eastwood, e Elements of Vision; and Tachau, Vision and Certitude. Smith (“Big Picture,” esp. 571) explains that the process of vision begins with “establishment of physical contact between the sense organ and an external object, either immediately (as in touch) or mediately (as in sight).” He follows the sense data as that moves according to the (essentially) Aristotelian tradition through the media, the eye, and the mind. Chapter 3 above begins a discussion of the physicality of vision that continues here. For more on the lower intellect, which is shared with the animal kingdom, see also the discussion later in this chapter. 8. e distinctions in direction were not always clear-cut. Aristotle, a strict intromissionist, was commonly stated to validate extramission as well. See Lindberg, “Alhazen’s eory of Vision,” 321, 329. On Bacon’s amalgam of the two opposing traditions in the early modern period, see Lindberg, eories of Vision, 104, 112–16. On the combination of intromission and extramission by the mediaeval Perspectivists, see also Smith, Ptolemy’s eory of Visual Perception, 58–59. For the classic case, see Pecham, Perspectiva communis, 128–29 (prop. 46[49]). Ficino also notes the variety of theories among natural philosophers in his commentary on the Timaeus (Opera omnia, 2:1472–74) and is delighted to report how much these authors agree with each other (essentially all of them!). 9. For the Perspectivist tradition, which was Aristotelian at its core, see Smith, “Big Picture.” Smith’s thesis “that the ulterior concern of the perspectivists was epistemology” (ibid., 569) is one I adopt, although I take it in a Ficinian Neoplatonic direction in the text below. More details are given passim in this chapter. 10. Allen, Icastes, 184 n. 15 [see also 184]). I have capitalized Spirit to indicate it is the Spiritus. See also Ficino, Platonic eology, 4:60–63 (12.5): the eyes take in information, but the mind is required to judge the intake and complete the act of vision, the normal understanding for students of optics, as seen in chapter 1 above and throughout my text. anks to Raymond Heisler and David Mathers for help with Ficino’s passage. For the full passage quoted here, see Ficino, All ings Natural, 127–32 (however, Farndell’s translation misses the scientific implications that Allen’s catches). 11. e point in the medium where the two sets of Rays met was variously conceptualized. Generally, the Perspectivists considered this to be near the surface of the eye. But, in Ficino’s case, it seems that the meeting could occur anywhere in the medium, perhaps best visualized through this book’s frontispiece. Bacon distinguishes between several types of Rays, even those that seem to lose rectilinearity when traveling the twisting optic nerves. See Bacon, Multiplication of Species, 101–4, esp. 102–3 (“e fourth line along which a species sometimes comes is the twisting path”), and Opus maius, 4.2.1–2. On the Species or Ray moving through the optic nerves, see Lindberg, “Nature and Multiplication of Light,” 394: “for a species follows the tortuous path of the nerve and does not concern itself with rectilinear passage.” 12. Alberti, On Painting, 46 (1.5). Alberti describes the extramissive visual Ray precisely

Notes to Pages 69–71


but then states: “is truly difficult question, which is quite without value for our purposes, may here be set aside.” is comment has been interpreted erroneously to signify that Alberti considered the maer trivial. But see chapter 7 below. Alberti was learned in optics and means this literally—it is not relevant to the lesson. 13. Ficino, De vita, 322–23 (3.16). 14. Ficino, De vita, 290–91 (3.11). Ficino believed that the celestials were living bodies. On the shared nature of the fiery Spiritus, whether cosmic or personal, see chapter 3 above. 15. Ficino uses celestial gi/power/virtus/Quality synonymously throughout the text. As Kaske (introduction to De vita, 42–44) points out, he intends the medical Spiritus in almost all cases. For the play on visible and visual Rays in the context of the same analogy, see Ficino, De vita, 290–91 (3.11). For a related and supporting passage, see ibid., 296–97 (3.11). See also ibid., 254–55 (3.2), 298–301 (3.12), 322–23 (3.16), 330–31 (3.17), 360–61 (3.21), 376–77 (3.23). 16. Ficino, De vita, 248–49 (3.1). ese medical practices are advised throughout because this celestial intake is providing needed physical Qualities. See, e.g., ibid., 244–49 (3.1), 250–51 and 254–55 (3.2), 258–59 (3.4), 274–75 (3.6), 288–97 (3.11), all on the preparation of our Spiritus for the best reception of the celestial Rays in order to draw maximum benefit through the World-Spirit. e address to the reader that opens bk. 3 (ibid., 238–39) outlines the medical goals for the book and includes astronomical images intended for cures. Although Ficino is hesitant to claim a belief in these, I argue that his text in toto reveals his confidence in them. is is a point that I develop through chapters 7 and 8 below in addition to my remarks in this chapter. Besides the well-known description of astronomical images in De vita 3.19 (discussed at length in chapter 8 below), see also Ficino, Opera omnia, 2:1463. 17. See, among many sources on this synthesizing trajectory, Lindberg, introduction to Multiplication of Species, xxxiv, xlii, particularly on the confusion of authorship among texts. Writing in 1492, Nicoleo Vernia, a Paduan professor and philosopher, could identify Albert the Great as a Platonist. See Blum, “e Immortality of the Soul,” 217. For the multifaceted understanding of Aristotle and the ways in which Aristotelian science blended with ancient Atomism, see Newman, Atoms and Alchemy, 13, 20, 25, and passim. See also chapters 3 above and 7 below. ere were several parallels between the Aristotelian and the Neoplatonic understandings of the individual mind. Compare nn. 19 and 20 below. Kessler (“e Intellective Soul,” 492) cites lectures of 1460 delivered in Florence on the compatibility of the Aristotelian agent intellect and the Platonic theory of reminiscence. On Agostino Nifo’s synthesis of Aristotelian and Platonic concepts of the soul, noting his agreement with Ficino, see ibid., 496–500. On Pomponazzi’s version of the Neoplatonist synthesis, see ibid., 502–4. Pomponazzi, in Kessler’s words, considered that the human soul “acted materially in sense-perception and immaterially in intellection.” But he then defined the human soul as the “highest material Form, aaining in its most elevated operations something beyond materiality.” is in itself was not heretical, but Pomponazzi antagonized the religious authorities. See ibid., 504–7. e “Pomponazzi affair” described by Kessler indicates again how much Ficino had to fear in discussing such sensitive topics, even when not transgressing doctrine. 18. For distinctions and syntheses of Aristotelian and Platonic understandings in Italy on how the material and the immaterial could connect, see Kessler, “e Intellective Soul,” esp. 524–34. For the plurality of opinions on the organic and the immaterial souls, see Park, “e Organic Soul.”


Notes to Pages 71–72

19. Smith (“Big Picture”) provides an Aristotelian account; the Neoplatonic theory parallels it fairly closely. For Ficino, see n. 20 below. e basic Aristotelian process posited the arrival in the eyes of an image composed of the Qualities of color or color and light. is image passed through the optic nerves and entered the brain. e image there joined with other sense information. (What appeared to be a red sphere might now be joined with the tactile information that it was also so , hand sized, and round—a red rubber ball.) is enriched image then passed through the imagination, or the imagination and phantasy, where it was judged against existing images (or universals) in order to achieve recognition. Once it was satisfactorily recognized, it was stored in memory. If the eyes had absorbed too lile in a glance and more information was necessary, the eyes were sent back for further and deeper viewing. (On the differences between aspectus and intuitio as a Quarocento artist studies them, see Federici-Vescovini, “Fortuna di Alhazen in Italia.”) is repeat viewing brought in a sharpened image for the brain to reprocess. e new visual details might be used to identify a universal (“that is a bush, not a person lurking in that shadow”) or specific entities within a category, e.g., the particulars that would identify the universal of person, now with added information that could be used to recognize a particular person—one’s neighbor John. Aristotelians visualized different parts of the brain for the different brain functions, the lower back part of the brain being the memory storage area. Ficino considers this insufficient for the amazing virtues of memory. See Platonic eology, 4:180–81 (13.3). e brain’s existing images could be inborn (a frequently cited example—the newborn lamb saw a wolf and fled) or learned/acquired over a lifetime of experiences. See Bacon, Multiplication of Species, 25–27. 20. Apart from the commentaries discussed in the text, Ficino’s understanding of the process of sense to soul and on to the highest level of intellect can be found passim in Platonic eology, e.g., 2:234–35 (7.6): soul animates Spiritus and “perceives in it those things the body impressed in it.” For the basic relation of sense-imagination-phantasyunderstanding, see ibid., 2:262–73 (8.1), 296–97 (8.4). For Spiritus, the conductor of Qualities, see ibid., 3:56–67 (9.5), 102–3 (9.7), 163–73 (10.6), 4:60–63 (12.5), 6:104–11 (18.4), 128–29 (18.8). Blum (“e Immortality of the Soul,” esp. 214–15) examines Ficino’s progression from sense perception to imagination to phantasy (where the concepts of the phantasy are, according to Blum, “the bodiless intentions of bodies”) to intelligence in relation to physical Spiritus. He summarizes: “True abstract knowledge [for Ficino] ascends ‘to the divine idea,’ whereby the universals of Aristotelian terminology are understood as immaterial realities. . . . Ficino’s method is to appropriate Aristotelian epistemology into a Platonic framework that endows abstract notions with an ontological status of spiritual reality, which he spells out in his work through systems of hierarchies and inter-relationships between the various degrees of soul” (ibid., 215). 21. For magi as wise men (astrologers and medical doctors) who make astronomical images, see Ficino, De vita, 318–19 (3.15); and the Sophist commentary discussed immediately below. Allen (Allen, Icastes, 185–204) provides an interpretation of the Sophist passage. My interpretation is based on Allen’s, but I depart somewhat in developing the medical possibilities. For the general concept of talismans operating through the WorldSoul, see also Vasoli, “Le tradizioni magiche ed esoteriche,” esp. 149. 22. Ficino, Platonic eology, 4:134–35 (13.2). For examples of Ficino’s practice, see ibid., 4:134–43 (13.2). See also n. 34 below. 23. See also Ficino, Opera omnia, 2:1463, the Timaeus commentary no. 40 (no. 39 in some editions), where astronomical images catch celestial powers in material that is

Notes to Pages 72–76


watery or earthy: “Mio equidem nunc, quo modo vires imaginesque coelestium in rebus aquatilibus terrenisque deprehendantur. Hoc enim in libro de vita tertio satis diximus.” 24. Bacon seems to consider that the image is still a Ray image even inside the eye as well (see n. 11 above), as does Ficino in his discussion of vision quoted above in the text. 25. Ficino, Opera omnia, 2:1472–73 (emphasis added): “imagines vero naturalium Platonici quidam non solum radiales spiritualesque invenerunt sed materiales etiam, quales Democritus & Empedocles per poros corporum effluentes servantesque ad certum spacium, non solum qualitatem corporis sed figuram, & clam agentes in spiritum propinqui hominis & imaginationem, praecipue debilem & conformem. Actiones eiusmodi a magis praecipue depraehenduntur & observantur.” Compare Ficino, All ings Natural, 130 (but see n. 10 above). For the optical context, see nn. 9, 11, 19, 20 above. 26. at these images emerge materially is even clearer in Ficino’s Sophist commentary. 27. In both commentaries, Ficino at least appears to be unsure about the Material image theory itself. I take this uncertainty to be equivalent to his uncertainty about astronomical images, discussed in chapter 7 below—in other words, I think that this is a Platonic teaching strategy and/or a way in which to avoid trouble with the authorities. 28. Ficino, Icastes, 274–75 (with minor adjustments). On my division of this commentary into thirds, see below. is issue, the reality of Rays and the images they carry, takes up the middle third of the three-part commentary. 29. anks to Dylan Walsh for checking Ficino’s 1496 edition of the Sophist commentary, an edition Ficino oversaw. 30. Allen provides an interpretation of the metaphysical issues in Ficino’s commentary. See Allen, Icastes, 170–204. But, since I wish to test how far we can go with a physical explanation, I discuss the same text, eliminating daemons per se, and considering only the broader and positive implications of the daemonic. 31. Ficino focuses here on the reality of an image in the mirror, which is real because created of real Rays (cf. my discussion of the mirror image in chapter 3 above), and of invisible universal Rays explained through the radiating imago/copy extending from objects such as the hyena in the commentary (see Ficino, Icastes, 274–75). For the Rays in mirrors or in shadows (which the hyena utilizes), see Proclus, Commetaire sur la République, 2:98–100. 32. Cesariano made the image for a textual commentary on Vitruvius. See chapters 1 and 3 above. His discussion of the radiation alludes to the World-Soul, mathematical proportions, Idea, and other issues described here. Apart from the image that serves as this volume’s frontispiece, diagrams drawn into the margins of early optical texts by the Perspectivists—such as Pecham’s—also suggest this intersection and regrouping as the authors visualize incoming and outgoing Rays. 33. Ficino, Platonic eology, 2:234–35 (7.6), 296–97 (8.4), 344–47 (8.13), 3:60–65 (9.5), 204–7 (11.2), etc. 34. For Ficino’s understanding of a continuous scale from the divine to the material (and vice versa), whether for Species, Spiritus, Form, or whatever, see ibid., 3:204ff. (11.2), 214ff. (11.3), 6:104–7, 110–11 (18.4), among other places. 35. Ficino, Icastes, 274–76. In this passage, I interpolate Form for Species (since it is used synonymously as a partner with Maer). For Spiritus as the vaporous maer, see Ficino, Icastes, 270–73, where, in the first third of this commentary, Ficino describes the vaporous material of the soul as Spiritus in lower and higher grades. For the translation of Synesius’s De insomniis, see Ficino, Opera omnia, 2:1975–76 (“Vaticinium . . . ”), where much of the detail is found. Synesius believed that, during sleep, the highest level of the imagi-


Notes to Pages 77–83

nation could, if soundly formed, receive prophecies, while misguided prophecies and tricks of the imagination were reserved for those with weak and debilitated imaginations. Spiritus, both animate and phantasticus, as the conduit for information from the material world into the mind permeates Synesius’s text. For examples, see ibid., 1969, 1971, 1973, 1978. On Ficino’s translation and the editions of Synesius, see Kristeller, introduction to Supplementum Ficinianum, lxix, cxxxvii–xxxviii. 36. Ficino, Icastes, 275–77. 37. e open-and-closed-book analogy is puzzling to me, except in the “now you see it, now you don’t” world of hocus-pocus. But perhaps Ficino is thinking of the book’s pages fanning out until the cover title is no longer visible and then the pages fanning back in as the cover is closed and the title reappears. e material Rays emanating from the object’s surface are fanning out (the punctiform analysis discussed above) and are then caught and regrouped by the viewer’s visual Rays. ese visual Rays are now pulling the material Rays back into focus at the apex inside the eyes. ere, the book is “closed,” and the image is clear again? Compare the frontispiece. 38. Ficino, Icastes, 276–77. 39. See Ficino, Opera omnia, 2:1976 (Ficino’s translation of Synesius). 40. Ibid., 1970, 1971, 1976. 41. Ficino, De vita, 110–11 (1.2). In the beginning of the Sophist commentary no. 46, Ficino describes the soul as a three-part Spiritus. For personal Spiritus that is aethereal, see Ficino, De vita, 256–57 (3.3), 258–59 (3.4). For the soul and Spiritus working together and rising or falling together as the clarity of the Spiritus determines the clarity of the image/information that it carries, see Ficino, Opera omnia, 2:1971, 1976–1977, where Synesius is translated. 42. For Ficino, pagans can achieve this salvific knowledge and aain heaven. See the proem to bk. 3 of De vita. For a parallel understanding of the relation between physical and spiritual vision in the writing of Augustine, see Miles, “Vision,” esp. 140–42. 43. Dervishes still practice this form of dance meditation. 44. See the proem to bk. 3 of De vita. 45. Ficino, De vita, 332–33 (3.17). 46. e sense of touch used the elemental Spiritus as well, but this may be considered secondary in this, an art historical text.

Chapter 5 1. For the Roman ancestry, see, among others, Rykwert, e Idea of a Town, 29–31, 43. In more recent times, Mussolini took pains to found EUR in coordination with the astrological foundation of ancient Rome. 2. On the basic science, including the celestial effects on the elemental Qualities of hot, cold, moisture, and dryness, see Albertus Magnus, Nature of Place, 25, 31, 34–42. For the latitudinal relations of places to the Sun’s position and other basic scientific principles on the related elements and elemental Qualities, see Bacon, Opus majus, 1:154–57, 394–95. 3. For more on Albert the Great and Roger Bacon as astrological theorists, consult Rutkin, “Astrology, Natural Philosophy and the History of Science.” For the unique horizon, see the long quote from Albert in the paragraph immediately following. For Bacon, see Opus majus, 1:159, 308, 412. Vitruvius (Ten Books on Architecture, 115 [9.7]) refers to the horizon specifically in relation to an instrument used by “mathematicians,” i.e., astrologers within his context.

Notes to Pages 83–86


4. Albertus Magnus, Nature of Place, 47 (1.5). e passage continues: “Since therefore, from the motion of the horizon, it is necessary that the whole circle be changed, and from the change of the circle (horizon) the entire shape of the rays is changed, and also since any one point makes up one special center of the habitable horizon, it necessarily follows that any one point of habitation has special powers by which is formed that which is placed in itself. And this is the reason why nothing at all of things brought forth is found similar to another in all characteristics. . . . [N]eighboring places are sometimes of diverse and contrary powers. For this difference is not from the material because it is not the cause of the power and the form. erefore it is fiing that this difference be from a place formed from the figuration of the rays of the stars. And this is what Hermes says so very well in his book De virtutibus universalibus, that a ‘constellation is that which causes the power of the natures of those things which are poured forth on lower things, and it is their formative principle through the condition of elements which are instruments, so to speak, of heavenly powers’” (ibid., 47–48). 5. Ibid., 47–49 (1.5) (see also 94–95 [2.1], 97–98 [2.2]). Albert repeats these lessons on the varying celestial powers arriving at every point: “And no point has all the same powers as another. Any powers it has are changed continuously under the variation of the circle” (ibid., 94 [2.1]). “Moreover the variations of the position of the stars is a variation of the shape which the rays represent over the circle of the horizon. is is the cause of the variation of the powers of places and of those things which are generated in places” (ibid., 95 [2.1]). 6. Bacon, Opus majus, 1:208. On the habitability of the temperate zones, see ibid., 154–57. 7. Ibid., 208, 391–92. 8. Ibid., 159. For vision occurring via a cone or pyramid of radiation, see chapters 2, 3, and 4 above. Bacon repeats that the moment of generation is determinative over all things, except for the human soul. On the soul and free will, see ibid., 262, 264. On the celestial role in generation, see ibid., 307. On the unique relation between a point on the Earth and the celestial rays striking it at any given moment, see ibid., 308. Ibid., 412: “So is this true in regard to everything newly made, since it receives the force of the heavens at the beginning of its existence, and that force which it received at the beginning it never loses.” Ibid., 413: the strongest effect is on the entity coming into existence; over time the force is weakened. For more of this theme, see ibid., 395: “e complexions of all things are due to the heavens, and not only are regions diversified by the heavens, but things in the same region and parts of the same thing. . . . For owing to differences of horizon, as the separate points on the Earth’s surface are centers in new horizons, it is manifest that all things vary, as we noted above with regard to plants of different species, and with regard to the difference in twins in the same womb; because the vertices of different pyramids containing the forces of the stars and of the parts of the heavens above the heads of the inhabitants come to the individual points of the earth, so that complete diversity takes place in things.” 9. On deformities in towns that are politely le unnamed, see Alberti, e Art of Building in Ten Books, 1 (1.5). We might recognize some of these deformities as inherited traits, but Alberti aributed them to the unhealthy environment. 10. Albertus Magnus, Nature of Place, 27 (1.1) (see also 33 [1.2], 94 [2.1]). Because of this cosmic connectedness, moving to new locations had certain risks. 11. See Condivi, e Life of Michelangelo, 6–7. 12. Ptolemy introduces the third book by pointing out that the first two were devoted


Notes to Pages 86–90

to universal events and that the third and fourth will be devoted to the lives of individuals. See Tetrabiblos 3.1. 13. See, e.g., Cardano, Opera omnia, 5:176, 189, where Ptolemy’s stereotypes are continued. 14. For the quadrants and their explanations, see Ptolemy, Tetrabiblos 2.3. 15. City lists are common in astrological handbooks. See, e.g., Schoener, Opera mathematica, fol. ccxv; or Lilly, Christian Astrology, 95–101. 16. Ptolemy, Tetrabiblos, 160–61 (2.3). Planetary relationships were studied in relation to the region’s or city’s zodiacal sign. is zodiacal location indicated which regions and cities would be particularly affected (usually understood as blighted) by dramatic celestial events. For example, a solar eclipse in Leo would be of special concern for Rome since Leo and the Sun also ruled Rome. Astrological rules were further given for determining the duration of the event, the species (in our meaning of the term) that would be most affected in that region or city, and the harmful or (occasionally) beneficial nature of the event that could be predicted from the celestial configuration. ese events ranged from war and regime changes to earthquakes and floods, agricultural successes or failures, and the conditions for health or disease. 17. As noted in chapter 2 above, all the houses of heaven, and all that these foretold for that city, were calculated from that Ascendant. Comparing the lists of city signs (see n. 15 above) with published horoscopes such as those in Gaurico’s Tractatus astrologicus suggests that those signs were typically the Ascendant at its elected foundation. 18. See Gaurico, Tractatus astrologicus, fols. 9v–10 (for Venice), 12v (for Milan). For the ema mundi in late antiquity, see Firmicus Maternus, Mathesis 3.1. For a discussion of it in the early modern period, see North, Horoscopes and History, 164–69. For an example among architects, see Alberti, e Art of Building in Ten Books, 59 (1.13). 19. For an explanation of the basic horoscope diagram and its symbols, see chapter 2 above. 20. ere were two versions of Christ’s horoscope, the more common beginning with an Ascendant in Libra, which correlates with the ema mundi described here. An alternate favored by Muslim astrologers had the Ascendant in the adjacent sign of Virgo. e relation of a horoscope for Christ and the horoscope for the world may also have figured into religious foundations such as that for Saint Peter’s Basilica. See my “Foundation Horoscopes for St. Peter’s,” 731–34. 21. Sansovino, Venetia, fols. 203–203v (bk. 12). Sansovino comments on the great good fortune in linking the city’s birth with the feast day celebrating the beginning of the Savior’s life on Earth and at a time of day when the Sun was at its most splendid. See also Sanuto, I diarii, vol. 25, col. 321 (where March 25 is casually mentioned as the birthday of the city); Giustiniani, Rerum Venetarum, fol. aiiii (on the ceremony); and Sabellico, Rerum Venetarum, and Le historie vinitiane, fol. 6v. For more congratulatory remarks, see Gaurico, Tractatus astrologicus, fols. 9v–10; and Cardano, Opera omnia, 5:488. 22. See Cardano, Opera omnia, 5:489. See also Gaurico, Tractatus astrologicus, fol. 12v. 23. For spring, see Alberti, e Art of Building in Ten Books, 59 (2.13). See also the city horoscopes in Gaurico, Tractatus astrologicus, fols. 1–12v, where the most popular time is noon, with a second choice around sunrise. 24. Savonarola (Contra l’astrologia, fol. 31v) pointed out that such “corroboration” was misunderstood. It was human nature to find coincidences compelling while ignoring all the prophecies that did not materialize. 25. Pico della Mirandola (Disputationes, 2:309–13) and Savonarola (Contra l’astrologia,

Notes to Pages 90–93


fol. 26) mock the custom. Ficino (De vita, 276–77 [3.7]) assumes the relation of the stars to the founding of a city. 26. Compagni, Chronicle of Florence 1.1. For the continuation of this tradition, see Villani, De origine civitatis Florentie, 180–81 (7.1–3); and, into the later sixteenth century, Rubinstein, “Vasari’s Painting of the Foundation of Florence.” For the trenchant remark of Savonarola, see Contra l’astrologia, fol. 31. 27. For the tradition and the painting, see n. 26 above. For the temple and the sculpture of Mars, see Villani, Nuova cronica, 51 (1.2.5), 69 (1.2.23), 75 (1.3.7), 113 (1.4.1), 569 (2.9.39). While on the face of it this might seem simple image magic, I will examine in chapter 7 below a scientific understanding for the ways in which the Rays of the planet Mars were believed to be trapped in, and transmied out of, an artificial image. See also n. 28 below. 28. For Bologna’s astrological inclination toward Venus and the body, see Gaurico, Tractatus astrologicus, fol. 8r; and Cardano, Opera omnia, 5:489. For the sculpture of Venus, see Ghiberti, I commentarii, 108–9. Although Ghiberti reports that the Sienese aributed their loss in war to the prominent (idolatrous) position of Venus on their city fountain, if idolatry were their only concern, removal and destruction would have sufficed. Taking Venus, the planetary ruler of their Taurus, and burying her in Florentine soil is an astrological way of weakening, literally undermining, Florentine power in war, which depended on Florence’s Mars—always weakened by Venus. For a talisman astrologically made by Guido Bonao and then buried to protect Forlì, see Annales Forolivienses, 107. For many formulas for making and burying astrological sculpture, see the Picatrix, where the practice is described throughout. 29. Gaurico, Tractatus astrologicus, fols. 4v–5. ere were several reports, both ancient and early modern, that analyzed the foundation of Rome, the record of which was far from clear. On this, see Gra on and Swerdlow, “Technical Chronology and Astrological History,” esp. 457ff. 30. For Florence under Charlemagne, see Gaurico, Tractatus astrologicus, fol. 8v. ere was considerable interest in Florence’s birth and rebirth, and a fierce academic debate broke out in the late sixteenth century concerning the founding by the Roman triumvirs and the refounding under Charlemagne. See Rubinstein, “Vasari’s Painting of the Foundation of Florence.” 31. Cardano, Opera omnia, 5:489. 32. For a range of rectifications, see my “Foundation Horoscopes for St. Peter’s.” 33. Or, in the case of a birth, the wrong birth time had been inadvertently recorded or incorrectly discerned a er the fact. 34. On Alessandro and the Fortezza da Basso, see Hale, “e End of Florentine Liberty.” On the search for the ideal horoscope for the fortress, see ibid., 518–20. For an unusual act of patience on the part of Julius II as he awaited the correct sky, see Grassi, Le due spedizioni militari di Giulio II, 148–49. 35. For example, Cardano, Opera omnia, 5:489, on Milan. For a more detailed account of the alterations Cardano made, see my “Foundation Horoscopes for St. Peter’s,” 738–39. For ways to spot an original through rectified variations, see ibid., 734–41. 36. Apart from this in Albert, Roger Bacon, and Ptolemy, see, e.g., Bellanti, Defensio astrologiae, q. 14, art. 5. 37. Ptolemy, Tetrabiblos, 14–17 (1.2.7). 38. Ibid., 160–61 (2.3). For the acceptance of this notion, see Cardano, Opera omnia, 5:190, where Cardano comments on Ptolemy’s link of founder and city horoscope in this way.


Notes to Pages 93–97

39. Another suggested correlation between a city and its buildings was found in the popular Pseudo-Ptolemy, Centiloquy, 228 (no. 36): “In the foundation of cities, consider the fixed stars which may seem to contribute thereto; but in the erection of houses, observe the planets.” In this relation, the longer life of cities was connected to the immutable “fixed stars,” i.e., the constellations, while the shorter life expectancy of buildings linked them to the “moving stars,” the planets. See also Ficino, De vita, 276–77 (3.7). It is apparently for this reason that the zodiacal constellation at the ascending point was more important for a city than a configuration of planets; and, where the city’s “planet” is mentioned, as Compagni does, it is in relation, not to the planet as a moving celestial body, but rather to Mars’s astrological rule over the constellation Aries. 40. Bonincontri, Tractatus electionum, fol. M2r: “Cognita nativitate, incipe opera tua ea hora, qua illud signum ascendit, quod in nativitate ascendebat.” For Bonincontri’s connections with the art patrons of chapter 8 below, see Ficino, Opera omnia, 1:750, 760, 787; and Soldati, La poesia astrologica, 118, 129.

Chapter 6 1. For the general advice to architects on this point, see Vitruvius, Ten Books on Architecture, 23–24 (1.1); and Alberti, De re aedificatoria, esp. 1.3–7. 2. e 1521 edition was translated by Cesariano. I use a diagram from that translation as my frontispiece. e tenth book is devoted to machinery. For examples of the concepts that are more astronomical but include his astrological assumptions, see Vitruvius, Ten Books on Architecture, 23–24 (1.1), 25 (1.2), 26 (1.4), and 29 (1.6). e effects of the heavens on the Earth’s elemental Qualities and how these affect the site, winds, air quality, building materials, and water are developed further in ibid., 35 (2.1–2), 37 (2.5), 39 (2.8), 34–45 (2.9), and 96–101 (preface to 8.3). Vitruvius relates the environmental issues more particularly to the physical and psychological characteristics of the people in ibid., 76–78 (6.1). For bk. 9, see nn. 4–5 below. 3. Vitruvius, Ten Books on Architecture, 103 (8.3). 4. Ibid., 115 (9.6–7) (see also 47 [3.1], 69 [5.6]). 5. Ibid., 111 (9.1–2), 115 (9.6). 6. For Alberti’s astronomical and astrological expertise, see Gra on, Leon Baista Alberti, 79, 84, 206–7, 243–44. e selection of a site is a focus of On the Art of Building in Ten Books 1.2–7, although additional concerns surface throughout the text. 7. Alberti, e Art of Building in Ten Books, 10–11 (1.3). Alberti’s primary focus is on the mountains, waters, and other natural features that affect the climate and air movement. ese issues were also considered variables by Albert the Great and Roger Bacon, though a er a thorough exploration of the cosmic effects. Alberti reverses the emphasis. 8. Ibid., 18 (1.6). For the Latin, see Alberti, L’architeura/De re aedificatoria, 1:49–50: “Auspiciis item et servato caelo regionis futuram fortunam indagasse prudentis et bene consulti esse affirmant. Quas ego artes, modo cum religione conveniant, minime aspernandas duco. Quis id negabit, quicquid id ipsum sit, quod fortunam nuncupant, in rebus hominum valere plurimum?” 9. Alberti, e Art of Building in Ten Books, 59–60 (2.13). For the Latin, see Alberti, L’architeura/De re aedificatoria, 1:167: “At sunt qui admonent bonis initiis inchoandam esse aedificationem: permaximi quidem interesse, quo quidque temporis momento in rerum praesentium numero esse occeperit. Lutius Tarutius urbis Romae natalem diem

Notes to Pages 98–99


adinvenisse fortunae successibus annotatis praedicatur; tantamque habere vim ad res futuras ipsum hoc initii momentum putarunt sapientissimi veteres, ut fuisse Iulius Firmicus Maternus referat, qui mundi genituram ex rerum eventibus compertam fecerint, ac de ea re accuratissime scripserint.” e text then provides the planetary positions within the zodiac for this well-known horoscope (see fig. 8 above). 10. Alberti, e Art of Building in Ten Books, 59 (2.13). For the Latin, see Alberti, L’architeura/De re aedificatoria, 1:167, 169: “Ego vero, etsi istius disciplinae professoribus et temporum observatoribus non tantum tribuam, ut eos existimem suis posse artibus certam praestare fortunam rebus, non tamen est ut aspernandos ducam, si quando disputent praescripta istiusmodi tempora monente caelo utranque in partem posse quam plurimum. Sed uti ea sese habeat res, servasse quae admonent, aut plurimum proderunt, si vera sunt, aut minimum nocebunt, si erunt falsa.” 11. For his report on other ancient city foundations that were not astrological in nature, see Alberti, e Art of Building in Ten Books, 100–103 (4.3). 12. For the criticism of Pico della Mirandola and Savonarola, both of whom refer to earlier religious edicts against foundation horoscopes and the astrological selection of building materials, see Pico, Disputationes, 1:92–93; and Savonarola, Contra l’astrologia, fols. 7v, 25/Contro gli astrologi, 49–50, 101. 13. On when to cut lumber, a point that Alberti ties to the Moon and the cuing of hair and nails, the laer frequently found as subjects for elected skies in astrological handbooks, see e Art of Building in Ten Books, 39–40 (2.4). For the Sun’s generation of stones, see ibid., 47 (2.8). 14. For example, Ficino, De vita, 340–43 (3.18), 380–81 (3.25), 394–95 (apologia). Ficino admired Alberti. See chapter 7 below. 15. Filarete was an important Renaissance architect. Having trained in Florence, he took his talents to Rome, then Venice, finally seling in Milan from ca. 1454 to ca. 1469. ere, he le his mark on the city that was to become the architectural grammar school for Bramante, Leonardo, and others in the last decades of the fi eenth century. ere are translation issues cited in the notes on the date and time of day. In general, I use Spencer’s translation—Filarete, Treatise on Architecture—for all English cites and Finoli and Grassi’s edition—Filarete, Traato di architeura—for the Italian. But, for textual variants, see Oeingen’s edition—Filarete, Tractat über die Baukunst. For more on Filarete’s astrological interests, see Filarete, Treatise on Architecture, 1:22 n. 14, and Trattato di architeura, 1:101 n. 1. Spencer (Filarete, Treatise on Architecture, 1:5 n. 6) points out that Filarete read Latin and had access to both Vitruvius’s and Alberti’s treatises. Filarete (Treatise on Architecture, 1:5) notes that he is writing in Italian since those who are learned can read Vitruvius and Alberti. ough his treatise was dubbed “probably useless” by Vasari (Vite, 3:245–46), Vasari is notoriously jealous of any practicing artist who also engaged in literary works. For other examples, see his remarks on Alberti and Ghiberti in his lives of them. For the virtues of Filarete’s treatise, see Giordano, “On Filarete’s Libro architeonico.” 16. For the similarities between a person and a building, see Filarete, Treatise on Architecture, 1:8–15. For the astrological principles that affect both, see ibid., 14. On the celestial influences at the time of the foundation, see Filarete, Traato di architeura, 1:55: “Quando la fonderemo, allora ti dirò soo che clima, e pianeto, e punto, e ora, e tuo quello che sarà mestiere intendere, tue le proprietà.” I quote the Italian here because Spencer mistook the astrological foundation involving planetary positions at a given time—fonderemo, “to found”—and mistranslated it as to find.


Notes to Pages 100–104

17. For bibliography, see Filarete, Treatise on Architecture, 1:43, and Traato di architettura, 1:102. 18. Filarete, Treatise on Architecture, 1:22 n. 14, and Traato di architeura, 1:101 n. 1. On astrologers in the Sforza court, see Beltrami, Il castello di Milano, 99–102. Beltrami (ibid., 101–2) reports Francesco’s concern that his captain enter a fortress in correlation with the movements of the Moon. Military architects of this period were understandably especially sensitive to a proper cosmic foundation and to astrological portents of all types. Apart from the example of Alessandro and the fortress of Florence noted in chapter 5 above, see, for a typical treatise example, Taccola, De machinis, 2:180. For a source wrien about a century a er Filarete’s Treatise, claiming Sforza’s devotion to religion and indifference to astrology, see Giovanni da Simonea, Sfortiade, fol. 436v. 19. For these three, see Cardano, Opera omnia, 5:482; and Giuntini, Speculum astrologiae, fol. 298r. For Sforza’s courtier, see Cribello, De vita . . . Sfortiae, 19, col. 638. 20. For the starting points of the day, see my “Astrological Vault,” 100 n. 48, and “TimeTelling Conventions,” 57–61. For the particular customs in Milan, see Cappelli, Cronologia, 13. 21. According to Cribello, Francesco was born in the territory of Florence, at Miniato, “decimo Kalendas Sextiles die Saturni sub occasum solis, quae fuit vigilia dicata Divis Jacobo et Christophoro, iis erat festus dies Lunae, solari die intercedente” (De vita . . . Sfortiae, 19, col. 638). Sunset may be an approximation in a birth horoscope since some rectification was accepted and even encouraged, given the imprecise ways in which the actual birth time might have been calculated. A time around sunset seems both to be genuine and to leave a bit of room for the later adjustments common to astrological practice. See Angelus, Astrolabium planum, directions for pt. 3 (how to derive a precise time from a general birth time). 22. See Regiomontanus, Calendario, sheets for the month of July, giving the dates both in the ancient Roman form (calends, ides) and in the feast-day form; and also Cappelli, Cronologia, 60–61. ese sources agree with a date of Saturday, July 23, at sundown. anks to my colleague Sinclair Bell for checking ancient variants. 23. For the evidence of Giuntini and Cardano, see n. 19 above. 24. See Spencer, “La datazione del traato del Filarete.” For differing opinions, see Filarete, Traato di architeura, 1:101–2 and notes. For the translation problems, see nn. 15 and 16 above, 28 and 30 below. 25. For the various starting points of the Italian day, see n. 20 above. 26. Ptolemy, Tetrabiblos 2.3. 27. On this dilemma, see Bellanti, Defensio astrologiae, q. 14, art. 5. See also Bonincontri, Tractatus electionum, fol. M4r; and Filarete, Treatise on Architecture, 1:43–47. e same problem existed for the birth of a person. What was the right moment? See my “Astrological Vault,” 101, esp. nn. 55, 57. See also Ficino, Scrii sull’astrologia, 140–43. 28. Filarete, Treatise on Architecture, 1:43–44 (for the ceremony, see ibid., 43–47). For the Italian, see Filarete, Traato di architeura, 1:101–2: “Il buon dì e ‘lbuon punto si è in questo millesimo del sessanta, a dì quindici d’aprile a ore dieci e minuti ventuno sarà utile, per edificazione della cià, a meere giuso la prima pietra, però che in quello punto sarà ascendente un segno fisso terreo levando il Sole, el signore dell’ascendente, e Venus, la fortuna, in segno fisso terreo: l’una in segno fisso e ‘lsignore dell’ascendente aventurato, perciò che è in casa sua e in l’ascendente. La Luna in quel medesimo punto sarà in mezzo al cielo recevuta di casa di Saturno, la quale ha gran virtù nella edificazione della cià aventurata per aspeo trino di Giove di fortuna maggiore; Saturno in casa

Notes to Pages 104–111


propria fortunato in quel medesimo punto nella decima casa collocato e signore della casa della Luna; la parte della fortuna nella decima casa in aspeo di compiuta amicizia, cioè in aspeo trino di Giove. Per tue le cose sopradee si conchiude il punto soprascrio, dì e ore, essere utile ed eleo per principio della edificazione della dea cià.” (For translation details, see nn. 15–16 above and 30 below.) Compare Filarete, Tractat über die Baukunst, 695 n. 7. 29. For orbs of influence, see chapter 2 above. e Moon and the Lot of Fortune are in conjunction at approximately 9° Aquarius. e beneficent Jupiter is around 24° of Libra. is puts Jupiter about 106° away from the two. However, once Jupiter’s 9° orb is added as well as the 12° orb of the Moon, the planets are in the aspect of trine. 30. If we take Spencer’s translation as it is, it would result in the foundation ceremonies occurring on Easter Sunday, but the day described is the Tuesday a er Easter. Easter was too sacred a feast for any kind of foundation and is explicitly forbidden even for the foundation of church buildings. But, if we consider that 1460 was a leap year (Cappelli, Cronologia, 80), and if we look at the text in Filarete, Tractat über die Baukunst, 137, what Spencer took to mean “Monday” is, not lunedi, but l’un di. See also n. 16 above. 31. Filarete, Traato di architeura, 1:107–8. 32. Midmorning, or the middle of the third hour, is a movable time, but these signs at the four cardines would have been the same for about the next hour and a half. On the relation between the ema mundi, the horoscope of Christ, and Julius II, see my “Foundation Horoscopes for St. Peter’s,” 731–41. 33. See Hale, “e End of Florentine Liberty,” 516, where it is reported that Alessandro de’ Medici employed three thousand workers at a time. 34. Filarete, Treatise on Architecture, 1:47. For the Italian, see Filarete, Traato di architeura, 1:109–10: “E faa collezzione e preparato tuo quello che faceva di bisogno, e anche secondo che disse il valentissimo astrologo, il quale era alla presenza, che in quella ora era oima e buona a collocare e a murare la prima pietra, e così presa la pietra il mio Signore insieme col sacerdote e collocata in fondo.” 35. ere was also a much less common timing that began at sunrise. See n. 20 above. But 10:21 from sunrise would put the final ceremony around 3:30 p.m. Apart from being an infrequent starting time, this would have pinched the repast and the time for the digging. In addition, this time lacks the correlation with Francesco’s birth horoscope, while 10:21 p.m. aligns with Ptolemy’s relation between ruler and city. Bonincontri (Tractatus electionum, fol. M4r) points to the astrological priority of the foundation stone over the trench excavation. 36. See my “Foundation Horoscopes for St. Peter’s,” esp. 731–34. 37. Ibid., 723–26. e birthday of the basilica was also close to the ritual birthday of Rome. In the Renaissance, that birthday was not firmly fixed and can be found celebrated on April 20, 21, or 22. As Gra on and Swerdlow (“Technical Chronology and Astrological History”) point out, the date and planetary positions were confused in the ancient sources. is may have continued to confuse Renaissance humanists, making Rome’s birthday a slightly movable feast. 38. My “Foundation Horoscopes for St. Peter’s,” 724–26. 39. For the evidence that the original horoscope had a time around 10:00 a.m. just as Conti described, see ibid., 726–31. For the many irregularities within Gaurico’s rectified horoscope, see ibid., 718–23. 40. Burchard, Liber ordinis pontificalis, esp. fols. 92v–96v. Burchard was one of Julius II’s masters of ceremony. e text can be consulted at the Newberry Library, Chicago.


Notes to Pages 111–119

41. For a fuller discussion of the links between the 10:00 a.m. horoscope and those of Christ and the ema mundi, see my “Foundation Horoscopes for St. Peter’s,” 731–34. 42. On the rationale for finding a birth date and time if the actual birth time was unknown, as was the case with Julius’s, see ibid., 734–40, esp. 739–40. 43. is third case is summarized from evidence presented in my “Astrological Vault” and esp. my “Proposal for the Foundation Date.” See my related “Time-Telling Conventions.” e birth date derived from the iconography of the paintings in my “Astrological Vault” was independently confirmed by the discovery of Chigi’s baptismal document in the Sienese archives. See Rowland, “e Birth Date of Agostino Chigi.” 44. For the full poem, see my edition and translation, “Aegidius Gallus, De viridario Augustini Chigii.” For the planetary positions for this date, see my “Proposal for the Foundation Date,” 245–50. For poetic license on the part of Aegidius, see ibid., nn. 4, 6, 8–10. 45. For this horoscope of Rome, see my “Proposal for the Foundation Date,” 248 n. 13; and fig. 6 above. 46. See Gaurico, Tractatus astrologicus, fol. 5. In Rome’s, 15° Leo is the Ascendant. e exact correlation of 20° Leo in Chigi’s birth chart and in that of the villa at high noon took priority. 47. Vasari, Vite, 4:318: “non murato ma veramente nato.” See Vasari’s summation of the villa’s astrological vault in chapter 8 below. In addition, the villa and its gardens were built over an ancient Roman villa, making it seem even more a natural birth from the soil. Frommel, ed., La Villa Farnesina, 2:256–91. 48. For Chigi’s brother Sigismondo, see Frommel, Palastbau, 2:164–65.

Chapter 7 1. In 1503, Agostino Nifo, the humanist and later favorite of Leo X, could write, certainly with hyperbole, that the science was commonly taught in the universities and that he had seen “an infinity of books” on the subject. Zambelli, “Agostino Nifo,” 142. e practice seems to have been widespread, for it is reported in positive and negative sources. Institoris and Sprenger (Malleus maleficarum, 1:69–70, 91–111) take up the distinctions between images working with natural forces such as the celestial bodies and those requiring the assistance of demons. For sources critical of the practice, see Savonarola, Contra l’astrologia, fols. 32v–33/Contro gli astrologi, 122–23, where the faithful are urged to flee these evils. See also Reisch, Margarita philosophica 7.2.20. Positive references to the practice are common in astrological handbooks. See, e.g., Albertus Magnus, Speculum astronomiae, which provides a list of authors (for more on this, see n. 32 below). Ficino’s interest is part of the widespread use in medical circles. For a rich transnational survey, see Weill-Parot, Les “images astrologiques.” For a focus on Italian authors, see also Vasoli, “Le tradizioni magiche ed esoteriche,” 143. For authoritative works in addition to Pseudo-Ptolemy’s Centiloquy, see abit, e Astronomical Works; and the Picatrix (although many nonastronomical images are included). For the changing fortunes of the Picatrix in early modern Italy, see Perrone Compagni, “La magia cerimoniale del Picatrix.” Pingree’s “e Diffusion of Arabic Magical Texts” provides an important expansion on types of images and texts available. abit and the Picatrix are relatively primitive in comparison with the more elegant formulation of either the Centiloquy or Ficino’s De vita, which I discuss in detail. In abit, the Picatrix, and the additional traditions regarding seals and stones described by Pingree, it is not uncommon for an astrological figure (the main interest of my study) to be missing

Notes to Pages 120–122


altogether, and there is far more concentration on magical practices involving incantations, incensing, and the like. Ficino does include some of this type of practice in De vita 3.20ff. In spite of his belief in daemons—from good angels to bad—I isolate the logic of the nondemonic aspects of his text and flee his demonic. See also chapter 4; nn. 2–3, 10, 62 below; and chapter 8 below. 2. See Ficino, De vita, 316–19 (3.15), 336–37 (3.18). See also Albertus Magnus, Speculum astronomiae, 222–23. e distinctions between the wise man (magus) and the magician are finely drawn in this period. e bibliography on magic is beyond my scope, but for Renaissance Italy one might start with orndike, A History of Magic and Experimental Science; Copenhaver, “Hermes Trismegistus,” “How to Do Magic, and Why,” “Iamblichus, Synesius and the Chaldaean Oracles,” “Natural Magic, Hermetism, and Occultism,” and “Scholastic Philosophy and Renaissance Magic”; Zambelli, White Magic, Black Magic; Perrone Compagni, “La magia cerimoniale del Picatrix”; and Vasoli, “La polemica contro l’astrologia,” and “Le tradizioni magiche ed esoteriche.” Borchardt’s “e Magus” is interesting for the networking by intellectuals trying to understand the natural causes as well as the secrecy required in the endeavor. 3. Aquinas (De occultis operibus naturae, 22 [par. 5]) made his opinion on this clear within a long discussion of Form and Maer. e images did work, but not by natural means: “Necromantic images have effects which do not issue from forms they may have received, but from demons who are active in the images.” I use demon here rather than the neutral daemon because Aquinas and others intend us to understand the fallen angels, also created by God, but enemies of the Creator. For a more complex understanding of daemons, see Kaske, introduction to De vita, 55–70. In this chapter, I am interested in testing whether Ficino’s argument regarding the efficacy of an artificial figure can be made without the intervention of demons, a test that, I believe, he passes. See also nn. 10, 62, below, and chapter 8 below. 4. For this standard concept, see, e.g., Reisch, Margarita philosophica 7.2.20. 5. e drawing could represent the whole heavens or any part of it—a constellation, a part of a constellation such as a decan, a single star, a single planet, or even one of the dark but radiating sectors of the sky. For this last, see Pecham, Perspectiva communis, 108–9 (prop. 1.27); and Ficino, De vita 3.18. Decans, the various Lots, the nodes of the Moon—all would have been understood as nonvisible yet powerfully radiating parts of the heavens. Because more than the celestial bodies (stars, planets) had influences, I use the term celestials to include the regions as well. 6. For a survey of types of images believed to have powers, see Freedberg, e Power of Images. To take another example, Donatello’s biblical Judith was considered to have been erected under an evil star, thus bringing trouble on Florence—an example of a nonastronomical figure nevertheless influenced by celestial radiation at its birth. Seymour, Michelangelo’s David, 144–45. 7. For the relations of Form, Maer, and celestial Rays, see chapters 3 and 4 above. Any scientist would have agreed that celestial Rays influenced/altered the Form of both natural and artificial things. For example, the Rays of the Sun could change the color of fabrics or paper. But some scientists went further: thus this chapter. 8. Pseudo-Ptolemy, Centiloquy, 154. In his commentary on this passage, the Renaissance humanist Giovanni Pontano considered its technical meaning—astrologers would take advantage of the celestial rays working with the Qualities of the material, and, therefore, they were careful to elect the best sky, i.e., a sky with the optimal Qualities flowing in for the image making. See Pseudo-Ptolemy, Centum Ptolemaei sententiae, fols. 18v–20v


Notes to Pages 122–123

(Pontano’s commentary): “In generatione atque corruptione formae afficiuntur à coelestibus formis. Idcirco qui imagines faciunt, iis utuntur, cum eò stellae ingressae fuerint observantes.” Weill-Parot (Les “images astrologiques,” 80–83) describes a slightly different medieval version of Centiloquy no. 9 with a commentary by Haly. For images that radiate their Form, see al-Kindi, De radiis stellarum, chaps. 7–8. For my discussion of types of radiation, see chapter 3 above. 9. On the popularity of the De vita, see Kaske, introduction to De vita, 3. For its influence, see, among others, Vasoli, “La polemica contro l’astrologia,” esp. 380–85. For discussions of whether this is Ficino’s opinion or whether he is only reporting the dangerous opinions of astrologers, see n. 10 below. For Ficino on astronomical images, see Gombrich, “Icones symbolicae,” 172–75. Walker (Spiritual and Demonic Magic, 40–44) pointed to Ficino’s sources for images in Plotinus and in Aquinas. Ficino’s science was further explored in Garin, “Le ‘Elezioni,’” esp. 19–29, and L’età nuova, 425–40. See also Garin, Lo zodiaco della vita, 72–77. Yates (Giordano Bruno, 64–69, 74–77) points to the painted vault of De vita 3.19 as an efficacious image. See also Zanier, La medicina astrologica. Copenhaver (“Scholastic Philosophy and Renaissance Magic,” 523–54) has provided a detailed analysis of both the Plotinus and the Aquinas sources. See also Weill-Parot, Les “images astrologiques,” 639–75. 10. Ficino’s confidence in astrology has been weighed by scholars. Some have considered the larger question of his confidence in astrology in general, others his confidence in astronomical images more particularly. For examples, see Kristeller, e Philosophy of Marsilio Ficino, 310–12; Walker, Spiritual and Demonic Magic, 53, and “Ficino and Astrology”; Zanier, La medicina astrologica, 58–59; and Kaske, “Ficino’s Shi ing Aitude,” and introduction to De vita, 55–70. When Ficino’s retractions and hesitations are taken out of context, they sound convincing, but, when read within the context of the De vita as a whole, they seem motivated by self-preservation. On Ficino’s concerns about daemons, see Kaske, introduction to De vita, 55–70. Ficino considers two kinds of agency in the images, nature and daemons. I trace only the argument of nature. 11. Ficino, De vita, 394–95 (apologia). 12. In the end, his personal aitude, or changing aitudes, is less important for our purposes than the explanation Ficino set out on astronomical images. In spite of the fact that he refers to the explanation as that of “the astrologers,” I will refer to the argument of bk. 3 of De vita as Ficino’s, rather than use the more cumbersome formulation Ficino’s or the astrologers’. Over the course of bk. 3, Ficino reveals the theory. I suspect that he created its most elegant features. 13. is is similar to the literary technique of dispersa intentio discussed by Newman (review of De occulta philosophia) and Perrone Compagni (“La magia cerimoniale del Picatrix”) in alchemical texts. See Celenza, “e Revival of Platonic Philosophy,” 81. In his commentary on the Sophist, Ficino notes the importance in the Platonic tradition of concealing the most important truths. See Ficino, Icastes, 248–49. For a similar point in another of Ficino’s favorite authors, see Synesius, Opuscules, 267–68. 14. Ficino, De vita, 340–43 (3.18). e details of 3.18 were inspired by the Picatrix, a work that Ficino possessed. See Kaske, introduction to De vita, 45. 15. Ficino, De vita, 340–41 (3.18). For Pseudo-Ptolemy’s Centiloquy no. 9, abit, and Albert, see nn. 1, 8, above. 16. Ficino, De vita, 342–43 (3.18). For the hammering that produces heat, see ibid., 342–43 (3.18). e same point had been made at ibid., 326–27 (3.16), on the commencement of the figure generating heat. Heat is mentioned again. See ibid., 332–33 (3.17).

Notes to Page 124


17. Aquinas was, at least according to learned gossip, a long-standing concern for Ficino. Ficino had supposedly been ordered to focus more on Aquinas than on pagan authors. See Kristeller, “Per la biografia,” 201; Marcel, Marsile Ficin, 204–11; and Hankins, Plato in the Italian Renaissance, 1:279–80. See comparisons of Aquinas and Ficino in Ficino, De vita, 444–46n, 449–50n; and Walker, Spiritual and Demonic Magic, 42–44, citing Aquinas’s major works, such as the Summa contra Gentiles 3.104–6, the Summa theologica 2da 2dae, q. 96, art. ii, and the De occultis operibus naturae. Walker (Spiritual and Demonic Magic, 43–44) pointed to Cardinal Cajetan and the “possible line of defense” provided by Aquinas. Copenhaver’s “Scholastic Philosophy and Renaissance Magic” provides an examination of Aquinas’s influence on Ficino in understanding the efficacy of the astronomical image, focusing also on the concept that the figure had “quasi substantial Form.” More recently, in “How to Do Magic, and Why,” 160, Copenhaver also suggested that Ficino might have made more of the opening that Aquinas provided. Weill-Parot notes that Ficino used Aquinas (Les “images astrologiques,” 656) and finds the ending to 3.18 strange because Ficino has become “more orthodox than the orthodox, more scholastic than the scholastics themselves” (ibid., 658). He studied later commentators on Aquinas and images (ibid., 248–59). Among these, Cajetan, made a cardinal by Leo X, used De fato as a support for images. Leo would have liked that. On Leo’s Pontefici vault fresco, see chapter 8 below. On Cajetan and Aquinas, see also Campanella, Opuscoli, 166–67. For a key text by Aquinas on this issue, see Aquinas, De occultis operibus naturae. For an analysis of Aquinas’s sources and intellectual context, see McAllister, e Leer of Saint omas Aquinas, 1–19, 31–190. McAllister did not, however, discuss the last lines of Aquinas’s Summa contra Gentiles 3.105.12, which had not come under such close scrutiny in 1939. 18. For what is known of the anonymous accusers, see Kaske, introduction to De vita, 55–57. Some of Ficino’s hesitancy in 3.18, beyond the apprehension for personal safety, may also have had another source. Aquinas has much to say about such image practice that is very negative. But Ficino, a medical doctor as well as a priest, believed that such images had health benefits for patients. It is in this context that he discusses astronomical images. For cures, see De vita, 236–41 (proem to bk. 3), 380–83 (3.25), and passim. e issue of astronomical images thus may in a sense have pied Ficino against himself—the priest against the doctor. As a priest, he must have been uncomfortable challenging a great theologian like Aquinas, but his duty to God was, ultimately, to the truth, especially one that he believed could medically help others. He seems to believe that the images work according to nature and, thus, should be known. It was natural for him, as a medical doctor and a priest, to look for a seamless continuity between the physical and the metaphysical. Celenza, “Late Antiquity and Florentine Platonism,” and “Pythagoras in the Renaissance.” Celenza (“Late Antiquity and Florentine Platonism,” 71–73, 94) points out that heterodoxy was common in this period. 19. For Ficino’s use of Plotinus, see the statement in De vita, 232–33 (2.20). See also Kristeller, introduction to Supplementum Ficinianum, xii, lxxxiv (on Ficino’s use of Plotinus, Enneads 4.3.11); and Walker, Spiritual and Demonic Magic, 3, 30–42. Garin (“Le ‘Elezioni,’” 425–37) provided the basic description of Ficino’s use of Plotinus’s philosophy from the metaphysical Idea to the physical Spiritus. See also Zanier, La medicina astrologica, 6, 24, 30–31. Further evaluations of later Platonic theory were provided in Copenhaver, “Renaissance Magic and Neoplatonic Philosophy,” “Iamblichus, Synesius and the Chaldaean Oracles,” and “e Question of a Philosophy of Magic.” See also Kaske, introduction to De vita, 38–55.


Notes to Pages 124–127

20. For the comparisons of Aquinas’s texts with Ficino’s by McAllister and Kaske, see n. 17 above. 21. Garin, Walker, Copenhaver, Weill-Parot, and others have studied this. For basic bibliography, see n. 19 above. 22. Aquinas, Summa contra Gentiles 3.105.7: “Now, shape is the principle of neither action nor passion; if it were, mathematical bodies would be active and passive. Hence, it is not possible to dispose maer by special figures so that it will be receptive to a natural effect.” Aquinas continues to consider this artificial astronomical figure as a “mathematical object” incapable of participating in nature and, therefore, incapable of making the material receptive to celestial influences (ibid., 3.105.8). 23. Pseudo-Aquinas, De fato, iv–v. e De fato was considered a genuine work of Aquinas’s in this era. It has also been aributed to Albert the Great. See Weill-Parot, Les “images astrologiques,” 269–70. See also Aquinas, Summa contra Gentiles 3.105, Summa theologica 2da 2dae, q. 96, art. ii, and De occultis operibus naturae. I discuss the laer in more detail below. 24. Ficino, De vita, 380–83 (3.25). On later, different interpretations of Aquinas’s passage, see n. 17 above. 25. Pseudo-Aquinas, De fato, 462. e next sentence opens art. 5: “Quinto quaeritur in quo genere causae incidat: et hoc solutum est per antecedentia: quia in veritate causa non est, sed est aliquid causae. Est enim forma ordinis et vitae imaginem habens, et virtutem coelestis circuli; et sicut dicimus aliquando, quod aliqua non sunt vere entia, sed sunt aliquid entis, sicut ea quae sunt in anima, et secundum aliquos motus et tempus, ut dicit Avicenna.” 26. Aquinas, Occultis operibus naturae, 22 (par. 5). Aquinas made his opinion clear within a long discussion of Form and Maer. 27. Copenhaver, “Scholastic Philosophy and Renaissance Magic,” 541 n. 48: specific Form and substantial Form were used synonymously. 28. Aquinas, Occultis operibus naturae, 28 (par. 17). 29. Aquinas, Summa contra Gentiles 3.105.12: “Since figures are like specific form for art objects, some person could say that nothing prevents the construction of a figure, which specifies an image, as a result of some power due to celestial influence, not as a figure, but as it specifies the artifact which obtains its powers from the stars.” As Copenhaver (“Scholastic Philosophy and Renaissance Magic”) noted, the “quasi” line is unclear. A confused line was the best the image makers could find to suggest that Aquinas approved of this practice, while every clear statement of his was forcefully opposed to the practice. Aquinas (Occultis operibus naturae, esp. pars. 17–19) accepts the role of the heavenly bodies in changing the Form of material entities, including artificial ones, but denies any natural power to the artificial figure. is statement became a source of commentary for scholars who wished to support astronomical images. See Weill-Parot, Les “images astrologiques,” 248–49; and n. 17 above. For related details, see nn. 21–28 above. 30. Weill-Parot (Les “images astrologiques,” 223–302) provides a good general discussion of both Albert and Aquinas. However, my focus on Aquinas as Ficino’s intellectual adversary pushes my argument in a different direction. 31. Book 3 of De vita was originally separate, only later joined to the text. Kaske, introduction to De vita, 7. 32. Albert paid some aention to each of the three components that constitute most astronomical images—the material carrying the celestial influence from its beginning (De mineralibus, 138), the Rays of the elected heavens (ibid., 136–37), and the astronomical

Notes to Pages 128–132


drawings themselves (ibid., 140–45). For specific or substantial Form as the determinant of the particular powers of a stone or metal, see also ibid., 24–25, 55–67. For his authorities (although he did not provide a scientific explanation for images in the Speculum), see Albertus Magnus, Speculum astronomiae, 241–51, 271. For a good general discussion of Albert on images, see Weill-Parot, Les “images astrologiques,” 260–80. 33. Albertus Magnus, De mineralibus, 60. 34. Ibid., 63. 35. Ibid., 65. 36. Ibid. 37. Ibid., 65–67. Albert accepts the Aristotelian development of Aristotle’s Form + Maer + Sun (the power of the Sun understood in the early modern astrological tradition as expanded to include that of all the heavenly bodies). Further, the fusion of Form and Maer varies both by the position of the Rays inflowing and by the degree to which the material itself might be disordered/have slight imperfections within it, all proper Aristotelian notions met in chapter 3 above. He adds that the input of the celestials resides for a varying amount of time in the entity created. 38. Ibid., 168. 39. Ibid. 40. Ibid., 168–70. 41. For more, see my discussion of De vita 3.1 below. 42. Albertus Magnus, De mineralibus, 140–45: the figure carved gives that planet’s or star’s properties to the stone. 43. Ibid., 135–37. 44. Ibid., 134–40: the heavens pour their powers into natural and artificial figures and into the artist making the figures. On the selection of Rays and materials, see ibid., 136–38. 45. In a nonastrological context, Gombrich (“Icones symbolicae,” 178) noted: “It is [in Neoplatonic thought] not we who select and use symbols for communication, it is the Divine which expresses itself in the hieroglyph of sensible things.” Ficino (De vita, 334–35 [3.18]) suggests that the revelation is not always understood, e.g., in the case of the image of the cross. See also ibid., 356–57 (3.21), where, in the context of images and medicines, the great doctors “wore themselves out” and finally found the correct blend of ingredients only “by divine destiny . . . by divine aid . . . by inspired prophecy.” 46. Aquinas, Occultis operibus, 29 (par. 18). For Aquinas’s other important statements on this subject, see nn. 17, 29, above. For the consistency with Savonarola, see Contra l’astrologia, fols. 6v, 32, 33/Contro gli astrologi, 122 (“cose diaboliche”), 123 (“ingannato dal diavolo”). 47. Aquinas, Occultis operibus naturae, 22–23 (par. 6) (see generally 20–23 [pars. 2–6]). is intrinsic power comes from the substantial Form of the rhubarb, and we know this because all rhubarb has this same power. e substantial Form, or specific Form, is shared throughout the species. Aquinas argues that the distinction of whether the hidden power (of a magnet, of a medicine) comes from its inner Form or is imposed from outside can be made on the basis of whether every magnet, or every medicinal plant, i.e., every entity within the species, has the same effect (ibid., par. 6). “Now the power which is the principle of such actions and passions is shown to be derived especially from the specific form of a thing; for every accident which is proper to some species, is derived from the essential principles of that species. . . . erefore such powers ought to proceed from forms of things according as they exist in their own maers” (ibid., 23 [par. 7]).


Notes to Pages 133–136

48. Ibid., 24 (par. 9). 49. Ibid. See also ibid., 23–24 (par. 8): “Secondly, since the nature of a thing is termed its form and maer, if a power of a thing should not be derived from them, it will not be a power natural to the thing, and consequently no activity or passion proceeding from such a power will be natural. . . . Hence the conclusion that powers which are the principles of these actions are essential and proceed from a form according as it exists in such maer.” 50. Ibid., 25 (par. 11; see also pars. 10, 25). 51. See chapter 3 above. 52. Kaske, “Ficino’s Shi ing Aitude,” 380; and Ficino, De vita, 242n. 53. Aquinas, Occultis operibus naturae, 26 (par. 13). Aquinas’s context is a discussion of Form from the lowest elemental Forms to the highest Form that is the human soul. Aquinas continues: “Powers and activities ought to be in proportion to the forms from which they proceed. And thus it is that the forms of elements which are for the most part material give rise to active and passive qualities, for example, heat and cold, moisture and dryness and other similar things which regard the distribution of maer. But the forms of mixtures, namely the inanimate bodies like stones, metals, minerals, in addition to the powers and activities which they share with the elements of which they are composed, have certain other more noble virtues and activities arising from specific forms—for instance gold gladdens the heart and the sapphire stops bleeding. us, always in an ascending order, the more noble the specific forms, so much the more excellent are the powers and operations which come from them, till that most noble form, the rational soul, is reached” (ibid., 26–27 [par. 14]). 54. Compare ibid., 26 (par. 13), with Ficino, De vita, 346–49 (3.19). is is developed in the text below. 55. Aquinas, Occultis operibus naturae, 27–28 (par. 15). See also ibid., 28 [par. 16]: “erefore, because such powers and workings are derived from a specific form which is common to all the individuals of the same species, it is impossible for an individual of a species to have some kind of power or activity beyond the individuals of the same species, just because it came into being under a definite configuration of heavenly bodies.” 56. Ibid., 28–29 (pars. 17–18). 57. See Aquinas, Summa Contra Gentiles 3.105.7–8, where he also describes the figure as a mathematical object. 58. Ficino, De vita, 318–19 (3.15). 59. Aquinas, Occultis operibus naturae, 21–22 (par. 5), 30 (par. 20). 60. For sources, see nn. 17, 29, above. 61. For Ficino’s understanding of mediation, see Kristeller, e Philosophy of Marsilio Ficino, 101–12; Garin, “Le ‘Elezioni,’” 425–37; and Kaske, introduction to De vita, 40–44. I build on Garin’s more physical understanding. As might be guessed from the preceding pages on Form, the transition from the metaphysical to the physical requires aention to technical terms. is can be difficult with Ficino because he uses terms somewhat interchangeably. For his uses of Idea/Form/ Species, see, e.g., Hankins, “Ficino’s Translation of Plotinus,” 302 (commentary on line 42). For Form, figure, and Seminal Reasons, see Copenhaver, “Renaissance Magic and Neoplatonic Philosophy,” 356ff. For the equivalency of Form and Species, see ibid., 367ff. For different uses of figure (although Copenhaver’s may be too limited owing to the ellipses in the quotation), see ibid., 363, 366. is merger of terms occurs in Ficino, at least in part, because he was intent on show-

Notes to Pages 136–137


ing the common ground between Plato, Aristotle, and other ancient philosophers. As he saw it, the ancients o en used different terms for the same concept. See chapter 3 above, where Platonists and Aristotelians agree on vision (!); or Ficino, All ings Natural, 95–96, where Aristotle aentively absorbs Plato’s math (?!). On this issue, see, among others, Purnell, “e eme of Philosophic Concord,” esp. 409, 413, where Ficino noted that Plato and Aristotle used different vocabulary but were in “wondrous agreement.” On the apparently universal agreement of the ancients on Maer theory (would it were true), see Monfasani, “Marsilio Ficino and the Plato-Aristotle Controversy,” esp. 189–93. For more recent work, see Gerson, “What Is Platonism?” and Aristotle and Other Platonists. Some of the blurring or blending of technical concepts, such as the interchangeable Form and Species, was encountered in chapter 3 above. 62. See nn. 3, 10, above. Pingree (“Some Sources,” 14) noted a similar case. For interesting parallels, see Swan, Art, Science, and Witchcra. e issue of whether the heavenly bodies could be living entities, a position with which many astrologers would have agreed, does not require daemons, only a life force, since a blade of grass or even a stone was considered to live for a period of time and to share life. Ficino points out that the life in the world was compatible with both ancient and Christian philosophy. See, e.g., De vita, 258–59 (3.4). 63. On the early title, see n. 52 above. 64. See nn. 19, 61, above. 65. For Ideas interpreted as the thoughts of God, see Armstrong, “Background.” See also Ficino, De vita, 428 n. 5; and Kaske, introduction to De vita, 43–44. 66. See Ficino, De vita, 427 n. 4; and chapter 3 above. See also Gentile, “Il ritorno di Platone,” esp. 214, on World-Soul and reciprocal influence. 67. Kaske, introduction to De vita, 34. On the superrefined material nature of the heavens, see chapter 3 above as well as the discussion below. 68. Ficino, De vita, 242–43 (3.1). 69. On the differences between the Platonic and the Aristotelian cosmos, see chapter 3 above. Religious people in the Christian, Hebrew, and Muslim worlds could not accept Aristotle’s concept of the heavens as coeternal with the Creator, and for that reason, among others (it also seemed clear from observation that there were strong connections that argued against such a divide), the strict Aristotelian dichotomy separating the heavens from the Earth created philosophical and natural philosophical problems. By contrast, the Platonic system featured a unity. Even the human soul, created by the Demiurge, was sent down through the celestial spheres where it picked up characteristics and arrived on Earth as a composite of the divine and the material. is Platonic understanding provided a metaphysical and scientific context where heavenly and earthly Qualities interacted. For Ficino’s belief in the close similarities of Platonic and Aristotelian theories, see also n. 61 above. But, for the limits of Ficino’s interest in harmonizing the two, see Hankins, “e Study of the Timaeus,” 87–89. 70. On World-Spirit acting through the Rays of the stars, see Ficino, De vita, 350–53 (3.20): “the rays of the stars through which the World-spirit acts . . . (from the Worldspirit by way of the rays).” 71. Ficino, De vita, 246–47 (3.1). For the physical nature of this Spiritus, see ibid., 256–57 (3.3): “Spiritus is a very tenuous body. . . . In its power there is very lile of the earthy nature, but more of the watery, more likewise of the airy, and again the greatest proportion of the stellar fire.”


Notes to Pages 137–147

72. For Spiritus in the exercise of the external and internal senses, one of its traditional medical roles, see chapter 4 above; and Ficino, De vita, 111 (1.2). See also Kaske, introduction to De vita, 43. 73. Ficino, De vita, 242–43, 248–49 (3.1). 74. Ibid., 248–49 (3.1). 75. Ibid., 244–47 (3.1). 76. Ibid., 196–97 (2.11). An astronomical image that trapped celestial Rays and sent them out to the patient had one obvious advantage over such medicines. It was not consumed, it was not disgusting, and it could work for a very long time. For more advantages, see also chapter 8 below. 77. Ficino, De vita, 318–19 (3.15). 78. Ibid., 320–21 (3.15). 79. See ibid., 320–29 (3.16), from which the quotations through the end of this subsection are taken. See also Kaske, introduction to Ficino, 16, 28, 75. Not all astrologers believed that Rays passed through the Earth. See North, “Celestial Influence,” 73. Judging from Pecham’s casual remark (Perspectiva communis, 132–33 [prop. 51(54)]) and Ficino here, however, it seems that the belief was common. 80. Ficino (De vita, 308–9 [3.13]) notes that wood is hard and retains the gi s for a time, but not as long as the beautiful translucent gemstones. On astronomical years, see Albertus Magnus, De mineralibus, 137; and chapter 3 above. 81. Ficino, De vita, 328–29 (3.16). 82. Aquinas, Summa contra Gentiles 3.105.8–9, 12. 83. Ficino, De vita, 328–29 (3.17). 84. Ibid.: “Quam vim habeant figurae in coelo atque sub coelo.” 85. Ibid., 330–31 (3.17). 86. Ibid., 332–33 (3.17), 326–27 (3.16). 87. Ibid., 330–31 (3.17). 88. For Walker, Garin, Copenhaver, see n. 19 above. Garin (“Le ‘Elezioni,’” 29) pointed to Plotinus (Enneads 4.4.40) for the understanding that shape itself had power. Or see Kaske, introduction to De vita, 444, on how Ficino understood Plotinus’s passage: “Besides [magicians] use figures having specific powers.” On Plotinus’s Enneads, see also Ficino, Opera omnia, 2:1746, 1748. In the earlier Enneads 4.4.35, Plotinus had discussed the powers in the celestial figures, the varying power in their changing relations, and how their colors (here colored light) also have powers. For Kaske’s interpretation of De vita 3.17, see her notes to De vita, 444–46. See also Copenhaver, “Renaissance Magic and Neoplatonic Philosophy,” 366, and “How to Do Magic, and Why,” 160. 89. Many other relations of light and color were commonplace in optical studies, e.g., that color varied by the light’s intensity and that light caused color to be reflected onto distant objects. For more on the philosophical relations between light and color, Lindberg’s “eory of Light” is a good place to start. 90. Following studies by Euclid, Ptolemy, Al-Haytham, and others, the mathematical nature of light was known. 91. Leonardo studies light intently. See Leonardo, Notebooks, 1:39. 92. Ficino, De vita, 328–31 (3.17). For Ficino’s/Plato’s relation of the natural type with its typical shape, which is governed by Number, see also Ficino, All ings Natural, 94–96. For Ficino’s further ruminations on the mathematics of the universe in his commentaries on the Timaeus, on the Republic, and on Proclus’s commentary on Plato, see Opera omnia, 2:1410–12, 1444–46, 1451–53, 1460–61, 1464, 1472–74, etc. See also Proclus, Commentaire

Notes to Pages 148–149


sur la République, 2:100. For more on Ficino’s devotion to mathematics, see Allen, Nuptial Arithmetic; and Celenza, “Pythagoras in the Renaissance,” 702–5. See also nn. 93–94, 122, 124, below. 93. Mathematical figure has much in common with Grosseteste’s first corporeal Form. For an interesting contemporary commentary on the mathematical essence in nature, see the discussion of Cesariano in chapters 1 and 3 above. For a visualization of the cosmic Ideas of horses and other objects with those realizations on Earth, see the miniature published in Hermann, “Miniaturhandschri en,” 165–66. (Note the Ray connecting the Idea of horse with the horse on Earth.) For an early modern understanding that Ideas were ideas in the mind of God, see also n. 65 above. Gombrich paraphrased this part of De vita 3.17 (“Icones symbolicae,” 172–75) and noted: “ese mathematical shapes and proportions, then, belong [for Ficino] to the higher order of things” (ibid., 173). Gombrich drew a psychological lesson of empathy from this and used it as a point of departure for a meditation on Boicelli’s Birth of Venus. Because the number and proportion reflect divine Idea, they carry some of that spiritual essence into the viewers, and we respond to the painting. I develop this in a physical direction. See also this chapter’s notes passim. 94. Ficino, De vita, 330–31 (3.17). For the use of Number as the mathematical core of an entity, see Ficino, All ings Natural, 94–96. See also nn. 92–93 above, 97, 122, 124 below. 95. e education of patrons and artists in this culture is still unclear and needs much more study. It is my sense that we are quick to point out mistakes in their learning that later turn out to be our own. For an example, see the discussion of Vasari and e School of Athens in the conclusion. Nor do we accord these elite patrons and artists the leniency that we allow ourselves. On the basis of poorly wrien Latin, it will be asserted that the patron or artist was not well schooled, though most of us cannot write Latin at all, nor would we want it under the microscope if we did. Not all patrons or artists were interested in ideas, but those who were probably acquired a good education. If an artist like Raphael was raised at the literate court of Urbino and then spent several years in the humanist court at the Vatican, he probably had a good education from lectures, sermons, and discussions. Ideas were constantly in circulation, and there was no television, no film, no other electronic distractions. For some sense of the varying opinions on the intellectual life of Renaissance artists and also on the varying interest levels of artists, see Ames-Lewis, Intellectual Life; Kemp, “e Super-Artist as Genius”; Malmanger, “Michelangelo—Humanist or Stonemason?”; and Cole, e Renaissance Artist at Work. For patrons who seemed to understand Ficino, see chapter 8 below. 96. ese remarks on the Florentine art community are taken from a larger work in progress on Alberti and the laws of nature. e rich and complex bibliography on Renaissance perspective is beyond the scope of this current volume and will be analyzed instead in my Alberti project, as will be the related issue of Renaissance art styles. For some of the issues, see nn. 90–94 above and nn. 97–102, 104–6, 122, 124, below. 97. ese people shared a common belief, still held by mathematicians and physicists today, that mathematical laws are essential characteristics of the universe from its farthest cosmic reaches to the inner nature of an element. As noted in chapter 3 above, it is not that Plato considered the elements to have triangular shape but that the elements are triangular shape. See also Plato, Republic 510d–e. e influential scientist Robert Grosseteste considered the mathematics of Light radiation to be the corporeal Form of the universe. Lest my reader think that this is oddly esoteric Platonism, at the end of this period Galileo states that the universe is wrien in the language of mathematics and that its characters are triangles, circles, and other geometric figures. See Galileo, Opere, 6:232,


Notes to Pages 149–153

18:295. I thank Renzo Baldasso for this reference. For these and other intellectuals of this culture, mathematics is the Idea at the core of nature. 98. e artists of fi eenth-century Florence studied and annotated university texts on the mathematics of light by such authorities as Ibn al-Haytham, Roger Bacon, and John Pecham. For Ghiberti’s assiduous compilation of optical texts wrien by al-Haytham, Bacon, and Pecham, see I commentarii, 13–15, 99–305. For his use of al-Haytham’s manuscript, see Federici-Vescovini, “Fortuna di Alhazen in Italia.” For optics and Alberti, see Federici-Vescovini, Le teorie della luce, app. 4. On the artists, see also Lindberg, eories of Vision, 147–68. Leonardo’s published notebooks are largely devoted to the study of light (see n. 91 above), which he refers to as “natural cause and reason.” See Leonardo, Notebooks, 1:127. For Leonardo’s fundamental belief that “painting deals with natural philosophy,” see Leonardo, Treatise on Painting, 1:19. Leonardo’s manuscripts were not published in this period, although they had a wide circulation among artists from 1490 on. For Leonardo’s influence, see Heydenreich, introduction to Treatise on Painting, 1:xxix, xxxiii. Heydenreich (ibid., xxxvii) also points to the interrelation of mathematics and light studies in Leonardo’s understanding of perspective. Also to be consulted: Leonardo, Leonardo da Vinci on Painting, and Leonardo, on Painting. 99. For Ficino on Alberti, see Opera omnia, 2:1464. See also Chastel, Marsile Ficin et l’art, 32, 38, 99, 105 n. 2, 107–11. 100. Alberti, On Painting, 35 (dedication). Alberti makes good on his introductory assertion. Book 1, constituting about 40 percent of the text, is devoted to points, lines, planes, angles, and triangles as these work within optical laws of light and vision. His understanding of optics is further witnessed in 1.7–13, 2.30, 46–50. Nor does he abandon this abstract mathematical and optical substrate in 2.31–36 and 3.52–53. Sinisgalli’s newer translation of Alberti’s text, Il nuovo De pictura, should be consulted for its comparisons of the Italian and Latin originals along with English, French, and German translations. 101. Even Dürer may have needed a guide through it. See Ames-Lewis, Intellectual Life, 31. See also Sinisgalli, introduction to Il nuovo De pictura, 27–28. In spite of his optimistic introduction, Alberti, painter or mathematician, can barely conceal his exasperation in concluding one of his mathematical sections: “e reader who does not understand at first acquaintance, will probably never grasp it however hard he tries . . . [and the artist] who does not perfectly understand what he is aempting to do when painting, will never be a good painter.” Alberti, On Painting, 59 (1.22–23). Sinisgalli (Alberti, Il nuovo De pictura, 153n [1.22]) interprets Alberti more positively when he refers to the beginner. 102. For examples, see Alberti, On Painting 1.5–12. 103. Ibid., 48 (1.12). Alberti also summarizes: “erefore, circumscription, composition and reception of light make up painting” (ibid., 65 [2.31]). Again, he asserts at the conclusion of bk. 2 that he has explained the whole of painting, which consists of circumscription, composition, and reception of light (see ibid., 86 [2.50]). 104. is argument is developed in my Alberti project (n. 96 above) and includes evidence from Cennino Cennini through Vasari. See also this section’s notes passim. 105. Ficino, Platonic eology, 2:362–63 (8.16). 106. Ficino, following Plato’s exaltation of mathematics, equated mathematics with Truth. See Platonic eology, 2:280–83 (8.2); and nn. 92–93, 104, above. 107. See also Alberti, On Painting 1.7. As Alberti and others acknowledge, even air has a density that snags some of the power of a light Ray, but it could not retain it for long. 108. In his commentary no. 40 (no. 39 in some editions) on the Timaeus (Opera omnia,

Notes to Pages 153–159


2:1463, where he cross-references De vita), Ficino makes a similar claim—that the astronomical image requires some elemental material. See chapter 4, n. 23, above. 109. Ficino, De vita, 332–33 (3.17; emphasis added). 110. Here, Ficino seems primarily focused on the media used by artists, but I think that incense is also suggested. Ficino believed in daemons and addresses fumigation frequently in De vita. It was one thing to breathe in aromatic incense for one’s health; it was perhaps another to incense an image, although one could imagine a scientific rationale for this too. Artists’ boegas were chemistry shops where the artists or their apprentices made the pigments and supporting media (though the local apothecary was a convenient alternative for purchasing some materials). Cennini’s Libro dell’arte (see e Crasman’s Handbook, 22–23, 34, 36–39, 42–43, etc.) is devoted to artists’ recipes. See also eophilus, e Various Arts, 18–19, 23–25, 29–30. On heating, see n. 16 above. For Roger Bacon on lime, see chapter 3 above. 111. Ficino, De vita, 332–33 (3.17). For Ficino’s vatic aspirations, see Celenza, “Pythagoras in the Renaissance.” 112. Gombrich, “Icones Symbolicae,” 173. Gombrich is thinking of form as shape, not the technical Form that I consider, and he did not take the argument in this physical direction of Form found in Centiloquy no. 9 and throughout Ficino’s discussions of the figures. But his text is particularly suggestive on the symbol as the “imperfect reflection of the higher reality” and on true representation through symbol. See ibid., 155, 157–60, 172– 75, 177. 113. For Ficino’s use of the Picatrix, see n. 14 above. e Picatrix has a far more abundant array of figures and directions, many so disgusting that reading descriptions of them leaves one feeling vaguely dirty. Ficino’s are celestial by contrast. 114. All quotations in this paragraph and the next three come from Ficino, De vita, 332–33 (3.18). 115. For slightly different understandings of the imagination, see chapter 4 above. 116. For a summary of Ficino’s sources, see Kaske, introduction to De vita, 447–49; and Weill-Parot, Les “images astrologiques,” 651–54. For plates, cf. Blume’s Regenten des Himmels. 117. Ficino, De vita, 334–35 (3.18): “When so positioned they cast their rays one upon another in such a way as to form a cross.” is is both a celestial Cross and a reference to a horoscope diagram with the four cardinal points visualized as piercing the cosmos and its central Earth. Chastel, “Il ‘signum crucis’ del Ficino.” 118. Freedberg’s e Power of Images also demonstrates this throughout. 119. Ficino, De vita, 342–43 (3.19). 120. See chapter 5 above. 121. Ficino, De vita,326–27 (3.16). 122. Ibid., 328–29, 330–31 (3.17). See also Plato, Timaeus 56c–57c: “Mathematical objects are closer to the Forms than physical [objects are].” For other mathematical issues, see also this chapter’s notes passim. 123. Ficino, De vita, 356–57 (3.21). Ficino’s own ranking of images comes into focus if we consider the figure as a separate entity from the astronomical image. Imagination, reason, and understanding are the ascending ranks of the soul (ibid., 364–65 [3.22]), and it is in this range that the artificial figure resides. 124. Plato, Timaeus 33bff. Ficino’s text, “shape . . . that is the animate world’s Quality,


Notes to Pages 161–164

which the Timaeus describes through figures and numbers,” from Phaedran Charioteer, 124. See also n. 122 above.

Chapter 8 1. For bibliography on the images of De vita 3.19, see esp. Gombrich, “Icones symbolicae”; Yates, Giordano Bruno; and Garin, La zodiaco della vita. Garin (Lo zodiaco della vita, 85) calls 3.19 a chapter “as controversial as it is emblematic.” Kaske (introduction to De vita, 41–42) characterizes the painting and the astronomical clock as talismans having magical effects, though without analysis. Weill-Parot (Les “images astrologiques,” 651) notes the “problematic” figure of the universe in 3.19. e vault painting follows a description of a planetary clock and an armillary sphere. For the planetary clock, see Chastel, Ficino et l’art, 95–97 nn. 15–17, which drew aention to Ficino’s fascination with astronomical and other automata. On the talismanic nature of the clock, see also Toussaint, “L’individuo estatico,” esp. 378, and “Ficino, Archimedes and the Celestial Arts.” Ficino, De vita, 238–41 (proem to bk. 3). For the use of Ficino rather than Ficino or the astrologers, see chapter 7, n. 12, above. 2. Following 3.19, Ficino includes ritual practices with images. Incensing and dancing under images had certain links with the science explained in my text, and this was, I think, part of the practice with the Pontefici vault. However, if I have found it difficult to draw the line between science and magic, it is less difficult to know where a book must end. My text stops short of these practices. 3. Volpaia’s monumental clock could not be carried. Ficino is most likely recommending a portable armillary sphere (“place it opposite him and gaze at it” [De vita, 346–47 (3.19)]), which, like the celestial clock, also diagrammed the mathematical relations of the heavenly bodies. For examples of both portable and stationary armillary spheres, see Stephenson, Bolt, and Friedman, e Universe Unveiled, 10, 36, 112–13. At the online site of Florence’s Galileo Museo (hp:// can be found a reconstruction of Volpaia’s clock as well as examples of armillary spheres. 4. Ficino, De vita, 348–49 (3.20). For more on the two types of figures, see chapter 7 above. 5. For more on the ancient and early modern understanding that the contemplation of the heavens cured the soul, see chapter 1 above. For a parallel vault in an astronomical context, see Plato, Republic 529a–b. See also Kaske, introduction to De vita, 41–42; and Ficino, De vita, 451 n. 6: “e heavens are a redemptive subject of study because, being free from corruption, they retain the pristine ‘archetypal’ form they received from the hand of the Creator executing his ‘Idea.’” 6. Ficino, De vita, 344–45 (3.19). As Kaske (Ficino, De vita, 450 n. 3) pointed out, the moment when the Sun reaches the “first minute of Aries” is properly the birth of the year. Ficino corrects the “birthday of the world” (3.19.8) to the “birthday of the year” (3.19.28). In a later leer to the astrologer Paul of Middelburg, Ficino (Opera omnia, 1:944) refers to a planetary clock displaying the daily movements of the heavens. For the horologium as a functioning astronomical image, see Chastel, Ficino et l’art, 95–97 nn. 15–17; and Toussaint, “L’individuo estatico,” and “Ficino, Archimedes and the Celestial Arts.” 7. Ficino, De vita, 344–47 (3.19). 8. For an example of how Ficino expects the color green to increase health through Venus, see ibid., 204–7 (2.14). For more on colors and their planets, see ibid., 296–97 (3.11).

Notes to Pages 164–169


A list of colors associated with planets is common in astrological handbooks. For the materials of art, see chapter 7 above. 9. Ficino, De vita, 346–47 (3.19). 10. Plato, Republic 529c–530c; Ficino, Platonic eology, 4:176–77 (13.3). 11. See abit, e Astronomical Works; or the Picatrix. Omiing specific materials and times was common. 12. e two are generally wrien of as one. See Kaske, introduction to De vita, 451. But see n. 3 above. 13. Ficino, De vita, 346–47 (3.19). Ficino has specified that the “graces” are the Sun, Jupiter and Venus. 14. Albert wrote: “Just as the natural powers endure for a certain time and no longer, so it is also with the powers of images; for a certain power is poured down from heaven only during a certain period of time. . . . And a erwards the empty, useless image remains cold and dead. is is the reason why certain images do not nowadays perform what they did in times long past. And hence in astronomy various ‘years’ are distinguished for the constellations and planets, and for certain stars there are said to be greater, intermediate, and lesser years, during which they exert their effects” (Albertus Magnus, De mineralibus, 137). For these years, see chapter 3 above. 15. e Renaissance practice of choosing a compatible spouse via a comparison of horoscopes is well-known and still alive in some parts of the world. For the comparison of family and friends, see Cardano, Opera omnia, 5:490–96. 16. Porter, “Is Art Modern?” e late twentieth-century inclusion of global arts within the canon has greatly expanded the understanding of what counts as a value judgment on the arts. is is as true for the early Renaissance as for non-Western arts. e original audience’s consideration of function and appreciation is part of those values. 17. is standard practice can be found throughout the works of abit or the Picatrix. For Ficino’s wise men, see chapter 4 above. 18. e first glance is always innocent because accidental. But, if someone sees a tempting sight and, instead of looking away, looks again, then he or she has begun a process of burdening the soul. e case of Susanna and the Elders is an example. In our culture, repeat viewing concerns groups as disparate (and for as different a set of reasons) as politicians, advertisers, and parents watching children play video games, especially now that the technology of brain-imaging studies indicates the physical effects of repetitive viewing on the brain. 19. For a summary of the simplest process of vision, see chapter 4 above. For Renaissance artists’ studies of vision, see chapter 7 above. For Leonardo’s use of al-Haytham and his later medieval follower Witelo, see Leonardo, Notebooks, 1:57; and Zubov, Leonardo, 129–30. For Pollaiuolo’s understanding of optics and the connection with astrology, see Tachau, “Perspectiva and astrologia.” 20. See chapter 4, n. 19, above; and Aristotle, De anima, 311, and On Memory and Recollection 451a26–451b10. For more detailed information on the faculties, see Alhazen, Alhacen’s eory of Visual Perception, 556 nn. 193, 194. Al-Haytham, known for his prolixity, can also be read on this point. See ibid., 517–29. Compare, however, Ficino, Platonic eology, 4:180–81 (13.3), where the memory is not confined to “some narrow corner of the brain.” 21. Alhazen, Alhacen’s eory of Visual Perception, 516–17. 22. See Alhazen, e Optics of Ibn al-Haytham, civ, 62–67 (on 2.4.11–36). See also Lindberg, eories of Vision, 119–20.


Notes to Pages 169–193

23. Leonardo, Notebooks, 1:40, and Treatise on Painting, 1:49. See Gombrich, “Icones sybolicae,” 137–38. e parts of objects combined in imprese had this memory advantage. 24. Ficino, De vita, 402–3 (bk. 3, concluding leer). Given the context, it would seem that Ficino depends on Salviati especially for protection concerning his discussion of astronomical images. For more on Salviati and Chigi, see my “Villa of Agostino Chigi,” 1:129. For a leer from Salviati to Chigi on calendar reform, see BAV Lat. 8226. 25. For Ficino’s reading of Giovanni’s horoscope, see Giovio, De vita Leonis X, 64. Cajetan went boldly beyond Ficino, suggesting that Aquinas had supported astronomical images. See Campanella, Opuscoli, 166–67. On Cajetan, Aquinas, and images, see Walker, Spiritual and Demonic Magic, 43. For a larger discussion, see Weill-Parot, Les “images astrologiques,” 248–59. For the dating of the Pontefici vault, see my “e Sala dei Pontefici Vault,” 174 n. 5; and Rousseau, “Cosimo I de Medici and Astrology,” 157–58. 26. Ficino, De vita, 346–47 (3.19). For the identification as Astrology, see Vasari, Vite, 4:170. Nancy Rash-Fabbri (“Note on the Stanza della Segnatura”) has proposed that this image marked the night sky over Rome when Julius II was elected pope, October 31, 1503, three hours a er sunset. She calls aention to the preparatory drawing in the Albertina, which has a precisely drawn set of celestial coordinates. is intriguing theory on the date would be especially plausible if the constellations of the fresco could be matched with the coordinates of the drawing. ere are no planets (necessary for a horoscope) in either image. 27. See Shearman, “Chigi Chapel.” On the relation of this vault with the concept in the Timaeus that the soul had descended to Earth via the planetary spheres and that at death that soul returns through them, see ibid., 140–42. 28. Ficino, De vita, 332–33 (3.17). For “mosaic gold,” see Cennini, e Crasman’s Handbook, 101, 114. 29. See chapter 7 above. e measured aplomb of the Malleus maleficarum, a text contemporary with Ficino’s De vita, seems particularly to speak to the widespread nature of image practices. See also the treatment of well-known Florentine sculpture in Seymour’s Michelangelo’s David, 142–45, 148–49; and chapters 5 and 7 above. 30. orndike’s History of Magic and Experimental Science provides a seemingly inexhaustible catalog of sources. Walker’s Spiritual and Demonic Magic focuses on Ficino and his followers. Weill-Parot (Les “images astrologiques”) produces an excellent broader survey. 31. For the Morgan, the relation of the zodiacal signs to important dates in Morgan’s life, and the images copied directly from the design of Chigi’s vault, see hp://www.the One would like to examine other Renaissance vaults in the context of astronomical images. However, the problems that I will point to at the Pontefici seem to me to have existed elsewhere and for similar reasons—later patrons covered up what were deemed highly superstitious practices. Reconstructing a now-remodeled image adds to the difficulty. e cupola over the altar in the Old Sacristy of San Lorenzo, Florence, is a prime candidate as a working image, but it was, I believe, significantly altered. e horoscope vault for Federico II Gonzaga in the Castello di San Giorgio in Mantua should also be examined in this light. e Studiolo of Francesco I de’ Medici suggests connections between astrological medicine, ritual, and alchemy. e list could go on, both in Italy and beyond. 32. For the iconographic identifications and my arguments on the program, see my “Astrological Vault” and “Time-Telling Conventions.” e identifications for this vault de-

Notes to Pages 174–179


pend on Förster’s essential Farnesina-Studien, which Saxl (La fede astrologica, 25) acknowledges. at this vault represented Chigi’s horoscope was the inspiration of Warburg, Heidnisch-antike Weissagung, 33–34. Saxl (La fede astrologica, 22–40), with the assistance of Beer (“Il significato astronomico e la data,” 61–67), developed the basic horoscope information in the ten pendentives. Hartner (“Notes to Arthur Beer’s Contribution”) narrowed the date. In my “Astrological Vault,” I pointed out the meaning of the two main ceiling panels in the horoscope and adjusted the identifications and theories of Saxl, Beer, and Hartner. Where there were competing possibilities for identifications, my choice depended as much on the sky (or the sky at this date and time as it was known through Renaissance texts and tables) as it did on the ambiguous information in the paintings. Rowland (“e Birth Date of Agostino Chigi”) emerged from the Sienese Baptistry archives with Chigi’s birth record. Further iconographic work, notably the theory of Schiller-Lippinco proposing a different start for the day, is examined in my “Time-Telling Conventions,” nn. 4–5. Frommel, ed., La Villa Farnesina, provides a text, diagrams, and beautiful photographs of the whole (although there what I take to be the secondary conception horoscope seems to be considered the birth horoscope). 33. Vasari, Vite, 4:318. 34. Ficino, De vita, 332–33 (3.18). 35. Planetary colors are o en noted in handbooks. Apart from the sampling provided in chapter 2 above, see also Ficino, De vita, 248–55 (3.1–2). Rose is occasionally associated with Venus (see Picatrix 3.3). 36. Seymour, Michelangelo’s David, 142–45, 148–49. 37. See n. 32 above. 38. See my “Astrological Vault,” 91–94. 39. For a recent reconsideration of one of the identifications, see Taylor, “Boötes on the Farnesina Ceiling.” For Nemesis, see Hyginus, Poeticon astronomicon, fol. B3r. 40. is was one more of the multiple beginnings commonly mentioned in astrological practice. On the practice, see my “Astrological Vault,” 101 and notes; or my “Caprarola’s Sala della Cosmografia,” 1083–84 n. 74. 41. See my “Blosius Palladius, Suburbanum,” 118–19. 42. Vasari, Vite, 4:318. Adding to Algol’s power, Chigi’s Lot of Fortune was in conjunction with Jupiter in his Midheaven. See Ficino, De vita, 276–77 (3.8); and Sirigao, De ortu et occasu signorum, 80–81. Sirigao’s text, contemporary with Chigi’s villa and dedicated to Pope Leo X, points to the astronomical positions, Algol at the Midheaven when 20° Leo is rising: “Rasdagol & totum caput Medusae mediat coelum oriente Leonis 20.0.” ese are the positions in Chigi’s birth horoscope of 1466 when 20° Leo was his Ascendant. For the power granted to the newborn by Algol in culmination with Jupiter, see Giuntini, Speculum astrologiae, fol. 242v. 43. See Gilbert, e Pope, His Banker, and Venice, 63–109. 44. Ficino, De vita, 328–29 (3.16). 45. Chigi supported a number of mathematici, including a renowned astrologer, Francesco Priuli, Ficino’s friend Salviati, and the artist of this vault, Baldassarre Peruzzi, also an adept. See my “Time-Telling Conventions,” 70. On Peruzzi, see Vasari, Vite, 4:324. 46. For the fit of life and horoscope, suggesting that the horoscope became a life plan for Chigi as it predicted, or promoted, many things that came to be, see my “Astrological Vault,” 105.


Notes to Pages 180–189

47. For compatible radiation, see n. 15 above. For Sigismondo, see my “Villa of Agostino Chigi,” 1:155–57; and chapter 6 above. 48. For evidence of the significant changes to this vault ca. 1800, see my “e Sala dei Pontefici Vault.” 49. Giovio, De vita Leonis X, 64. 50. See my “e Sala dei Pontefici Vault.” 51. Vasari (Vite, 5:115–16) provides a good summary of the vault. He describes only the papal tiara and the papal keys held by the central tondo figures. He seems to have been remembering the papal keys of the vault corners. e fourth object is o en described as a lyre, but the early print made prior to the remodeling of the vault shows the fourth woman carrying a beaked pitcher (see fig. 21 above). 52. Venus and Saturn were originally positioned in their normal order within the series of planetary orbs and were in oval frames matching the rest of the planets. Each was found on the pendentive just below their current locations. 53. See my “e Sala dei Pontefici Vault,” 190–93. 54. See Rousseau, “Cosimo I de Medici and Astrology,” 166–67, 173–74. For contemporary poetry on this solar pope, Leo X, see ibid., 171. 55. Ibid., 140, 153–77; Cox-Rearick, Dynasty and Destiny, 189, 191, 194–97. For problems with these scholars’ evidence, which depended on the reconstruction of ca. 1800 rather than on the original vault, see my “e Sala dei Pontefici Vault,” 185–90. 56. Ehrle and Stevenson, Les fresques dans les Salles Borgia; Pistolesi, Il Vaticano descrio ed illustrato, 3:39 ff. American women abroad—early art historians—seem to have been particularly taken with the “Hours.” See Williams, e Hours of Raphael; and La Fontaine, e Days and Hours of Raphael. ese line drawings copy originals that are visible in the pre-Napoleonic print (fig. 21). 57. For the Picatrix, see Kaske, introduction to De vita, 45; and Perrone Compagni, “La magia cerimoniale del Picatrix,” which focuses on Ficino’s positive assessment of the text and its waning importance a er his influence waned. For Leo and related recipes, see alKindi, De radiis stellarum, 146–47 n. 30. Ficino seems to have organized the ingredients of the Picatrix along his chains. 58. See n. 2 above and chapters 2 and 7 above. If all things radiate—the central principle of universal radiation—then even incense and dance had a scientific basis as agents of change. For the more ordinary astrological handbooks, consult my index. See also Perrone Compagni, “La magia cerimoniale del Picatrix”; and Vasoli, “Le tradizioni magiche ed esoteriche,” esp. 142, 147, 151. If one is drawing the line between science and magic, perhaps Ficino’s distinctions in De vita 3.18 are appropriate. Certainly, prayers to demons while making the images are beyond the pale. 59. Ficino, De vita, 312–13 (3.14). 60. See Walker, Spiritual and Demonic Magic, 30–34. 61. Ibid., 33. See Ficino, De vita, 248–49 (3.1), 258–61 (3.4), 309–9 (3.13), 312–13 (3.14). See also Voss, “Music of the Spheres.” Such ceremonies parallel astrological rituals set forth a century later by Campanella (Opuscoli, 92–95) for Urban VIII. Torches, candles, and fumigations were part of a quasi-architectural space to ward off celestial disasters. 62. See Walker, Spiritual and Demonic Magic, passim, but esp. 12–24. Ficino (De vita, 274–75 [3.6], 290–91 [3.11]) recommends Orphic dance while looking at the celestial bodies and reflecting on them. See also ibid., 356–59 (3.21). 63. Ficino, De vita, 360–61 (3.21): all music depends first on Apollo, the Sun. 64. Ficino, De vita, 354–57 (3.21). While, as a medical doctor, Ficino insisted on the

Notes to Pages 189–195


physical intake as the lowest of the seven steps to acquiring celestial things, he awarded the greatest value to the imagination, reason, and the contemplation of them. Physical intake led on from the lower Spiritus to the higher Spiritus, a physical and intellectual process ultimately involving the highest level of the immaterial intellect. Given this belief, what would this vault do for anyone’s mind? 65. See my “e Sala dei Pontefici Vault,” 174 n. 5; and Rousseau, “Cosimo I de Medici and Astrology,” 157–58 and related notes. 66. Pistolesi, Il Vaticano descrio ed illustrato, 3:39ff. 67. Pastor, History of the Popes, 11:38–39; and, more specifically, my “Caprarola’s Sala della Cosmografia.” 68. Partridge and Nugent’s Caprarola and Partridge’s “Room of Maps at Caprarola” provide excellent illustrations and the important documentation on this hall. Partridge does not treat the astronomical or astrological features of Caprarola. Some of his identifications, such as that of the “Sun” (ibid., 415 n. 54), cannot be accepted. e Sun is found along the ecliptic. 69. For the astrological computation and Alessandro’s appointment to the College of Cardinals, see my “Caprarola’s Sala della Cosmografia,” 1057–60. 70. First Jupiter was associated with his grandfather, the pope, and this “Jupiter” had sent the young cardinal forth on diplomatic missions. A er the death of Paul III, Jupiter came to signify Alessandro himself. For the details on this evolution, see ibid., 1060–64. See also Fulvio Orsini’s birthday admonition that Cardinal Alessandro buy the celebrated ancient cameo featuring “Allesandro” and his father “Jupiter Ammon” in Ronchini and Poggi, “Fulvio Orsini e sue leere,” 64, 89–98. is would have been added to an already impressive collection of Jupiter images. See Robertson, “Il Gran Cardinale,” 298–99, 315–16. 71. See my “Caprarola’s Sala della Cosmografia,” 1064–67. 72. Ibid., 1065, 1081–83. 73. Lavin (e Place of Narrative, 6, 149, 153) notes the use of displacement to call aention to important images. 74. See my “Caprarola’s Sala della Cosmografia,” 1072–75. 75. See also the illustrations in Partridge, “Room of Maps at Caprarola,” 416–17, 424. 76. For Capricorn, see ibid., 430. 77. See my “Caprarola’s Sala della Cosmografia,” 1078. 78. For Libra, see Partridge, “Room of Maps at Caprarola,” 431. 79. For Aries, see ibid., 434. 80. For details in family leers and poetry that relate the twins specifically to this fresco, see my “Caprarola’s Sala della Cosmografia,” 1082–86. 81. For the leers and the “frieze” analysis, see ibid., 1067–87. See also Partridge, “Room of Maps at Caprarola,” app., 442–43.

Conclusion 1. For the 1550 and 1568 descriptions, see Vasari, Vite, 4:166–67. It is noteworthy that, although he corrected and added much in his 1568 edition, Vasari did only the lightest editing of his description of the School of Athens. Every substantial point and identification is repeated exactly. It is also significant that his descriptions of the ceiling images and the other three walls are detailed and noncontroversial. Compare the “astonishing” confusion noted by A. B. Hinds in his edition of the Lives (2:227 n. 1) and the kinder judgment of Mrs. Jonathan Foster in her edition (Lives, 3:13–21, esp. 14–16) that there was no need to


Notes to Pages 196–199

further chastise Vasari for this since his Italian confreres had already so severely censured him. In spite of her thoughtful protection, twentieth- and twenty-first-century editions of the Lives continue the pummeling. 2. e Timaeus is also located at the vanishing point of Raphael’s mathematical perspective. 3. For a detailed discussion of the evidence, see Quinlan-McGrath, “Vasari and the School of Athens,” in preparation. 4. Vasari, Vite, 4:221. For the portrait medal, see Hill, Corpus of Italian Medals, vol. 2, fig. 1159. 5. Ficino (All ings Natural, 3) identified Plato and Timaeus as Pythagoreans. As I pointed out earlier, he also considered Aristotle a true pupil of Plato, including absorbing his mathematical principles.

≤. .

b i b l io g r ap hy

. .≥

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≤. .

i n de x

. .≥

Italicized page numbers refer to figures. Plate numbers refer to the gallery. Abū Ma’shar, 4, 26, 213n21, 217n14; Liber introductorii maioris (or Kitāb . . .), 213n21 Achernar, 10, 191–92 aether, 46–47, 56, 217n13. See also quintessence Agrippa, Heinrich Cornelius, 66 Air, 26, 44–45, 83, 85, 96–97, 153–54, 188. See also elemental change Alberti, Leon Baista, 69, 88, 149, 233n14. See also De pictura/Della piura; On the Art of Building in Ten Books Albert the Great, Saint: and Aristotelian thought, 216n12, 241n37; on astrology, 6–7, 204n4; on astrology and theology, 6–7, 15, 22, 196; on astronomical images, 57, 58, 123, 124, 130–32, 240n32, 249n14; on free will, 3, 6–7, 166; geography and astrology, theory of, 82–86, 91, 229nn4–5, 232n7; on Idea and Form, 127–30. See also De mineralibus; Speculum Alcabitius, Introduction to Astrology, 213n21

Algol (Head of Medusa), 141–42, 174, 176, 179 Allen, Michael, 218n24, 224n10 Almagest (Ptolemy), 28–29, 213n12 Alphonsine tables, 29, 37 Altair, 192 Angelus, Johannes, Astrolabium planum, and astrologers, 213n21; ancient, 97; incompetent, x, 42, 98, 100, 206n13, 215n44; intellectual, 22, 28, 41–43, 48–49; mathematical instruments of, 29, 96, plate 4, plate 6, plate 7. See also astrology; and individual astrologers Apian, Peter, Cosmographia, 26, 27 Apollo (as the Sun), 182 Aquinas. See omas Aquinas, Saint architecture and astrology, x, 198–99; building materials and, 58; and siting, 95–97, 99. See also foundation horoscopes; and individual architectural sites Aries, 37, 87–88, 90–91, 107, 131, 173, 176–77, 191–93




Aristotelian-Neoplatonic thought (early merger of traditions), 217nn13–14, 225nn17–18, 243n61, 243n69, 254n5 Aristotelian thought, x, 3, 76, 137, 206n14, 211n3, 212n5, 219n36; and astrological theory, 45–47, 49, 55, 82, 95–98, 125–27, 133, 136, 215n6, 216n12, 241n37; on the cosmos, 46–48, 49, 128, 133, 212n11, 217n13, 243n61, 243n69; on Form, 45–46, 216n8, 216n10; on vision, 62–63, 68–69, 71, 222n68, 223n70, 224n7, 224n9, 226nn19–20. See also Perspectivists; and individual writers on Perspectiva Aristotle, 66, 196, 243n69; astrological theory, influence on, 44–48, 133, 210n27, 216n6, 217n20, 237n8, 241n37; aitude toward astrology, 217n14; on the cosmos, 44–47, 211n3, 213n11, 243n69; De generatione et corruptione, 45–46, 48, 133; on elemental change, 44–48, 52, 56; Metaphysics, 19–20; on quintessence, 46–47, 56, 217n14, 220n39; on vision, 19–20, 61–63, 222n68, 224n8 armillary spheres, 162–65, plate 4, plate 7 artificial figures. See figure, artificial artists: of Florence, 149; intellectual, 149, 169, 245n95; materials used by, 57–58, 140, 153–55; and visual retention, 169. See also individual artists arts. See architecture and astrology, astrological vaults, sculpture; and individual works of art and architecture Asc. See Ascendant, the Ascendant, the, 36–37, 87, 88, 90, 93, 100–102, 105–7, 111, 115, 192, 232n39. See also horoscopes aspects of rays. See horoscopes: orbs of influence; and individual aspects astrolabes, 29, plate 6 astrological vaults, 49, 66, 119, 122, 145–46, 151–52, 155–57, 159, 161–70, 172–73, 199–200; possible astrological vaults, 171–72, plate 8, plate 9. See also individual horoscope vaults astrologie grecque, L’ (Bouché-Leclercq), 215n6 Astrology (Raphael), 171, plate 8 astrology: and astronomy, 2; benefits, 2, 5, 12, 22, 169, 205n6, 210n34; debates over,

3–7; and free will, 2–6, 205n8, 206n13, 206n19; history of, 45, 203n2; and theology, 12–24; theory of, 43–49, 208n12, 213n21. See also horoscopes; medicine, astrological; and individual astrologers Astronomica (Manilius), 12, 13, 15–16, 18, 20, 22, 25, 208n12 astronomical figure. See figure, artificial astronomical images, 58; Albert the Great on, 57, 58, 123, 124, 130–32, 240n32, 249n14; artificial figure and (see figure, artificial); celestial radiation in, 120; Centiloquy (Pseudo-Ptolemy) and theory of, 121–22, 126; and demons, 45, 120, 125, 126, 132, 135, 159; efficacy observed, 119–20, 159; Ficino on, 58, 70, 119–26, 133–59; Form and, 45; and the image maker, 131, 161–62; Material image as, 69; material substrate of, 120, 125, 141, 142, 153–55; medical uses of, 58, 80, 139; and nature, 124–25; popularity of, 119; retention of Qualities in, 153; omas Aquinas on, 132–35; three components of, 120, 131, 143; two natural components of, 120, 123, 125, 126, 140; universal radiation and, 120; and vision, 71, 163–66, 167–69. See also astrological vaults; Material images; and individual astrological vaults astronomical images and vault paintings: apotropaic, and medical uses of, 163, 167, 171–72, 180; relative power of, 166; three “figures of the universe” as, 162–63, 171; vault painting of De vita 3.19 (Ficino), 161–69; viewer interaction with, 163–69, 172–73. See also individual astrological vaults astronomical years, 57, 221n48, 249n14 astronomy, ix–x; and astrology, 2, 13, 204–5nn4–7, 208n6; geographic theory in, 84; and mathematics, 2, 13, 213n12, 215n3; optics in, 12, 20–21, 210n32; and the structure of the universe, 28–31 Atomists, 66, 73–74 Augustine, 3, 14, 23–24, 142, 155, 205n9, 206n13, 208n10, 211n2, 218n24, 228n42, 228n42, plate 4 Averlino, Antonio “Filarete.” See Filarete

Index Bacon, Roger, 4, 13, 198, 223n69; and astronomical images, 58; on birth moment, 32; on free will, 4, 229n8; geography and astrological theory, 82, 84–86, 91, 98, 228n2, 229n6, 229n8, 232n7; influence on Ficino, 140; and lime, 247n110; and mathematics, 221n49; on vision, 20–21, 61–63, 65, 68–70, 198, 222n68, 223n69, 224n8, 224n11, 226n19, 227n24, 246n98. See also Multiplication of Species Baldini, Baccio, Mercury’s Children, 16, 17 Bear, the (constellation), 183 Bellanti, Luca, 49 birthday of a year, 164, 248n6 birth information, 39–40, 215nn40–41. See also horoscopes: rectifications of; horoscopes: time of Birth of the World, horoscope (ema mundi), 88–90, 89, 93, 97, 106, 111, 230n20, 233n9, 235n32 Birth of Venus (Boicelli), 245n93 Bologna, 91, 231n28 Bonao, Guido, 81–82, 91, 117, 231n28 Bonincontri, Lorenzo, 93, 115, 208n12, 232n40, 235n35 Borgia Suite, the Vatican, 16, 180–89, 181, 184, 185, 186, 187, plate 12, plate 14 Boicelli, Sandro: Augustine, 23–24, plate 4; Birth of Venus, 245n93 Bouché-Leclerq, Auguste, 7; L’astrologie grecque, 215n6 Bramante, Donato, 113, 233n15 Brunelleschi, Filippo, 149–50 Burckhardt, Jacob, 7, 207n22 Cajetan, Tommaso de Vio, 170, 180, 250n25 Campanella, 66, 239n17, 252n61 Cancer, 37, 88–90, 98, 104–5, 112 “Canticle of the Sun” (Francis of Assisi), 5 Caprarola estate, 9–12, 10, 11, 170, 172, 190–94, 200, 207n2, 253n68, plate 1, plate 2, plate 3, plate 13 Capricorn, 37, 88, 104, 192 carbuncle, the, 153–54 Cardano, Girolamo, 89–90, 92, 100–102, 211n37, 231n38 cardines. See horoscopes: cardines of; and individual cardinal points Cassiodorus, 205n6


Castello di San Giorgio, Mantua, 250n31 Celenza, Christopher, 223n5, 239n18 celestial aether, 46–47, 56, 217n13 celestial bodies. See individual planets and stars celestial figures. See figure, celestial celestial radiation, 60 celestial years, 57, 221n48 Cennini, Cennino, Libro dell’arte, 154 Centiloquy (Pseudo-Ptolemy), 122, 126, 213n21, 221n53, 232n39, 236n1, 237n8, 238n8, 247n112 centric rays, 38 Cesariano, Cesare, 75, 210n32, 219n34, 227n32 chains, 183, 188–89. See also Ficino’s cosmos chemistry, proto-, 2, 14, 27, 28, 43, 83, 98, 117, 163, 195–96, 208n6, 215n1, 247n110 Chigi, Agostino, 1, 66, 170, 196, 197, 200; astrological interests of, 178–80, 250n24, 251n45; astrological vault of burial chapel, 171–72, plate 9; astrological vault of villa, 169, 173–80, 175, 250–51n32, 251n42, plate 10, plate 11; astrological vaults, 172–73; baptismal record of, 215n40, 236n43; birth horoscope of, 114, 114, 176–79, 250n32, 251n42, 251n46; conception horoscope of, 175, 177–78, 209n12; foundation horoscope for Chigi villa, 114–16, 116 Chigi, Sigismondo, 116, 180 China, 6 Christ, horoscope for, 88–89, 106, 111–12, 230n20 Church of Santa Maria del Popolo, Rome, 171–72, plate 9 Church of the Ognissanti, Florence, plate 4 cities, 82, 86–93, 99, 108–9, 111, 117; zodiacal signs of, 87–90, 230n16, 232n39. See also foundation horoscopes: for cities; Sforzinda clima. See latitude clothing (astrologically treated). See election horoscopes cognition. See mental processes colors, 85, 87, 178, 182; and artists, 151, 154, 165; color and light, 60–61, 67–68, 77, 142–46, 149–51, 157–59, 169, 189, 226n19, 244n88, 244n89; and planetary, 138,



colors (continued) 164–65, 171, 174, 188, 189, 194, 248n8, 251n35. See also light Compagni, Dino, 90–91 complexion (astrological), 3, 5, 32, 34, 47, 84–86, 229n8 conception horoscopes, 5, 82, 96, 178, 251n32 cones: of celestial radiation, 38, 54, 84, 120; of visible rays, 54, 60–61, 67, 77 conical convergence, 54, 77, 219n34 conjunction, 37, 39, 115, 251n42; by orb, 39, 115, 192, 235n29. See also horoscopes: planetary relations in Constantine (emperor of Rome), 109–10 constellation, 190, 229n4, 232n39; and artificial figure, 120–21, 134, 144, 147–48, 152, 155–57, 165, 188, 237n5; extrazodiacal, 177; in the horoscope chart, 34–36; natures of, 48–49; skeptics on, 3, 142, 205n9; zodiacal, 29, 36. See also individual constellations Conti, Sigismondo dei, 111 Contra l’astrologia divinatrice (Savonarola), 7, 203n1, 205n5, 205n7, 205n9, 217n20, 230n24, 230n25 Copenhaver, Brian, 124, 237n2, 238n9 Copernicus, ix, 29 corporeity, 55, 219n38 Cosmografia vault. See Sala della Cosmografia, Palazzo Farnese, Caprarola Cosmographia (Apian), 26, 27 creation, 243n69; emanation theory, 14, 27–28, 50, 212n5, 212n9; and Genesis, 25–26, 208n10, 212n7; hexameral literature on, 25–28, 211nn1–3; horoscope for (ema mundi), 88, 230n18; Manilius on, 15; Plato on, 13–15, 208n9 Creation of Sun and Moon (Michelangelo), 26, plate 5 Cribello, Leodrisio, 100–102 cusps, 36–37, 111, 214n30 daemons, xi, 74, 210n33, 227n30, 228n35, 237n1, 237n3, 238n10, 243n62; and astronomical images, 123, 237n3, 247n110 d’Ailly, Pierre, 13, 196, 208n4 Dante, 5, 22, 63; Paradiso, 5, 22 David (Michelangelo), 174

De architectura (Vitruvius), 95–98, 232n2, 233n15 De fato (Pseudo-Aquinas), 125–26, 239n17, 240n23, 240n25 De generatione et corruptione (Aristotle), 45–46, 48, 133, 215n6 De insomniis (Synesius), 75–76, 78–80, 166, 224n6, 227n35 De luce (Grosseteste), 26–28, 211nn2–3, 212n8, 220n38, 221n44, 221n56 De mineralibus (Albert the Great), 127–31, 221n48, 240n32, 241n42 Demiurge, the, 14, 16, 208n9, 243n69 Democritus, 22, 72–73, 227n25 demons, xi; and astronomical images, 45, 120, 122–23, 126, 132, 135–36, 156, 199, 236n1, 237n3; communication with, 252n58 density. See medium De occultis operibus naturae (omas Aquinas). See On the Occult Works of Nature De pictura/Della piura (Alberti), 69, 149–52, 224n12, 246nn100–101, 246n103 De radiis stellarum (al-Kindi), 20–21, 48, 208n10, 219n36, 238n8, 252n57 dervishes, 228n43 Desc. See Descendant, the Descendant, the, 36, 88–90. See also horoscopes; and the individual figures of horoscopes devil, the, 5, 206n15 De vita (Ficino), 22, 56, 67, 170, 173, 238n9, 240n31; and the cosmos, 136–39, 220nn38–40, 243n62; Ficino’s fears expressed in, 122, 225n16, 238n10, 239n18, 250n24; on Idea, 136–39; and literary technique, 122–23, 154–55; and medicine, 49, 70–71, 80, 137–40, 167, 205n6, 217n17, 218n23, 225nn15–16, 239n18 241n45, 244n72 (see also De vita and astronomical images); on Rays and radiation, 139–42, 212n8, 217n13, 218nn24–25, 218n28, 219n36, 220n43; on soul, purification of, 80, 228nn41–42, 248n5; on vision, 67, 69, 70–71, 223n69, 223n72, 225n15. See also Ficino, Marsilio; Spiritus De vita and astrological vaults, 170–74, 178–79, 180–88, 190, 199, 249n13; and the chains and artworks, 136–39, 154,

Index 162, 188, 220n40; on the “figures of the universe,” 161–66; on the vault painting of Book 3.19, 23, 161–69, 172, 248n1. See also De vita and astronomical images; and individual astrological vaults De vita and astronomical images, 80, 122, 127, 226n21, 238n12, 239n18, 241n45, 244n80, 247n108, 247n110; and the artificial figure, 142–48, 153–59, 155–57, 238n14, 244n88, 245n93, 247n117, 247n123; and the celestial figure, 120–21, 143–46. See also De vita and astrological vaults De vita and other authors: Albert the Great, 123–24, 127–32; Aquinas, 123–27, 132–36, 239n17; relation to Ficino’s Plato commentaries, 67, 71, 74, 226n23, 244n92 Diaceto, Francesco, 188 diaphanous materials, 154. See also artists: materials used by Directions (astrological), 190 dispersa intentio, 238n13 Disputationes (Pico della Mirandola), 203n1, 205n9, 230n25, 233n12 dreams, 51, 73, 75–76, 78, 80 Eagle, the (constellation), 192 Earth (element), 26, 44–45, 83, 85, 96–97, 153–54. See also elemental change Earth: creation of, and spherical shape, 26, 27, 28, 212n11; the horoscope map, 31–38; mapping of, 28–31, 86; notion of Mother Earth, 85–86, 99 ecliptic, the, 34–37, 205n9 election horoscopes, 11, 32, 97–98, 166, 190, 193–94, 221n53, 221n57, 230n25; for clothing, 59, 125, 221n57; for sculpture, 91, 231n28, 237n6. See also foundation horoscopes; horoscopes elemental change, 43–49, 82–86, 96–97, 153, 243n71, 247n108. See also heat; Qualities: elemental; Rays and radiation; Spiritus elements, the, 44–45. See also quintessence; and individual elements emanation theory, 14, 27–28, 50, 212n5, 212n9 Empedocles, 44, 72–74 environmental concerns, 51, 58, 82–86, 96–97, 117, 198, 229n9. See also Rays and radiation


Ephemerides (Regiomontanus), 29–31, 30, 205n6, 213n18 ephemerides tables, 30, 31, 37, 101 Este, Isabella d’, 206n15 Este family, 1 ethics of the astronomical image, 51, 62–63, 71, 167–68 Exemplary Reasons, 136–38, 148. See also De vita: and the cosmos exile, 85 extramission, 62–63, 67–70, 165–69, 219n34, 222n62, 222n68, 224n8, 224n12. See also vision Farnese, Cardinal Alessandro, 9–12, 10, 11, 170, 190–94, 200, 207nn1–2, plate 1, plate 2, plate 3, plate 13 Farnese, Duke Alessandro, 193, 214n25 Farnese, Oavio, 193 Farnese family, 10–12, 24, 66, 116, 190–94, 200. See also Paul III feast of the Incarnation, 88 Federici-Vescovini, Graziella, 218n25, 226n19 Ficino, Marsilio, 1, 13–14, 20, 22–23, 208nn10–11, 210n32, 220n38; and art patrons, 170; and daemons (see daemons); and formation of the soul, 65–80, 223n5, 226n20, 228nn41–42, 248n5; friends and followers of, 66, 170, 173, 188, 252n57; and medicine (see De vita: and medicine); on mind and mental processes, 65–75, 223n69, 223n72, 224n10, 225n17, 226nn19–20, 249n20; and painting, 152; and Platonic eology, 22, 208n11, 209n22, 215n3, 224n10, 226n19, 226n20; and religious authorities, 122–23; and vision, 20–21, 62–63, 68–72, 141, 163, 167–68, 222n68, 223n69, 224n8, 224nn10–11, 226nn20–21, 227n27, 227n35. See also De vita; Spiritus Ficino, Marsilio, and astronomical images: on the factors of light, 146–48; on the Material image, 71–80, 226n23, 227n27, 227nn31–32, 227n35, 228n37, 228nn41–42, 228n46. See also De vita and astronomical images Ficino, Marsilio, and other authors: and Alberti, 149; commentary on Plato’s Phaedrus, 159; commentary on Plato’s



Ficino, Marsilio, and other authors (continued) Sophist, 67, 71, 73–80, 163, 224n6; and commentary on Plato’s Timaeus, 67, 68, 71–73, 79–80, 163, 224n6, 224n8, 224n10; and Manilius, 208n12. See also De vita and other authors: Aquinas Ficino’s cosmos: and cosmic mediators, 136–39; on Rays and radiation, 48, 55–57, 72, 137–38, 140–41, 216n12. See also De vita: on Rays and radiation figure, artificial, 120, 125, 126, 134–35, 157, 159; Alberti on, 149–52; Aquinas on, 126–27, 132–35; Ficino on, 142–59; and Florentine artists, 145–46, 148–53, 157; and Form, 126, 132, 139; status of, 142, 144, 147, 158–59 figure, celestial, 120–21, 143–47, 151 Filarete (Antonio Averlino), 99; Treatise on Architecture, 98–109, 233nn15–16, 234n28, 235n30 Fire, 26, 44–45, 96–97, 153–54. See also elemental change; heat Florence, 170, 174, 198, 237n6; astrological foundations of, 88, 90–91, 92, 231n26, 231n30; astronomical clock of, 162–63; Dominican influence in, 66–67, 124; sculpture of Mars and, 130–31, 231n28 Forlì, 81, 91, 117, 231n28 form (shape), 54, 247n12 Form, 26–27, 44–45, 63, 82, 178, 216n8; accidental Form, 46, 49; Albert the Great on, 126–30; Aquinas on, 132–35; and astrological theory, 45–46; Ficino on, 46, 72–80, 124, 136–50, 157, 162, 164, 218n28; and Idea, 126–30, 139; and Light as first corporeal, 211n3, 212n9; and Maer, 26, 44–45, 53, 55, 76–78, 82, 117, 126, 162, 199; and Qualities, 46–47, 216n8; and quasi-Form, 126–27, 239n17, 240n29; and radiation/Rays, 52–53; substantial/ specific Form, 46, 49; synonyms for, 46, 51–52, 72. See also Qualities; Rays and radiation Form and form, 61, 120–22, 131–32, 144, 169, 244n88, 244–45nn92–93. See also figure, artificial foundation horoscopes: and the Ascendant, 87–88, 90; for buildings, 93, 97; and

cardines coordinated, 88; and ceremonies, 99, 103–8; for cities, 82, 87, 98, 99 (see also Sforzinda); and horoscopes of patrons, 88–89, 93, 100–102, 109, 112–13, 114–16; for the world (ema mundi), 88–89, 89, 90. See also individual buildings and cities Founding of Saint Peter’s Basilica (school of Raphael), 109–11, 110 Francis of Assisi, Saint, 5 free will, 2–6, 205n8, 206n13, 206n19 Fusoris, Jean, plate 6 Galen, 35, 167, 214n23; Usefulness of the Parts, 214n23; on vision, 62, 68, 222–23nn68–69 Galileo, ix, 245n97 Gallucci, Giovanni, Paolo, eatrum mundi, 208n4 Gallus, Aegidus, 115 Gambara, Cardinal, 191 Garin, Eugenio, 124 Gaurico, Luca: on Farnese horoscopes, 10–11, 190–91, 206n17, 214n25; foundation rules derived from, 113, 215n41, 230n17, 230n23; on optics, 21, 210n32; on Saint Peter’s Basilica, 113; Tractatus astrologicus, 11, 33, 113, 230n17; on Venice, 89 Gemini, 37, 171, 183, 192–93, plate 13 gemstones, 57, 152, 154, 156, 159, 194, 222n58, 244n80 Genesis (creation story), 25–26, 211n1, 212n7 Geography (Ptolemy), 29 geography and astrological theory. See Albert the Great, Saint; Bacon, Roger; Ptolemy, Claudius Giuntini, Francesco, 100–102, 215n40; Speculum astrologiae, 215n40 Gombrich, Ernst, 155, 241n45, 245n93, 247n112 Gonzaga family, 208n12, 250n31 Gra on, Anthony, 235n37 Great Year, 221n48 Grosseteste, Robert: De luce, 26, 52, 211nn2– 3, 212n6, 221n56; on the elements, 26, 213n11; on Form, 46, 52, 221n44, 245n93, 245n97; on Light, 14, 26–28, 157, 212n6, 212n8, 216n11, 220n38; on mathematics, 53, 206n13, 212n10; on universal radiation, 52–53, 65, 212n9

Index Hall of Constantine, the Vatican, 109–11, 110 heat, 48, 123, 126, 139, 154, 238n16. See also Fire hexameral literature, 25–28, 211nn1–3 Hor. See Ascendant, the horizon, 29, 34–36, 41, 83–85, 96, 228n3, 229nn4–5, 229n8 horologium, 164–65, 248n1, 248n3, 248n6 horoscopes, 49; adjustments to, 39–42; cardines of, 34–39, 88–90, 93 (see also individual cardinal points); construction of, 31–34, 33–37, 213n18, 214n30; coordination of, with others, 59, 93, 167, 249n15; interpretation of, 41–42; mathematics of, 35–39; orbs of influence and, 39, 40, 214n37; planetary relations in, 38, (see also individual aspects); rectifications of, 39–41, 91–92, 101–2, 215n41, 231n33; time of, 32–34, 39–41, 45, 101, 215nn40–41. See also conception horoscopes; cusps; election horoscopes; foundation horoscopes; houses of heaven Hours of Raphael, e (Mary Williams), 181, 183–88, 184, 185, 186, 187 houses of heaven, 29, 34–37, 39, 213n21, 214n36, 230nn16–17. See also horoscopes Hydra, the, Chigi vault (Peruzzi), 175 Hyginus, 11, 193; Poeticon astronomicon, 11, 156, 177, 193


Stanza della Segnatura vault of, 171, 180, 250n26, plate 8 Jupiter, 26, 28, 37, 87, 97, 156, 206n15, 214n37; beneficial role of, 16, 48, 164, 166–68, 235n29; at Caprarola, 10, 190–91, 193, 198, 253n70; in Chigi burial vault, 171–72; in Chigi villa vault, 176–77, 179, 251n42; for Saint Peter’s, 111–13; for Sforzinda, 104–8, 235n29 Kaske, Carol, 122, 124, 216n7, 248n1 Kepler, Johannes, ix–x, 21, 24 Kessler, Eckhard, 234n4, 225n17 Kindi, al-: on astronomical images, 58; De radiis stellarum, 240, 48; influence of, 26, 140, 210n34, 218n24, 220n42; punctiform analysis of, 214n35; on universal radiation, 48, 50, 51, 140; on vision, 20–21, 198, 208n10 Kristeller, Paul O., 124, 209n22, 223n3

Ibn al-Haytham, 168–69, 246n98, 249nn19–20 Idea, 66, 78, 127–30, 132–34, 136–39, 142–48, 226n20, 245n93. See also Ficino, Marsilio imagination, 69, 72–80, 151–52, 159, 161, 169, 188, 226nn19–20, 227n35, 253n64. See also mental processes; Spiritus imago, 51–55, 60–61, 63, 68, 73, 120–21, 145, 147, 151, 155, 157, 164, 212n6, 227n31. See also Rays and radiation IMC. See Lower Midheaven, the India, 6 intromission, 61–62, 68–70, 169, 222n62, 222n68, 224n8. See also vision

latitude, 29, 83, 84–85, 96 Leo (constellation), 37, 48, 87–88, 98, 115, 180, 182, 183, 188, 230n16, 236n46, 251n42 Leonardo da Vinci, 53, 169, 246n98, 249n19 Leo X (pope; formerly Giovanni de’ Medici), 1, 196, 197, 200, 219n34, 236n1, 239n17, 250n24, 251n42; as patron of the Sala dei Pontefici vault, 139, 170, 180–89, 200, 252nn51–52, plate 12 Libra, 88, 90, 98, 108, 192, 230n20, 235n29 light, xi, 25–28, 208n10, 219n33, 244n89; in artificial figures, 146–48, 157–59; Grosseteste on, 26–28, 46, 211n3, 212nn8–10, 216n11, 220n38, 221n44; in hexameral literature, 25–28, 211n3, 212n7. See also lux-lumen; Rays and radiation Lindberg, David, 212nn5–6, 212n9 Lives of the Artists (Vasari), 16, 115, 179, 195, 209n19, 235n15, 236n47, 252n51, 253n1 Lower Midheaven, the, 36, 41, 88–90, 105 Lucretius, 66, 73, 223n3 lux-lumen, 26, 52, 212n6, 212n9, 221n44

Julius II (pope; formerly Giuliano della Rovere), 1, 40, 170, 196, 197, 231n34; birth horoscope of, 112–13, 215n40; founding of Saint Peter’s Basilica by, 109–14;

Macrobius: Commentary on the Dream of Scipio, 16; Saturnalia, 16 magi, 71–75, 163, 226n21, 237n2 magic, 49, 217n21, 231n27, 237n2



magnetism, 48, 216n9 Malleus maleficarum, 250n29 Manilius, Marcus, 9, 12, 25, 195, 198; Astronomica (Manilius), 15–20, 208n12 Margarita of Austria, 193 Mars: planet, 7, 26, 28, 37, 87, 88, 90, 97, 101, 107, 111, 113, 146, 192, 215n37, 231n28; sculpture of, 91, 131, 155–57 Material images, 71–80. See also astrological vaults; astronomical images materialists, 66–67, 73–74 mathematicians, 2, 29, 42, 150, 195, 204–5n5, 215n44, 228n3, 245n97, 251n45 mathematics, 22, 43, 44, 205n6, 213n13, 215n3, 245n97. See also figure, artificial Maer. See Form MC. See Midheaven, the medicine, astrological, 2, 5, 31, 42, 47, 49, 58, 66, 70, 125, 167, 188–89, 198, 205n7, 222n68, 226n21, 236n1, 250n31. See also astronomical images; De vita: and medicine; De vita and astrological vaults: and the chains and artworks; De vita and astronomical images Medici, Alessandro de’, 92, 117 Medici, Francesco I de’, 250n31 Medici, Giovanni de’. See Leo X medium, density of, 57–59, 63, 143, 148, 153, 219n36, 221nn46–47, 221n49, 246n107 Melanchthon, 7 memory, 68, 168–69, 226n19, 249nn18–20, 250n23. See also mental processes mental processes, 21, 62, 65–66, 68; Ficino on, 71–80. See also imagination; memory; vision Mercury, 16, 17, 26, 28, 37, 107, 111, 173, 188, 215n37 Mercury’s Children (Baccio Baldini), 16, 17 meridian, the, 29, 34–37, 176 metaphysical (as term), 208n5 Metaphysics (Aristotle), 19–20 Michelangelo, 16, 26, 86, 174, 190, 212n7, 245n95, plate 5 Midheaven, the, 36, 87–90, 93, 101–2, 104–8, 111–13, 190, 251n42 Milan, 99, 101, 209n18, 230n18; Milan’s astrological foundations, 88, 89–92, 104–5. See also Sforzinda mind, the. See mental processes

moment of generation. See horoscopes: time of Moon (astronomical), ix, 5, 26, 28–29, 31, 115, 213n11, 214n32 Moon (in astrology), 5, 37, 88, 97–98, 104, 107, 115, 164, 178, 183, 215n37, 218n22, 233n13, 235n29 Morgan, J. Pierpont, and Morgan Library, 173, 250n31 Multiplication of Species (Bacon), 50–53, 55–57, 212n6, 212n9, 216n10, 218n27, 219n36, 219n38, 224n11, 226n19 Naples, 88 Neoplatonism. See Aristotelian-Neoplatonic thought; Ficino, Marsilio; Grosseteste, Robert; Kindi, al-; Plato; Plotinus; Synesius Nifo, Agostino, 225n17, 236n1 North, John, 39, 222n58 North Star, 36, 48, 176, 179 Newman, William, 216n8, 238n13 Oc. See Descendant, the Old Sacristy of San Lorenzo, Florence, 250n31 On the Art of Building in Ten Books (Alberti), 95, 97–98, 232n7, 233n13 On the Occult Works of Nature (omas Aquinas), 126, 132–35, 239n17, 240n22, 240n25, 240n29, 241n47, 242n49, 242n53, 242n55 optics, x, 19–21, 50, 61–63, 67–69, 77, 147–49; artists and, 149–52, 246n98, 246n107 (see also individual artists); early treatises on, 210n32. See also vision orbs of influence, 39, 40, 214n37, 215n37 Orsini, Fulvio, 193, 207n1, 253n70 painting. See astrological vaults Palazzo del Te, 208n12 Palladio, Blosio, 178 paranatellonta, 178, 183 Partridge, Loren, 253n68 Paul III (pope; formerly Alessandro Farnese), 1, 9, 11, 170, 190, 196, 197 Pecham, John, 20–21, 168; on radiation and Rays, 43, 52–53, 65, 117, 214n35, 237n5, 244n79. See also Perspectiva communis

Index Pelacani, Biagio, 66–67, 205n8, 223n4 perception and cognition. See mental processes; vision Perseus, 141–42, 152–53, 174, 176, 179 Perspectiva communis (Pecham), 53, 65, 87, 210n32, 212n5, 214n35, 218n22, 223n69, 224n8, 227n32, 237n5, 246n98 Perspectivists, 62, 168, 210n26, 222n68, 224nn89, 224n11, 227n32. See also individual Perspectivists Peruzzi, Baldassarre, 151, 156, 175, 179, 251n45, plate 10, plate 11 Phaeton, 10, 190–91, 193, plate 3 Picatrix, 217n21, 222n63, 236n1; and astronomical images, 157, 165, 236n1, 247n113; Ficino and, 49, 155, 157, 187, 220n42, 247n113; potions and practices, 187, 231n28, 247n113 Pico della Mirandola, Giovanni, 6, 49, 71, 203n1, 205n9, 233n12 Pius VII (pope), 180–82, 186, 189 planetary children, 16, 17, 208n18 planetary clocks, 157, 162, 163, 164, 165, 248n1, 248n3, 248n6 planetary domiciles, 182 planetary rulers, 183 Plato, 9, 25, 164–65; on the elements and mathematics, 44, 213n11, 245n97; in Raphael’s School of Athens, 195–96, 253n1, plate 14; the Republic, 208n10, 248n5; the Timaeus, 12–14, 15–16, 18–19, 21–22, 162, 195–96, 208n9, 209n23, 210n33, 211n36, 213n11, 254n2; on vision, 18–20, 62, 68, 70, 209n25. See also Ficino, Marsilio, and other authors Platonic eology (Ficino). See Ficino, Marsilio: and Platonic eology Plotinus, emanation theory of, 14, 27, 130, 208n9, 212n9; Ficino’s use of Plotinus on images, 124, 140, 146, 238n9, 244n88 pneuma, 47, 56, 62, 217n13, 219n36, 222n68 Pomponazzi, Pietro, 225n17 Pontano, Giovanni, 1, 49, 216n12, 237n8 Pontefici vault. See Sala dei Pontefici, Vatican Proclus, 73, 209n18, 209n26 Pseudo-Aquinas, De fato, 125, 239n17, 240n23, 240n25


Pseudo-Ptolemy, Centiloquy, 122, 126, 213n21, 221n53, 232n39, 236n1, 237n8, 238n8, 247n112 Ptolemy, Claudius, x, 2, 22, 41–42, 47, 49, 206n13, 215n44, 217n14; Almagest, 28–29, 204n5; Geography, 29; influence on Saint Peter’s Basilica foundation, 111–14; influence on Sforzinda foundation, 100–107; on optics, 20, 210n32, 222n68, 244n90; Tetrabiblos, 41, 47, 48, 84, 86–88, 93, 210n34, 215n44, 217n13, 217n18, 229n12, 230n16, 231n38 punctiform radiation, 54, 77, 147, 214n35, 219n33 pyramid of vision. See cones Pythagoras, 22, 39, 149, 254n5 Qualities, 46–47; celestial, 47, 48, 50, 140, 142, 145–46; and change, 48–49; elemental, 44–48, 140, 142, 153–55; movement through media, 52–53 (see also Rays and radiation); transfer on Spiritus, 56, 137, 139, 163, 188–89. See also Form quintessence (fi h element), 46–47, 56, 137, 217nn13–14, 220n39, 220n43 Raphael: Astrology, 171, plate 8; Chigi burial chapel vault by, 171–72, plate 9; Julius II and friends, 196, 197; School of Athens, 195–96, 253–54nn1–2, plate 14 Rash-Fabbri, Nancy, 250n26 Ravilius, Alex, plate 7 Ray image, 72, 76 Rays and radiation: and astrological vaults, 165–68, 172, 178–80, 189; and the astronomical image, 58–59; defined, 50–53, 59–63, 218n25; geometry of, 49, 53–54, 221n49; in the horoscope, 37–39; and the Material image, 73–78, 80, 227n31; movement through media, 55–58, 219n36, 219n38, 220n39, 222n58; and vision, 65–66, 67–69, 69–70, 163, 167–68, 178–80, 189, 220n43, 221n47, 222n68, 223n1, 224n8, 224n11, 249n18. See also light; Qualities rectifications. See horoscopes: rectifications of Regiomontanus, Johannes, ix, 1, 42, 208n12; Ephemerides of, 29—31, 205n6, 213n18



regions and their zodiacal signs, 86–88. See also individual cities River, the (constellation), 191 Rome, astrological foundations of, 33, 87–88, 91, 97–98, 115, 213n19, 228n1, 230n16 Rousseau, Claudia, 183 Rovere, Giuliano della. See Julius II Rowland, Ingrid, 251n32 Rutkin, H. Darrel, 204n2, 228n3 Sacrobosco, Johannes de, 207n3, 213n12; Sphere, 213n12 Sagiarius, 87, 101–3, 107–8 Saint Augustine (Boicelli), 23–24, 211n41, plate 4 Saint Peter’s Basilica, 92, 198–99; and the first Saint Peter’s Basilica, 109–11, 110; foundation horoscopes for, 109–14, 235n37, 235n40; Sala dei Pontefici, Vatican, 170, 172, 180–89, 181, 184, 185, 186, 187, 200, 250n31, 252nn51–52, plate 12 Sala della Cosmografia, Palazzo Farnese, Caprarola, 9–12, 10, 11, 172, 190–94, 200, 207nn1–2, 253n68, plate 1, plate 2, plate 3, plate 13 Salviati, Giorgio Benigno, 170, 250n24 San Lorenzo (Old Sacristy), Florence, 250n31 Sansovino, Francesco, 89, 230n21 Santa Maria del Popolo (Chigi Chapel), Rome, 171–72, plate 9 Saturn: for the architectural foundations, 97, 104–7, 111–13; for the astrological vaults, 156, 179, 182–83, 192, 252n52; in the horoscope charts, 37, 39, 214n37; the planet, 26, 28 Savonarola, Girolamo, 1, 3, 6–7, 24, 49, 71, 91, 132, 203n1, 204n5, 205n9, 206n9, 230n24 Schoener, Johannes, 213n21; Opera mathematica, 39, 40, 215n37; I tre libri delle natività, 213n21 School of Athens (Raphael), 195–96, 253–54nn1–2, plate 14 Scorpio, 190–91 sculpture, 91, 131, 134–35, 157–59, 174, 231n28, 237n6

Seminal Reasons, 46, 136–38, 216n7 Sforza, Francesco, 92, 93, 99–102, 108–9, 234n18, 234n21 Sforzinda, 93, 99–109, 199, 235n30 Shearman, John, 171, 250n27 Ship, the, 183 Siena, 91, 176–77, 179, 231n28 sight. See vision Sirius, 183, 188, 189 Sistine Chapel, 26, 212n7, plate 5 Smith, Mark, 62, 210n32, 222n68, 224n7, 224n9 solar chains, 138, 188–89. See also Ficino’s cosmos: and cosmic mediators Sophist commentaries (Ficino), 67, 71, 73–80, 163, 224n6 soul, the, x, 3–4, 20–21, 46, 66–71, 167, 169, 196, 204n5, 225n17, 229n8, 242n53, 249n18; in Ficino, 56, 62, 65–71, 74–75, 78–80, 226n20, 228n41, 247n123, 248n5; in Plato’s Timaeus, 12–13, 15–18, 21–24, 198, 210n33, 211n36, 250n27 Species, 25, 43, 72, 133, 137, 147–48; as Form, 46, 216n10; in Rays and radiation, 50–53, 55–57, 63–68, 72–78, 218nn25–27, 227n35. See also Form; Multiplication of Species; Rays and radiation Speculum (Albert the Great), 127, 130–32, 204n4 Spiritus: and astrological vaults, 162–63, 165–66, 168, 172, 179, 188–89, 253n64; and Rays and radiation, 56–57, 137–38, 141, 243n71; and vision, 62, 66–80, 222n68, 223n69, 224n10, 225nn14–16, 226n20, 227n35, 244n72 Spiritus image, 72 Spiritus phantasticus, 62, 75, 78 Stanza della Segnatura. See Raphael stars, natures of, 48. See also individual constellations and stars Stephenson, Bruce, 213n17 Stoicism. See Galen; Manilius, Marcus; Ptolemy, Claudius Studiolo of Francesco I de’ Medici, 250n31 Substantial/Specific Form, 46, 49, 129, 134, 216n11, 240n27, 241n32 Summa contra Gentiles (omas Aquinas), 124–26, 239n17, 240n22

Index Summa theologica (omas Aquinas), 239n17 Sun (astronomical), ix, 4–5, 13, 26, 28, 29, 31, 34, 83, 84, 86, 86, 87, 101, 103–4, 133, 164, 198, 234n21, 248n6 Sun (in astrology), 37, 38–39, 45, 60, 70, 101, 103–4, 107, 111–13, 115, 164, 167–68, 180, 182–83, 188, 192, 215n37, 217n18, 249n13, 253n68; zodiacal ruler, 87–88, 90, 230n16 Sun (in radiation theory), 47–49, 51–52, 59, 61, 82, 96, 98, 117, 120, 138, 212n6, 214n32, 237n7, 241n37 swan, 138; in the Pontefici vault, 182–83, 185, 188 Swan, Claudia, 243n62 Swan, the, (Peruzzi), 175, 177 Swerdlow, Noel, 204n5, 231n29 Synesius, 73–80, 166, 224n6, 227n35, 238n13 Systemic Mathematical Treatise (Ptolemy). See Almagest talismans, xi, 58, 122, 168, 173, 180, 183, 198, 222n63, 226n21, 231n28, 248n1. See also astronomical images Tarutius, Lucius, 97, 232n9 Taurus, 91, 98, 104, 115, 156, 174, 176–77, 179, 231n28, plate 11 Ten Books on Architecture (Vitruvius), 96–97, 210n32, 219n34, 228n3, 232n2, 233n15 Tetrabiblos (Ptolemy), 41, 47, 48, 84, 86–88, 93, 210n34, 215n44, 217n13, 217n18, 229n12, 230n16, 231n38 ema mundi, 88–90, 89, 93, 97, 106, 111, 230n20, 233n9, 235n32 eophrastus, 222n68 omas Aquinas, Saint, 66, 239n17; on astrology, 3, 206n10; on astronomical images, 126–27, 131, 132–35, 148, 237n3, 239n17, 240n29, 241n47, 242n53, 242n55, 242n57, 250n25; Ficino on the astronomical image and, 124–26, 135–36, 139–40, 142–43, 148, 153, 158–59, 199, 238n9, 239n17, 240n22 Timaeus (Plato). See Plato: Timaeus time, 57, 221n48. See also horoscopes: time of Titian, 173–74 touch, 165, 223n1, 228n46. See also vision


Tractatus astrologicus (Gaurico), 11, 33, 113, 230n17 Treatise on Architecture (Filarete), 98–109, 233nn15–16, 234n28, 235n30 triangles, 145, 151, 215n3, 245n97, 246n100 trine relations, 39, 104, 112, 235n29 Tropic of Cancer, 16, 190 Tropic of Capricorn, 16, 190 Tuscany, 87, 90 twins, 35, 83–85, 193, 214n25, 229n8 universal radiation, 50–51, 53–54, 56, 59–60, 63, 70, 77, 86, 117, 120, 165, 252n58. See also Multiplication of Species; Rays and radiation universe: mapping of, 27–28; structure of, 27–31, 212–13nn11–13 Vasari, Giorgio, 16, 115, 179, 195–96, 209n19, 233n15, 236n47, 252n51, 253n1 Vatican, the. See Borgia Suite; Hall of Constantine; Raphael; Saint Peter’s Basilica; Sala dei Pontefici; Sistine Chapel Venice, 88–90, 179, 198–99 Venus: and architectural foundations, 104, 108, 111, 115, 234n28; and astrological vaults, 167–68, 172, 182–83, 192, 249n13, 252n52; and astrology, 16, 91, 157, 164, 215n37, 231n28, 248n8, 251n35; and astronomy, 26, 28, 37 Vespucci, Giorgio Antonio, 23, 211n41 Villa Bagnaia, 191 Villa Farnesina. See Chigi, Agostino Virgo, 37, 48–49, 156, 173, 177–78, 230n20 visible Rays, 60–61, 67–71, 149–51, 189, 214n35, 222n61, 222n63, 224n11 vision, x, 12, 14, 18–24, 54, 60–63, 149, 168–69; and astrological vaults, 165–69, 178, 189, 196, 198; Atomists and, 74; and ethical issues, 62–63, 71, 167–68; extramission, 62–63, 68–69; extramissionintromission, 62, 68–69; Ficino on, 70–80 (see also Ficino, Marsilio: and vision); intromission, 61, 68–69; materiality of, 62–63, 67–68; and mental processes, 62, 65–66, 68, 71–78, 168–69; physical change in, 163, 167–69. See also cones; light; mental processes; optics;

284 vision (continued) Rays and radiation; visible Rays; visual Rays; and individual authors on vision visual arts. See architecture and astrology; astrological vaults; sculpture; and individual works of art and architecture visual Rays, 61–63, 68–71, 150, 163, 165–66, 167–68, 222n63, 222–23n68, 224n12 Vitruvius, Marcus, 95–97, 98, 210n32, 219n34, 228n3, 232n2, 233n15 Volpaia, Lorenzo della, 163, 165, 248n3 Walker, D. P., 124, 188, 238n9, 239n17 Water, 26, 44–45, 56, 83, 85, 96, 117. 153–54, 220n39, 226–27n23, 232n2, 243n71. See also elemental change

Index Weill-Parot, Nicolas, 173, 204n4, 238n8, 239n17, 241n32 Westman, Robert, 213n15 Williams, Mary, e Hours of Raphael, 181, 183–88, 184, 185, 186, 187 World-Soul, 56, 62, 136–38, 227n32 World-Spirit, 47, 56–58, 62–63, 69–70, 74, 80, 137–38, 166, 217n13, 219n36, 220nn39–40, 220n43, 225n16 zenith, 35–36, 176, 179 zodiac, 29, 36, 98, 103, 115, 155, 165, 171, 173, 174, 180, 183, 186, 191–92, 205n9. See also horoscopes; regions and their zodiacal signs