Earliest star maps could chart a course to $290,000 at Sotheby's

The oldest star charts published in Europe are going under the hammer at Sotheby's on Wednesday, March 30.

The earliest printed star charts are presented as a pair of extremely rare woodcuts, each by Albrecht Dürer (1471-1528) the Viennese painter, printmaker, mathematician, engraver, and theorist. One displays the Northern Sky and the other the Southern Sky.

Dated to circa 1515, the maps were produced under the patronage of the Holy Roman Emperor Maximilian I. They reflect Dürer's virtuosity as a cartographer, as well as his interest in mathematics and science.

The works were produced as part of a landmark collaboration between Dürer, German astronomer Conrad Heinfogel and cartographer and astronomer Johan Stabis.

There are only 10 other examples of these 1515 charts extant, and you can only find them in some of the world's leading institutions. What's more, this pair is one of only three with contemporary hand-colouring.

Needless to say, these works by Dürer provided a massive inspiration for successive generations of mapmakers.

With their provenance and rarity, it's no surprise that the charts will carry a £120,000-180,000 ($292,178) estimate when they appear in London on Wednesday.

Watch this space for more news on the sale.


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