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Special Exhibition Label: 'Geek is Good' (15 May - 2 November 2014)

The Spectacle of Geometry

All three objects here show the love of mathematical ingenuity characteristic of the late Renaissance. The chalice is a German sundial in gilt brass which tells the time by two sets of hour lines – one for when the chalice is empty and one for when it’s full, and therefore allowing for the refraction of the sunlight.

The little astronomical compendium at the front includes a universal sundial and storage for a set of miniature drawing instruments, along with many other pieces of mathematical gadgetry. It was owned by one of the most successful printers of Elizabethan England, Richard Jugge.

The crucifix is the case for the accompanying set of drawing instruments. If that seems a banal use for the central symbol of Christianity, there’s even less reverence at play here. The cross is also a sundial with the cross-piece casting shadows onto hour lines on the upright. The only piece missing is a tiny compass that would have sat at the very top above Christ’s head.

MHS inv. 51021 (chalice)
MHS inv. 36313 (compendium)
MHS inv. 37004 (crucifix set)

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