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Horizontal Dial
Attributed to Camillo della Volpaia
Dated 1542; Florence
Boxwood; 177 x 84 mm

Rectangular base carrying in its southern half an horizontal pin-gnomon dial for Italian hours (9 to 24 undivided), with the equinoctial, the tropics of Cancer and Capricorn, and the meridian line of the instrument marked and named. The sides of the dial are flanked by the two halves of a zodiac scale. Below the dial is an inset compass read against an eight-point wind-rose with named directions ('Meridional', 'Tramontana', 'Libeccio', 'Greco', 'Ponente', 'Levante', 'Maestrale', 'Scirocco') inscribed around the rim. Straight compass needle with T end set above a map of Central and southern Italy painted on the base of the compass showing the Italian mainland with its central mountain ridge, Sicily, Sardinia and Corsica. The positions of Pisa, Florence, Sienna, Anco, Rome, Pescaro, Mafra, Naples, Otranto, Salerno, and Calo are marked. A ship off Sicily is flying a pennant bearing what might be the Medici arms, and there is an obligatory sea monster. Above the compass bowl a folding mount in the form of a monstrous fish carries a plumb bob in its mouth and supports on its back a wind-vane in the form of an angel. The corners of the instrument below the compass contain incised decorative flowers below the date, the dial lines, flowers and the date retaining traces of rubrication. On the reverse of the plate is a circular table containing a solar course diagram. Above this is a figure of Capricorn rampant in a circle containing the astrological signs for the days of the week, the whole surrounded by an elliptical scroll with the inscription 'DAT PLANETA DIEM. HORAM. DAT GRESSVS IN ORBE' ('The planet gives the day, the hour. It gives the course in the sphere'). The edges of the plate are enclosed in an ebony frame marked in gold on three sides with the inscription 'LOCO TEMPO STAGION FVGGER DEL HORE SOFFIAR DE VENTI QUE LA CALAMITA SI VOLGE SEMPRE VEDER PVOI SIGNORE'.

This dial may be compared with instruments made in the della Volpaia workshop in the use of the inscription-carrying scroll and the solar course diagram. In particular it resembles in layout a dial signed in the same year by Camillo della Volpaia. Camillo's dial, although larger, is however less elaborate than the present example. If there are too few precise resemblances in the letter forms to permit of a firm attribution of this dial to any member of the della Volpaia dynasty, general influence from that workshop (or from a common source), may certainly be postulated.

Anthony J. Turner

Istituto e Museo di Storia della Scienza, Firenze
Inventory no. 2503

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