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Scaphe Dial
Signed by Stefano Buonsignori
Dated 1584; Florence
Wood; 130 mm in diameter

Circular turned wooden box with removable lid. The lid is painted light blue on the inside and may originally have been intended to carry scales as it is divided into ten concentric bands. The lower part of the box is solid, has a central inset compass with straight bar needle and undivided base, surrounded by four hollowed out pin-gnomon scaphe dials. Each dial has the hour diagram drawn in black on a gold ground with, below this, the tropic of Cancer named in Latin in gold letters on a green-blue ground. This itself, in the upper and lower dials, is set on a red ground, and in the side dials on a gold-dotted dark blue ground. Below the arc the latitude value for each dial is written in gold in a dark blue oval contained in a gold-bordered square with scrolled gold decoration on green-blue ground in the corners. The square itself is contained in a semi-circle coloured dark blue in the upper and lower dials, red in the side dials. In both cases this ground is filled with formal flowing gold foliate decoration. The latitudes of the four dials are, reading clockwise from the top 35?, 40?, 43?, 48?, that for 43? degrees breaking the sequence of increments by five presumably because it is the latitude of Florence where Buonsignori worked. Beneath the dials, reading in the same sense as the numerals on the dial but inverted from the other inscriptions, is the word 'Hyemalis' (winter) representing the tropic of Capricorn written in gold in a blue green scroll on a red ground decorated with symmetrical gold foliage. The rim of each dial and that of the compass is outlined in red, and all available free surfaces are filled with symmetrical formal leaf decoration in gold on an ultramarine ground. The four pin gnomons are conical brass spikes with turned bases. The dial is signed three times with the initials 'D.S.' at the end of the scroll marked 'Tropicus Cancri'. In the same position in the fourth scroll is the date.

Anthony J. Turner

Istituto e Museo di Storia della Scienza, Firenze
Inventory no. 2485

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