JF Ptak Science Books LLC Post 1664
See the other Extra-Earth posts: Mondo Bizarro, Science Afflictions and the Dubious Mind—Bad Science, Part 1. NYC in Space (?!) here and Extra-Earth Humano-Alien Souls From Outer Space Repopulate Earth-Hell!!(??) here.
Peter Brueghel (the elder, born ca. 1525 and dying in 1569), was the Dutch semi-discoverer and king of "normality" of Renaissance art--and by "normality" I mean that he depicted non-royal things that were generally off the palette for almost everyone else, finding subjects in peasants and small life (hunting, meals, working at agriculture, festivals, dances, and so on). Brueghel was also perhaps the first painter to depict a landscape for the sake of its own beauty, without being a backdrop for a religious study or building or historical scene. He was extraordinarily prolific in his skimpy 45 years, fully populating his scenes with suites of busy and evolving life.
Browsing through some of his work, I came across the print called "Temerpance", which in general I think was supposed to warn us against excessive pleasure, but which really just confused me a little.
(TEMPERANTIA; and then, VIDENDVM, VT NEC VOLVPTATI DEDITI PRODIGI ET SVXVRIOSI//APPAREAMVS, NEC AVARA TENACITATI SORDIDI AVT OBSCVRI EXISTAMVS. "We must look to it that, in the devotion to sensual pleasures, we do not become wasteful and luxuriant, but also that we do not, because of miserly greed, live in filth and ignorance".)
To me, it looks like people here are pretty industrious, mostly engaged in scientific or musical pursuits: lots of books, musical instruments, people writing and reading. But I guess that these were sensual pleasures, pleasures of the mind and heart, and not a pleasure devolved from the godhead. Perhaps the complete opposite is true: the print showing the triumph of the pursuit of the mind over sensual graft, lifting mankind above the filth and ignorance of the body. Sheesh.
But the real grit of my interest is the action lurking in the background, the man, the astronomer, making measurements in the sky, triangulating the Moon and the Sun (perhaps). What on earth is he standing on? He does seem to be standing on earth in the background of the earth on which thee people in the foreground are standing--which means, with a stretch, we have the fourth entry in this blog's short "Extra Earths" category.
The more I think about it, and the more closely I look at the print, this confusion must be my own--this must be Brueghel's way of showing the possible worlds that exist outside the sensual and self indulgent. He shows children (and adults) learning their ABC's at the feet of teh schoolmaster at bottom right, a theatre scene at upper left, a large musical ensemble (complete with choir). An industrious man measures his fields, while builders to his right measure their progress and trueness on a column; at bottom right we see an "accountant" of the times working his tables and figures, while another to his right works on a math problem, clutching his pot of ink. The figure in the middle (with "temperance" written in the hem of his garment), reminds us of our mortality, with a sword in one hand and a clock on his head. All in all, it is a delightful scene of industry and invention--and it has an extra earth.
Of course the extra-earth is allegorical, but, still, it is an unusal thing to see.