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1:15pm-2:15pm on Wednesday 6 April

Times shown are in GMT (UTC +0) up to the 26th March. For events on or after 27th March times are in BST (UTC +1).

Fitzwilliam Museum, Seminar Room, Trumpington Street, CB2 1RB

Drawing on the Fitzwilliam Museum’s Universe in Motion exhibition, this talk by Dr Fran Hughes will illuminate the surprising presence of heraldry (coats of arms) in the mathematical and cosmographic instruments designed by mathematician Peter Apian (1495-1552). These heraldic instruments drew witty associations between heavenly signs, cosmic geometry, noble genealogy and horoscopic destiny.

Genealogy and ancestry mattered a great deal in the sixteenth century, especially for elite noble families with prestigious and ancient coats of arms. Throughout the middle ages, heralds and poets had provided allegorical glosses for the shields of their masters, linking heraldic colours to precious stones, planetary alignments and their corresponding virtues. However, in the scholarly milieu of Peter Apian, there arose a new format for offering heraldic praise: elaborate mathematical instruments, designed to read the geometry of the heavens, produced in the form of heraldic motifs. This talk will explain the design and function of Peter Apian’s ingenious heraldic mathematical instruments, before examining the importance of heraldry within his scholarly context. Far from being an outdated remnant of a chivalric, medieval past, coats of arms were at the forefront of humanist imaginations during a crucial period of mathematical innovation. As scholars like Apian wrestled with the meaning of cosmic signs, like constellations and eclipses, they were also contemplating the nature of all sign systems, including the coats of arms of their patrons.

This is a hybrid event - tickets can be booked for online (via zoom) or in person at the museum. Please select the option that best meets your needs.

Speaker Biography

Fran Hughes recently completed her doctorate with the Department of History of Art at the University of Cambridge, focussing on the ‘heraldic imagination’ in the art of the German Renaissance. Her broader research interests include early modern print culture, the calligraphic arts, and the aesthetic appreciation of communicative imagery in pre-modernity.

Booking email address:

Telephone number:
+44 (0)1223 333 230

Booking/Registration is: REQUIRED

This is a hybrid event - tickets can be booked for online (via zoom) or in person at the museum. Please select the option that best meets your needs.

Additional Information

Age: Adults
Format: Talk
Timing: Live Stream, In person
Cost: Free
Event Capacity: 30 in person, 300 online
Theme: Discovery
Accessibility: Step-free access, Hearing loop, Accessible toilet, Closed Captions
Image copyright: The Fitzwilliam Museum

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