Visual legitimisation of astronomy in the sixteenth and seventeeth centuries: Atlas, Hercules and Tycho’s nose
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AbstractImages of the virtuous hero Hercules and the crowned King Atlas offered considerable potential for legitimising the new astronomy of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. The accomplishments of Hercules, a seeker after virtue, with his exceptional learning, his role as disseminator of knowledge, his significance as an example of ideal manhood and, in addition to all, his achievement of immortality, invited comparison with the endeavours of astronomers. Throughout the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, Hercules and Atlas appear as the spiritual authorities of the discipline, and each was called into use to symbolise both the old and the new astronomy. Both figures embodied qualities that were decisive in struggles for patronage: they were politicised, especially Hercules, and used to legitimise claims to power.

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