The Astrologer

Holbein Proofs, Astrologer
Holbein: In Praise of Folly

D eath presents a skull to the astrologer. Presumably to show a comparison between the spherical universe and the skull.

Above the head of the astrologer hangs a model of the Universe with the Zodiac, which is reminiscent of the picture of The Last Judgment. For further details, see this external link about The Armillary Sphere.

The astrologer does not appear on most of the so-called proofs. In fact he is only known from one single series with "Gothic" black letters, in contrast to the other series that have "ordinary" Roman letters, slightly inclined (see picture above). With the official issue of Les Simulachres & Historiées in Lyon in 1538 the astrologer became an integrated part of the dance of death.

As early as 1515, Holbein had made the drawing to the right for "In Praise of Folly" by Erasmus. The learned man holds both a globe and a model of the solar system in his hands. The same two objects can be found in the background of the painting "The Ambassadors".

Prosopographiæ Heroum atque, vol. 2, 1565, page 113 (and 446)
Zwen Todentäntz: Astrologer

The portrait of the astrologer was copied for several editions by Heinrich Pantaleon about German heroes: "Prosopographiæ Heroum atque Illustrium Virorum totius Germaniæ" or "Teutscher Nation Heldenbuch".

Holbein's astrologer has also inspired the astrologer we see in Zwen Todentäntz from 1588.

This woodcut (to the right) had been used for various edition of "Cosmographey" since 1574 and also used in Nikolaus Höniger's Hoffhaltung des Türckhischen Keysers vnd Othomañischen Reichs from 1578 (first part, page ccxxi)

Variations: Birckmann lets the astrologer measure a globe; the window is made square with a shell-motif above. Valvasor and Deuchar copy Birckmann. However, Valvasor ignores the mussel-shell above the window, which shows that Deuchar has copied Birckmann, and not Valvasor.
Rubens places 2 rulers crosswise on the table, and Mechel replaces them with a real cross.

Various Artists

Holbein Proofs (1526)
Holbein Proofs 1526: Astrologer
Holbein (1538)
Holbein 1538: Astrologer
 1545: Astrologer
Birckmann (1555)
Birckmann 1555: Astrologer
Wagner (1557)
Wagner 1557: Astrologer
Rubens (1590)
Rubens 1590: Astrologer
Chytraeus (1590)
Chytraeus 1590: Astrologer
Glissenti (1596)
Glissenti 1596: Astrologer
Kieser (1617)
Kieser 1617: Astrologer
Doodt Vermaskert (1654)
Doodt Vermaskert 1654: Astrologer
Valvasor (1682)
Valvasor 1682: Astrologer
Doodt Vermaskert (1698)
Doodt Vermaskert 1698: Astrologer
Rusting (1707)
Rusting 1707: Astrologer
Mechel (1780)
Mechel 1780: Astrologer
Deuchar (1788)
Deuchar 1788: Astrologer
Bewick (1789)
Bewick 1789: Astrologer
Anderson (1810)
Anderson 1810: Astrologer
'Mr. Bewick' (1825)
'Mr. Bewick' 1825: Astrologer
Bechstein (1831)
Bechstein 1831: Astrologer
Schlotthauer (1832)
Schlotthauer 1832: Astrologer
Douce (1833)
Douce 1833: Astrologer
Curmer (1858)
Curmer 1858: Astrologer
Le Danube (1863)
Le Danube 1863: Le Danube
Deuchar (1887)
Deuchar 1887: Astrologer