Planetary models or planetaria are general terms for three-dimensional models of the solar system or of the earth, the moon and the sun. The three major types of planetaria are the tellurian (tellurium), the orrery and the armillary sphere.
Restoring Old Planetaria
A Ptolemaic Armillary Sphere has an earth globe at the center. It is named after Ptolemy, an astronomer of ancient Greece who popularized the geocentric theory of the universe that the sun and planets revolve around the earth. In a Ptolemaic armillary sphere, the central globe is surrounded by an equatorial circle, as well as circles for the tropics of Cancer and Capricorn and the Arctic and Antarctic poles. These in turn are surrounded by a zodiac band, all within a meridian (with which the sphere can be rotated) and a stationary horizon band, on a stand, generally with central baluster and round base. Although the name of the Ptolemaic armillary sphere implies that it shows the geocentric theory of the universe, this device does not include the sun or other planets. In our opinion, it was more likely designed to show the positions of the constellations on the zodiac band relative to the “apparent path” of the sun (the zodiac band is positioned on the ecliptic), and to show the position of the earth relative to the other circles in which it is set.
A Copernican Armillary Sphere has a sun ball at the center. It is named after Nicolas Copernicus who popularized the heliocentric theory of the universe that the sun was the center of the universe, and the planets revolve around it. In a Copernican armillary sphere the central sun is surrounded by a series of concentric rings representing the planets (and sometimes asteroid belts) that revolve around the sun. Generally the earth is shown in an opening in the third circle as a sphere, with a small revolving moon. These planetary circles are surrounded by a zodiac band (set as a flat band at the center), and solstice and equinox circles, on a stand, generally with central baluster and round base. This arrangement resembles an orrery on its side; indeed sometimes Copernican armillary spheres contain an orrery with small round or disc planets on rod arms that are moved by hand.
A Sundial Armillary Sphere is made for a garden to tell time by the shadow made from passage of the sun during the day. It is like a simple form Ptolemaic armillary sphere, but with central arrow rather than earth sphere. The zodiac band is calibrated on the inside with daylight hours, and the arrow serves as a sundial gnomon to cast a shadow on the zodiac band to indicate time. The whole is set within equatorial and meridian circles and raised on a stand, often of an atlas figure supporting the sphere. Other stands include a zodiac pyramid, seahorse, baluster, etc. Sundial armillaries were generally intended for garden use and designed so that the base can be bolted into a larger heavy support, such as a columnar garden pedestal. Exterior examples are often used for interior use with a smaller decorative base. Indeed, some sundial armillaries are not weather-proof for garden use; they were intended solely for interior use as decorative objects.
Collecting Tellurians and Orreries
For research and reference, view our Archive of Sold Planetary Models
Star Spangled Globes
|1||Baroque Ptolemaic Armillary Sphere||Italian: c. 1900||Ptolemaic||metal||Brass sphere, raised applied zodiac figures, revolving brass sun with face, central earth sphere. Turned ebonized stand with central standard and round base.||21 inches high, 15.5 inches diameter.||Very good condition, only minor wear.||4500||armillaryinv/id1_italbrass.jpg||armillaryinv/id1_italbrass-2.jpg|
|2||Atlas Armillary Sundial||American Import:||Mid 20th Century||Sundial||metal||Patinated metal sphere, zodiac time dial, central arrow. Patinated metal Atlas-form stand, later wooden base.||31 inches high, 16 inchs diameter sphere, 7 inches diameter base.||Very good condition, some light bending to metal, considerable natural oxidation and wear to surface.||1250||armillaryinv/id2_atlas.jpg||armillaryinv/id2_atlas-2.jpg|
|3||Baroque Armillary Sundial||Italian:||Mid 20th Century||Sundial||metal iron||Gilt iron sphere, painted Roman numerals on zodiac time dial, central arrow. Gilt wood leaf-carved Baroque stand.||20 inches high, 9.5 inches diameter sphere, 5 inches diameter base.||Very good condition, with the usual light wear, bending, oxidation.||1200||armillaryinv/id3_baroque.jpg||armillaryinv/id3_baroque-2.jpg|
|4||Large Bronze Armillary Sundial||Mid 20th Century||Sundial||metal bronze||Bronze sphere, raised Roman numerals on zodiac time dial, central arrow. Bronze scrolled stand, round platter base.||25 inches high, 18 inches diameter sphere, 13 inches diameter base.||0||armillaryinv/id4_bronze.jpg||armillaryinv/id4_bronze-2.jpg|
|5||Iron Verdigris Armillary Sundial||20th Century||Sundial||metal iron||Four-legged stand, verdigris patina.||550||armillaryinv/id5_ironverdigris.jpg||armillaryinv/id5_ironverdigris-2.jpg|
|6||Iron Ptolemaic Armillary Sphere||American Import:||Last Quarter 20th Century||Ptolemaic||metal iron||Iron latitude and longitude rods, brass-finished zodiac, central disk earth. Iron baluster stand, round base with gilt line decoration.||26 inches high, 17 inches diameter sphere, 8.75 inchs diameter base.||Very good condition, with the usual overall light wear scattered oxidation.||1200||armillaryinv/id6_ironarm.jpg||armillaryinv/id6_ironarm-2.jpg|
|7||Modernist Copernican Armillary Sphere||Italian:||c. 1970s||Copernican||metal brass||Brass rod sphere with numerous rings, colored wooden planets, central sun. Brass base, weighted.||21 inches high, 10.5 inch diameter sphere, 7.5 inches diameter base.||Very good condition, with the usual light wear, minor dents.||1250||armillaryinv/id7_italmod.jpg||armillaryinv/id7_italmod-2.jpg|
|8||Red Decorated Ptolemaic Armillary Sphere||Italian:||c. 1960s||Ptolemaic||pasteboard||Pasteboard armillary, rings and horizon band with paper calibrations. Wooden zodiac band, central wooden earth sphere, each hand painted. Red legs, ebonized base with paper calibrations and inset compass.||14 inches high, 8 inch diameter sphere, 7 inches diameter base.||0||armillaryinv/id8_redlegs.jpg||armillaryinv/id8_redlegs-2.jpg|
|9||Bronze Armillary Sundial||20th Century||Sundial||metal||Bronze. Relief sun decorations on stand and rings, Roman numerals inscribed within main ring.||1500||armillaryinv/id9_lgbronze.jpg||armillaryinv/id9_lgbronze-2.jpg|