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Portrait, Science, Astronomy, Galileo Galilei, Bronze Sculpture, Antique, 19th Century

Galilée [Galileo Galilei]
Paris: 2nd Half 19th Century
Patinated bronze on oval slate base
15 inches high
11 x 8.5 inches approximately, oval base

Portrait statue of the famous Italian scientist and philosopher Galileo (1564-1642), standing with one hand resting upon a book on a pedestal, looking downward with an intense expression suggesting deep thought. More books are piled at his feet, along with a globe. His name in French — Galilée — is painted on the base. The bronze is unsigned, likely cast by one of the many Paris foundries that produced decorative bronzes of popular subjects. The bronze casting and patina are of extremely high quality. The tercentenary of Galileo’s birth was in 1864; this might have been the occasion for the production of portrait statues such as this.

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The pose of Galileo is strikingly similar to that of the figure of Galileo in an 1847 painting by Joseph Nicolas Robert-Fleury (1797-1890) titled Galilée Devant Le Saint Office au Vatican [Galileo Before the Holy Court at the Vatican], now in the Louvre Museum. The bearded figure in Robert-Fleury’s painting also has his left hand resting on a book and his right fist in front of his chest. Although there are also some slight differences in the position of the legs and head, and the painting shows Galileo as a balding man, it seems possible that this statue was based on Robert-Fleury’s work, or that Robert-Fleury and the artist that made the bronze based the image on another common source.

Galileo attended medical school in Padua, but questions about physical phenomena captured his curiosity and through his investigations, he discovered a number of underlying laws of physics governing motion and dynamics that remain at the foundation of modern science. He turned his attention to astronomy in the early 1600s, and with his telescope discovered craters on the moon, sunspots and four moons of Jupiter. His observations of the phases of Venus demonstrated the accuracy of the Copernican model of the solar system. He published a comparison of the Copernican and Ptolemaic systems, which included the disparagement of an argument for the Ptolemaic system favored by the Pope. This caused trouble with the Catholic hierarchy, and Galileo was placed on house arrest and forced to publicly renounce his Copernican theory.

Condition: Generally very good, the patina very rich, with only minor overall wear. Minor scrape on base professionally restored.


“Galilée Devant Le Saint Office au Vatican.” Base Joconde. (4 October 2004).

Weisstein, Eric W. “Galileo Galilei.” Eric Weisstein’s World of Biography. Wolfram Research. (4 October 2004).

Additional information


19th Century