Item Details

Astrology as a Social Framework: The ‘Children of Planets’, 1400–1600

Issue: Vol 7 No. 4 (2013) The Imagined Sky

Journal: Journal for the Study of Religion, Nature and Culture

Subject Areas: Religious Studies

DOI: 10.1558/jsrnc.v7i4.434


During the Early Modern period, many believed that the seven planets—Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, the sun, and the moon—affected the course of terrestrial events and determined the temperament, complexion, profession, and even the manner of death of individuals. Such concepts were depicted by artists in a series of images commonly referred to as the ‘Children of the Planets’. By merging scientific knowledge and popular imagery, the convention helped to shape the contemporary understanding of the cosmos. Astrology is often described in terms of the correspondence between the macrocosm and the microcosm or the universe and the individual, but by linking diverse individuals according to mutual planetary affiliations, the ‘Children of the Planets’ also offered a system for categorizing corporate identity and defining social relations.

Author: Geoffrey Shamos

View Original Web Page

References :

Arnade, Peter. 2008. Beggars, Iconoclasts, and Civic Patriots: The Political Culture of the Dutch Revolution (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press).

Baer, Eva. 1968. ‘Representations of the 'Planet-Children' in Turkish Manuscripts’, Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London 31.3: 526-33.

Barkan, Leonard. 1975. Nature's Work of Art: The Human Body as Image of the World (New Haven: Yale University Press).

Bini, Daniel, ed. 1996. Astrologia: arte e cultura in età rinascimentale (Modena: Bulino).

Blazekovic, Zdravko. 2003. ‘Variations on the Theme of the Planets' Children, or Medieval Musical Life According to the Housebook's Astrological Imagery,’ in Katherine A. McIver (ed.) Art and Music in the Early Modern Period (Aldershot, England: Ashgate): 241-86.

Blume, Dieter. 2000. Regenten des Himmels: Astrologische Bilder in Mittelalter und Renaissance (Berlin: Akademie).

Blume, Dieter. 2004. ‘Children of the Planets: The Popularization of Astrology in the 15th Century’, Micrologus 12: 549-63.

Brokken, Ann, ed. 1994. Sterren in Beelden: Astrologie in de eeuw van Mercator (Sint-Niklaas, Netherlands: Stedelijk Museum).

Burnett, Charles, Keiji Yamamoto, and Michio Yano (eds). 1994. Abu Ma'shar - the Abbreviation of the Introduction to Astrology: Together with the Medieval Latin Translation of Adelard of Bath. (Leiden: E.J. Brill).

Desmond, Marilynn Robin, and Pamela Sheingorn. 2006. Myth, Montage, and Visuality in Late Medieval Manuscript Culture: Christine de Pizan's Opistre Othéa (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press).

Filipczak, Zirka Zaremba. 1987. Picturing Art in Antwerp, 1550-1700 (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press).

Geronimus, Dennis V., and Louis A. Waldman. 2003. ‘Children of Mercury: New Light on the Members of the Florentine Company of St. Luke (c.1475–c.1525)’, Mitteilungeb des Kunsthistorisches Institutes in Florenz 47.1: 118-58.

Hauber, Anton. 1916. Planetenkinderbilder und Sternbilder: zur Geschichte des menschlichen Glaubens und Irrens (Strassburg: Heitz).

Heninger, S.K. Jr. 1974. Touches of Sweet Harmony: Pythagorean Cosmology and Renaissance Poetics (San Marino, CA: Huntington Library).

Hindman, Sandra L. 1986. Christine de Pizan's 'Epistre d'Othea': Painting and Politics in the Court of Charles VI (Toronto: Pontifical Institute of the Mediæval Studies).

Honig, Elizabeth A. 1998. Painting and the Market in Early Modern Antwerp (New Haven: Yale University Press).

Hollstein. 1996. Hollstein Dutch and Flemish Etchings, Engravings and Woodcuts ca. 1450-1700 vol. XLIV: Marten de Vos (Ouderkerk an den Ijssel: Sound and Vision).

Jacquart, Danielle. 1990. ‘Theory, Everyday Practice, and Three Fifteenth-Century Physicians’, Osiris 6 (second series): 140-60.

Kaulbach, Hans-Martin, and Reinhart Schleier (eds.) 1997. Der 'Welt Lauf': Allegorische Graphikserier des Manierismus (Stuttgart: Gerd Hatje).

Klibansky, Raymond, Erwin Panofsky, and Fritz Saxl. 1964. Saturn and Melancholy: Studies in the History of Natural Philosophy, Religion, and Art (New York: Basic Books).

Kok, J. P. Filedt (ed.) 1985. Livelier than Life: The Master of the Amsterdam Cabinet, or, the Housebook Master, 1470-1500, 2 vols (Princeton: Princeton University Press).

Lippmann, Friedrich. 1895. Die Sieben Planeten (Berlin: Internationale Chalkographische Gesellschaft).

Marnef, Guido. 1996. Antwerp in the Age of Reformation: Underground Protestantism in a Commercial Metropolis, 1550–1577. J.C. Grayson (trans.) (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press).

Martin, John Rupert. 1972. The Decorations for the Pompa introitus Ferdinandi (London: Phaidon).

McGrath, Elizabeth. 1974. ‘Rubens's Arch of the Mint’, Journal of the Warburg Institute 37: 191-217.

Melion, Walter S. 1991. Shaping the Netherlandish Canon: Karel van Mander's Schilder-Boeck (Chicago: University of Chicago Press).

Mertens, S., E. Purpus, and C. Schneider (eds.). 1991. Blockbücher des Mittelalters: Bildfolgen als Lektüre (Mainz am Rhein: Gutenberg Museum).

Milano, Ernesto. 1996. ‘De sphaera,’ in Daniel Bini (ed.) Astrologia: arte e cultura in età rinascimentale (Modena: Bulino) 45-76.

Panofsky, Erwin. 1995. The Life and Art of Albrecht Dürer (Princeton: Princeton University Press).

Savonarola, Michele. 1485. De balneis et thermis naturalibus omnibus Italiae gewidmet Borso d’Este (Ferrara).

Saxl, Fritz. 1918-19. ‘Probleme der Planetenkinderbilder’, Kunstchronik und Kunstmarkt 54: 1013-21.
Saxl, Fritz. 1938. ‘The Literary Sources of the 'Finiguerra Planets'’, Journal of the Warburg Institute 2.1: 72-74.

Saxl, Fritz, and Erwin Panofsky. 1933. ‘Classical Mythology in Mediaeval Art’, Metropolitan Museum Studies 4.2: 228-80.

Van der Stock, Jan (ed.) 1993. Antwerp: Story of a Metropolis (Antwerp: Martial and Snoeck).

Van der Wee, Herman, and Jan Materné. 1993. ‘Antwerp as a World Market in the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries,’ in Jan Van der Stock (ed.) Antwerp: Story of a Metropolis (Antwerp: Martial and Snoeck):19-31.

Veldman, Ilja M. 1980. ‘Seasons, Planets and Temperaments in the Work of Martin van Heemskerck: Cosmo-Astrological Allegory in Sixteenth-Century Netherlandish Prints’, Simiolus 11: 149-76.

Veldman, Ilja M. 1983. ‘De macht van de planeten over het mensdom in prenten naar Maarten de Vos’, Bulletin van het Rijksmuseum 31: 21-53.

Veldman, Ilja M. 2006. ‘From Allegory to Genre’, in Images for the Eye and Soul: Function and Meaning in Netherlandish Prints (1450-1650) (Leiden: Primavera): 193-222.

Vermeylan, Filip. 2003. Painting for the Market: Commercialization of Art in Antwerp's Golden Age. Marc Boone (ed.), Studies in European Urban History (1100-1800) Vol. 2 (Turnhout: Brepols).

Wittkower, Rudolf, and Margot Wittkower. 1963. Born Under Saturn: The Character and Conduct of Artists: A Documented History from Antiquity to the French Revolution (London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson).

Wolfegg, Christoph, Graf zu Waldburg. 1998. Venus and Mars: The World of the Medieval Housebook (Munich: Prestel).