The Awakening: Reading Galileo

The Awakening: Reading Galileo, about 1880-1980
Reginald Arnold (1853-1938)
Oil on canvas
BORGM 00167
Image © Russell-Cotes Art Gallery and Museum

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The Awakening: Reading Galileo

This painting shows a young priest reading Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems, written by the astronomer Galileo Galilei (1564-1642). Galileo supported the theories of Copernicus that the earth revolved around the sun, rather than the Catholic Church view of the Earth as the centre of the solar system. Condemned as heretical, the book led to the Roman Inquisition trying Galileo for heresy and condemning him to house arrest for the rest of his life. The priest in this painting is shown in contemporary dress, but with his hand resting on his cheek he appears to be troubled or caught deep in thought by what he is reading.

The artist, also known as Ernest Arnold, was based in Surrey and was a prolific painter and sculptor who excelled in genre scenes or scenes from everyday life. He was skilled in painting figures, almost always in decorative period costume. He studied at the Slade School of Art in London and in Paris. He exhibited at the Royal Academy, the Royal Society of British Artists, of which he was elected Member, and throughout the United Kingdom.

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