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Cornelis Bega, An Astrologer

Key facts
Full title An Astrologer
Artist Cornelis Bega
Artist dates 1631/2 - 1664
Date made 1663
Medium and support Oil on oak
Dimensions 36.9 × 29.6 cm
Inscription summary Signed; Dated
Acquisition credit Presented by Martin H. Colnaghi, 1896
Inventory number NG1481
Location Not on display
Collection Main Collection
An Astrologer
Cornelis Bega

A man wearing the cap and gown of a scholar sits at a desk in a dark and cavernous room, a glazed expression on his face. He clasps a pair of reading glasses, implying that he was until a moment ago studying the book propped up in front of him. A large diagram of the palm of a hand is visible on one of its pages, suggesting that its subject is palmistry (the art of supposedly interpreting a person’s character or predicting their future by examining their palm). Various details, particularly the celestial globe in the background, also help to identify the man as an astrologer.

In the seventeenth century, astrology and palmistry were both associated with the charlatans who claimed that through the use of such ploys they could reveal someone’s fate. But this man’s vacant expression, slumped shoulders and disorderly surroundings suggest that he is despairing of the futility of his actions.

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