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Conversations with God: Copernicus - The National Gallery, Room 46

I went straight from the futuristic Ai-Da at the Design Museum to the National Gallery to see Jan's Matejko's Copernicus the Astronomer. Depicting a scene almost 500 years old, it is not a bad pairing for sparking a conversation on giant steps forward in science.

Nicolaus Copernicus (1473–1543) propounded the concept of the heliocentric universe, with the sun, rather than Earth, at its centre. Matejko, a fellow Pole, painted the enormous canvas in 1873 to mark the 400th anniversary of the astronomer’s birth.

Also on display is a 1543 copy of Copernicus’s De Revolutionibus Orbium Coelestium, probably the most famous work on astronomy in the world. You don't need any grasp of Latin to feel the impact of the carefully drawn, simple diagram of concentric circles radiating from the sun. A turning point in human understanding of our place in the universe.

Conversations with God, Jan Matejko's Copernicus is in Room 46 at the National Gallery until 22 August. Entry is free. Book your free gallery admission slot and follow signs to Copernicus.

Emily Turner, 19 May 2021


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