Joseph Wright's Orrery

Contributed by Derby Museums and Art Gallery

A Philospher Lecturing on an Orrery by Joseph Wright of Derby 1766 © Derby Museums and Art Gallery

Wright uses the light of a candle in the place of the sun in the orrery to show the wonder on the watchers faces.During the 18th Century Enlightenment period philosophers had begun to understand the world and our place in it. During public lectures all over the country this understanding was passed to many people who used it for inventive and commercial gain.

This picture shows a lecture centred on an orrery, a mechanical model of the solar system. Joseph Wright is the master of the communication of this time of understanding and sharing of knowledge, which was firmly rooted in the Industrial Revolution. Wright's links to some of the greatest thinkers of the 18th Century, including the Lunar Society, gives this and his other scientific paintings a certain scientific validity and his use of light demonstrate his artistic mastery.

This picture was known during the 18th and 19th Centuries through exhibition and engraved reproductions. It has been displayed in Derby Museum and Art Gallery since 1884, when it was purchased by public subscription.

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