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Epmosphere: Presentation of an Armillary Sphere of Joseph Dupressoi

Peter the Great’s Museum of Anthropology and Ethnography (Kunstkammer), Consulate General of Switzerland in St. Petersburg, Russian-Swiss Association

On Friday, October 13, 2006 at 15.00 a presentation of a joint Russian-Swiss project on studying and displaying an armillary sphere of the 18th century took place at the Peter the Great’s Museum of Anthropology and Ethnography (Kunstkammer), the event being timed to the Leonard Euler jubilee.

An armillary sphere is an astronomic instrument used to identify the sky coordinates of a celestial body. It imitates the solar system model, in which the main circles of the sky (the ecliptic, celestial equator and the zodiac circle) are represented by the rings, hence the name of the device (from Latin armilla - ring). Since Renaissance times the armillary sphere became the symbol of the universe, and gradually that of science. As such it was perceived in Russia during the reign of Peter the Great. And it is not accidentally that the armillary sphere tops the Kunstkammer building - the first universal public museum in Russia, planned by Peter the Great to serve as a palace of science. In Kunstkammer there was an excellent collection of armillary spheres, used for scientific and educational purposes. The first specimens of the instrument were purchased from the famous craftsmen of Europe under the decree by Peter the First. Few Russian museums at present possess such scientific devices in their collections.

In the RAS Anthropology and Ethnography Museum, in the funds of the Museum named after M.V. Lomonosov a valuable collection of these rare scientific devices is stored. Among them - an armillary sphere with a signature of Joseph Dupraisoi manufactured in Paris and purchased from a private person in 1949.

In 2003 the exhibit drew the attention of a delegation from Yura canton, Switzerland. At that time the experts from the Watchmakers' Art School from the Porrentruy, (Switzerland) together with the employees of the State Hermitage Museum and the Museum named after M.V. Lomonosov studied this object in St. Petersburg. It turned out that the instrument consists of three independent components. The armillary sphere itself was manufactured at the beginning of the 18th century, the roofing with the clock mechanism - at the end of the 18th century, and the wooden foundation, decorated with bronze surface mounted components dates back to the 20-s of the 20th century (classicism epoch).

With the support of the Watchmakers' Foundation of the Porrentruy city (Switzerland, Yura canton) an exhibition project "EPMOSPHERE" was executed to unveil the mystery of this exhibit. From November 2004 till October 2006 the armillary sphere was displayed in Switzerland and was studied by the students of the Watchmakers' Art School of the Porrentruy city and those of the Watchmakers' Art School of the Mortaut city (France), as well as by the Swiss, French, Belgian and Russian investigators. The data collected gave new information about the armillary sphere, produces a new theory of its existence. Upon finishing the project the armillary sphere was returned to the first astronomic observatory in the Kunstkammer Tower.