Nicolas-Claude Fabri de Peiresc (1 December 1580 – 24 June 1637), often known simply as Peiresc, or by the Latin form of his name, Peirescius, was a French astronomer, antiquary and savant, who maintained a wide correspondence with scientists, and was a successful organizer of scientific inquiry. His research included a determination of the difference in longitude of various locations in Europe, around the Mediterranean, and in North Africa.
Peiresc's father was a higher magistrate and city surgeon in Provence from a wealthy noble family, who with his wife fled their home town of Aix-en-Provence to avoid the plague raging there, settling in Belgentier in Var. Peiresc was born in Belgentier and educated in Aix-en-Provence and Avignon, as well as at the Jesuit college at Tournon. At Toulon, he first became interested in astronomy. Studying law and becoming interested in archaeology, he travelled to Italy, Switzerland and France in 1599, and finally finished his legal studies in 1604 at the University of Montpellier. It was also in 1604 that he assumed the name Peiresc after a domain in Alpes-de-Haute-Provence (now spelled Peyresq) which he had inherited from his father, although he himself never visited it.
After receiving his degree, he travelled to Paris (in 1605–1606, with his patron Guillaume du Vair, president of the Parlement of Provence), London and Flanders before returning to Aix in 1607 to take over his uncle's position as conseiller in the Parlement of Provence under du Vair. He held this post until 1615.
From 1615 until 1622, Peiresc again visited Paris with du Vair. He then returned to Provence to serve as senator of the sovereign court. He became a patron of science and art, studied fossils, and supported the astronomer Pierre Gassendi from 1634 to 1637. Virginio Cesarini proposed him for membership of the Accademia dei Lincei in 1621, but it is not certain whether he joined.
Peiresc's position as a great intellectual at the time of the scientific revolution has led to his being called a "Prince of the Republic of Letters". He was also a noted politician in his home region, and a tireless letter-writer (10,000 of his letters survive, and he was in constant correspondence with François de Malherbe, Hugo Grotius, the brothers Dupuy, Alphonse-Louis du Plessis de Richelieu, and with his great friend Rubens. His correspondence to Malherbe throws light on the personality of Malherbe's troubled son Marc-Antoine Malherbe.
Peiresc became one of the first admirers and supporters of Caravaggio in France. He first discovered Caravaggio's works in the Contarelli chapel in Rome in 1600 when he was only 20 years old.In his hometown, he gathered around him a sort of 'caravaggesque workshop of Southern France' with artists including Flemish artist Louis Finson, Martin Hermann Faber, Trophime Bigot and other painters. He promoted the Caravaggesque style by arranging commissions for these artists. He was instrumental in obtaining a number of commissions for Finson, including for history paintings and portraits. Finson also painted a portrait of de Peyresc. Peiresc was an avid art collector and relied on Finson's contacts in Italy to acquire two works of Caravaggio from the Pasqualini family of Rome.
Peiresc's house in Aix-en-Provence was a veritable museum, and held a mix of antique sculptures, modern paintings, medals, books and gardens with exotic plants. He acquired the Byzantine Barberini ivory (it is not known how or from whom) and offered it to Francesco Barberini: the work is now in the Louvre. He had the Codex Luxemburgensis, the surviving Carolingian copy of the Chronography of 354 in his possession for many years; after his death it disappeared. He owned over 18,000 coins and medals, and was also an archaeologist, amateur artist, historian (he demonstrated that Julius Caesar's invasion of Britain set out not from Calais but from St Omer), Egyptologist, botanist, zoologist (studying chameleons, crocodiles, the elephant and the alzaron, a sort of Nubian gazelle with a bull-like head, now disappeared), physiologist, geographer (put on the project of linking Aix to Marseilles), and ecologist.
Peiresc was also an astronomer. In 1610 du Vair purchased a telescope, which Peiresc and Joseph Gaultier used for observing the skies, including Jupiter's moons; his courtly suggestion that individual names from the Medici family be applied to these "Medicean stars" was not taken up. km shorter than had previously been thought. Peiresc also wrote letters to Galileo, Pierre Gassendi and Tommaso Campanella, two of whom he defended when they were arrested by the Inquisition.Peiresc also made detailed observations of the Orion Nebula in 1610; Gaultier became the second person to see it in the telescope. To determine longitude with greater precision, he coordinated the observation of the lunar eclipses of 28 August 1635 right across the Mediterranean; this allowed him to work out that the Mediterranean sea was in fact 1,000
Peiresc wrote an "abridged history of Provence", but died before editing it: it was only published (edited by Jacques Ferrier and Michel Feuillas) in 1982. With Gassendi's support, notably financially, he and the engraver Claude Mellan began to produce a map of the Moon's surface, but again Peiresc died before completing it.
Peiresc died on 24 June 1637 in Aix-en-Provence.
Peiresc's works include:
A bronze bust of Peiresc stands on the square of the university in Aix-en-Provence, facing the cathedral of Saint Sauveur. His home near the palais de Justice was demolished to build the present Palais, and has completely disappeared.
The village museum in Peyresq near Digne-les-Bains is wholly given over to his work.
Peiresc was honored in 1935 by the naming of the lunar crater Peirescius (46.5S, 67.6E, 61 km diameter); and in 1993 by the naming of the asteroid 19226 Peiresc.
Aix-en-Provence, or simply Aix, is a city and commune in southern France, about 30 km (20 mi) north of Marseille. A former capital of Provence, it is the subprefecture of the arrondissement of Aix-en-Provence, in the department of Bouches-du-Rhône, in the region of Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur. The population of Aix-en-Provence is approximately 143,000. Its inhabitants are called Aixois or, less commonly, Aquisextains.
François de Malherbe was a French poet, critic, and translator.
Pierre Gassendi was a French philosopher, Catholic priest, astronomer, and mathematician. While he held a church position in south-east France, he also spent much time in Paris, where he was a leader of a group of free-thinking intellectuals. He was also an active observational scientist, publishing the first data on the transit of Mercury in 1631. The lunar crater Gassendi is named after him.
Guillaume du Vair was a French author and lawyer.
The year 1637 in science and technology involved some significant events.
Peirescius is a lunar impact crater that is located in the southeastern part of the Moon. It is close enough to the limb that it appears significantly foreshortened when viewed from the Earth, even though it is nearly circular in shape. To the west-northwest of Peirescius is the crater Vega, and less than one crater diameter to the south is Brisbane. Farther to the east is the Mare Australe.
Gian Vincenzo Pinelli was an Italian humanist, born in Naples and known as a savant and a mentor of Galileo. His literary correspondence put him at the center of a European network of virtuosi. He was also a noted botanist, bibliophile and collector of scientific instruments.
Jean-Baptiste Morin, also known by the Latinized name as Morinus, was a French mathematician, astrologer, and astronomer.
Claude Mellan was a French draughtsman, engraver, and painter.
Pierre-Antoine Rascas, sieur de Bagarris et du Bourguet, was an advocate at the Parliament of Aix-en-Provence, and a founder of the science of historical numismatics. de Bagarris was one of the most notable antiquaries of his time.
Jan Cossiers was a Flemish painter and draughtsman. Cossiers' earliest works were Caravaggesque genre works depicting low life scenes. Later in his career he painted mostly history and religious subjects as well as portraits. Cossiers was one of the leading painters in Antwerp after Rubens' death in 1640 and one of the most original colorists in 17th-century Flanders.
Joseph Gaultier de la Vallette was a 17th-century French astronomer. He was a contemporary and friend of Galileo and Peiresc. With Peiresc he observed the moons of Jupiter in November 1610 and earlier that year he had been the second person after Peires to see the Orion Nebula.
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Peter N. Miller is an American historian who is Dean of Bard College's Graduate Center. He was a 1998 MacArthur Fellow. Much of his scholarship has centered on the intellectual and cultural history of early modern Europe, including the practices of antiquarianism within wider scholarly erudition; and he is a particular authority on the thought and influence of the French savant, Nicolas-Claude Fabri de Peiresc (1580–1637).
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Louis Finson, Lodewijk Finson or Ludovicus Finsonius was a Flemish painter, draughtsman, copyist and art dealer. He painted portraits, religious compositions, allegorical paintings and genre scenes. Moving to Italy early in his career, he became one of the first Flemish followers of Caravaggio whom he knew personally in Naples. He produced a number of copies after works by Caravaggio. He worked for a number of years in various cities in France where he created altarpieces and portraits. He is known for being the co-owner together with his fellow Flemish painter and business partner Abraham Vinck of two paintings by Caravaggio. Louis Finson played a major role in the Northern Caravaggesque movement through his own works as well as his role as an art dealer.
Events from the year 1580 in France
Honoré Bouche was a French priest and historian of Provence.