This engraving engages themes of humanistic inquiry and the world of science. In a setting marked by a classical arch, a group of scholars, including two women, is gathered in an outside garden, engaged in learned discussion. Six people in the foreground are pondering a book bearing astrological signs that lies open on the woman’s lap. In the center of the busy composition two older men and what are likely two pupils watch a young scholar demonstrating the principles of the armillary sphere. A solitary figure in the middle ground has left both groups and directs the viewer’s attention to a party in the shadow of the arch, assembled around a table, immersed in thought over the writings in front of them. Further up, in the distance beyond them, are three figures engrossed in the observation of nature, a mode of study highly encouraged by humanistic scholars.
Recent scholarship suggests that the print was made after a woodcut by Giuseppe Porta Salviati, an Italian painter apprenticed to Francesco Salviati who also became an accomplished mathematician. His illustration was used as the frontispiece of the fortune-telling book “Le sorti di Francesco Marcolino da Forli: Intitolate giardino di pensieri” (“The Oracle of Francesco Marcolino Called the Garden of Thoughts”), published by Francesco Marcolini in Venice in 1540. Since Marco Dente died in 1527, this engraving was likely done in his manner by one of his pupils.
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