A century before NASA launched the Hubble Space Telescope, French artist and astronomer, Étienne Léopold Trouvelot (1827-1895), captured the night sky by hand.
In the 1850s, Trouvelot fled France for the United States as a political refugee. Despite his lack of astronomical education, Trouvelot created 7,000 or so illustrations showing celestial objects and phenomena (known as chromolithographs) from his astronomical observations, most while he was working at the Harvard College Observatory and the U.S. Naval Observatory.
Trouvelot painted what he saw, as if looking through a telescope. The resulting images depict an incredible creativity and unequalled technical imagination, with an eerie ability to combine art and science.
Through his eye for detail he illustrates astral glows and lunar landscapes that are hard to distinguish from modern photographs. He captures sunspots that resemble exotic vegetation, an unconventional pale green Mars (hypothesized as a possible ocean), and the first visual representation of multiple solar systems (40 years before astronomy concluded that separate galaxies make up the universe).
E. L. Trouvelot (1827–1895), Mare Humorum, 1881, color lithograph
His series of 15 chromolithographs, published in 1882 in New York, was priced at $125 (over AUD$5,200 today), intended for libraries and collectors. Unfortunately, due to advances in photo technology, the hand drawn renderings became obsolete, and very few of the sets survived.
Trouvelot’s art has been selected for our project label series, to embody our own beliefs and approach to making whiskey, a true convergence of art and science.
An inverted Trouvelot in the Star Trek episode, "The Menagerie"