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Life on Mars

Mars efter Lowell's Glober 1894-1914.
BRUN, Emmy Ingeborg
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Papier mâché globe (diameter 210 mm), plaster coating, original ink and body hand-colour, varnished, bronze stem and base (overall height 420 mm).


A rare and fascinating manuscript globe of Mars, made during a period of renewed interest in the red planet and suggestive of the possibility of Martian civilisation.

Emmy Ingeborg Brun was a Danish socialist and astronomer. She was very interested in the work of contemporary astronomers Percival Lowell, Camille Flammarion, Giovanni Schiaparelli. In 1855 Schiaparelli observed a network of dark lines on the Martian surface, and when he published his findings, along with the first detailed modern map of Mars, he named them "canali", meaning natural channels. When his work was translated, the "canali" were interpreted as manmade canals. Flammarion agreed with this interpretation and suggested that they were remnants of a system redistributing water across the surface of a planet, created by a now-dying population.

Lowell popularised these theories by publishing three books on the subject, claiming these lines were indeed a canal network and raising the possibility of a Martian civilisation. Brun was intrigued by these canals, which she saw as evidence of a different, more co-operative form of society. Mars was the potential site for a socialist utopia. She adapted Lowell's maps into manuscript globes, painting her interpretations on top of existing printed globes, and donated them to various European astronomical observatories and universities.

The globe uses Lowell's territorial observations and Schiaperelli's nomenclature for the features, most of which is no longer used. The North Pole is inscribed "Nix 1909", and the bronze base carries the inscription "Free Land. Free Trade. Free Men", a slogan inspired by the work of the political economist Henry George, and a line from the Lord's Prayer: "Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven".

We have traced seven institutional examples: the National Maritime Museum, Greenwich; National Museum of Scotland, Edinburgh; Whipple Museum of the History of Science, Cambridge; Museo Specula Vaticana, the Vatican; Museum Observatoire Camille Flammarion, Juvisy-sur-Orge; Ole Rømer Museet, Taastrup; Randy and Yulia Liebermann Lunar and Planetary Exploration Collection. One example appeared at auction at Bonham's New York on 5th December 2012, selling for $50,000 (Lot 129).