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A Philosopher Lecturing on the Orrery facts for kids

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A Philosopher Lecturing on the Orrery
Wright of Derby, The Orrery.jpg
Artist Joseph Wright of Derby
Year ca. 1766
Medium Oil on canvas
Dimensions 147 cm × 203 cm (58 in × 80 in)
Location Derby Museum and Art Gallery, Derby, England


A Philosopher Lecturing on the Orrery is an 18th-century oil painting by Joseph Wright of Derby. The painting shows a teacher talking about the sun and planets to his class. Wright later created his similar An Experiment on a Bird in the Air Pump (National Gallery, London) in 1768.

Wright's The Orrery, caused a great debate, because in the past, only religious events were used to express awe. Wright used science to do so. In an age of much new technology, he treated religious events and scientific miracles. In the orrery demonstration, the shadows created by the lamp mimic the sun, and it is a part of the display of heliocentrism. He used a single candle to make his painting dramatic. In two later paintings, the lighting is normal.

One person called Wright "a very great and uncommon genius in a peculiar way". The Orrery was painted without payment. Wright expected that Washington Shirley, 5th Earl Ferrers, an amateur astronomer, will buy the painting, because Shirley had his own orrery, and Wright's friend Peter Perez Burdett was staying with him. Figures are considered to be portraits of Burdett and Ferrers. In the picture, Burdett is taking notes and Ferrers is seated with his son next to the orrery. Ferrers purchased the painting for £210, but the 6th Earl sold it at an auction. It is now held by Derby Museum and Art Gallery as its permanent display.

Some people say that John Whitehurst was the model for the teacher. However, other people say the figure is similar to "a painting of Isaac Newton by Godfrey Kneller".

Related pages


  • Egerton, Judy (1998), National Gallery Catalogues (new series): The British School. catalogue entry pp. 332–343,
  • Guilding, Ruth, and others, William Weddell and the transformation of Newby Hall, Jeremy Mills Publishing for Leeds Museums and Galleries, 2004, , 9780901981691, Google books


  • Waterhouse, Ellis, (4th Edn, 1978) Painting in Britain, 1530–1790. Penguin Books (now Yale History of Art series),
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