The Flammarion Engraving

Though once attributed to the Renaissance, this illustration seems first to have appeared in a late-nineteenth-century meteorology book, written by the French astronomer Camille Flammarion, and intended for a general public readership. Flammarion, for a time apprenticed to an engraver in Paris, may, himself, have produced the picture.

This little engraving has provoked a variety of interpretations. For me, it is a nice metaphorical depiction of the quest to extend human understanding and reveal the mechanisms (the gears and wheels behind the sky) and phenomena that shape our world and the ways it runs. Others have used it in similar fashions. It is probably overused. Still, I find it engaging.

Click the picture on this page to see the Wikipedia article.