What happens here? In the previous post, we left the two celestial Horses perfectly loving in springtime. And now Pegasus appears in the act of aggressing his little companion Equuleus from the air, dealing him a lethal blow on the head!
And yet, the situation is not as bad as it appears.
More than a change in love, what we are facing here is a change of perspective.
The scene is the same as described in the previous post, but from a different point of view. We are no more watching the two celestial horses from behind and above, but from one side.
Hate is actually love seen from sideways!
As observers on the surface of the Earth, we are still South enough to see Pegasus and his companion upright, and not capsized (see previous post).
Pegasus (the griffin in our patera) and Equuleus, the little horse or foal, are still keeping their fixed course from East to West, parallel to the Equinoctial Circle. Therefore the direction they face is West, the one they are coming from is East.
The exact whereabout of their celestial quarrel is given by some details in this remarkable patera of the 12th-13th century, site on the facade of a nice Gothic house in Venice, in the district of Castello, near the Arsenale.
Besides the two main characters, this patera contains three other elements, in form of vegetal sprouts, located below the figures and on the left side all along the rim.
In the patere's language, the tree or sprout is a visualization of the celestial circles; the vegetal metaphor of a growing tree gives for them both a location and a direction, a "movement towards" being suggested by the direction of growth.
In this case, the three sprouts surrounding the two main characters stand in place of three directional constellations: Andromeda and the Northern Fish (sprout at the bottom, N°1), Cygnus the Swan (next sprout clockwise, under the muzzle of the little horse, N°2), and Aquila (in front of the griffin, N°3). There is a fourth element, in the form of a volute at the tip of the griffin's foremost wing, of which we'll say more later.
1. Andromeda. The leaves of this sprout spread into the four cardinal directions, symbolizing Andromeda the Princess' open arms, her head (the star Alpheraz, being until recent times considered in common between the constellations Andromeda and the neighboring Pegasus). The fourth leaf is the Northern of the two Zodiacal Fishes, which seems to penetrate Andromeda's side under an arm.
In this beautiful illustration of the Polish astronomer Johannes Hevelius, we can observe the connection between Andromeda the princess, the Northern of the Zodiacal Fishes, and Pegasus: Andromeda's head (the star Alpheraz), seems to penetrate the horses's belly; hence the Arab name, Al Surat al Faraz, 'The Navel of the Horse'. In turn, the huge menacing Piscis Boreus, the Northern Fish, seems to attack Andromeda from one side; to the point that some Arab and Persian miniatures show it as made one with the human figure (see reproductions below).
In the following image, the rendition of Andromeda and Fish by another Western astronomer, Gerardus Mercator, and in an Arabic miniature.
2. Cygnus. The second sprout from the right in our patera has the unmistakable profile of the constellation Cygnus, in its typical pose of plunging, head down, from the heavens, the long neck stretched, the tail and one wing slightly bent as if to steer. By the way, the soft swaying movement of the celestial figure appears better renderend in the ancient patera than in De Wit's Planisphere.
Here a comparison with a modern celestial map:
3. Aquila: this sprout reproduces in a very recognizable likeness the profile of Constellation Aquila, the rising Eagle. In this case also, the patera offers a very faithful likeness, more than the baroque sky map.
Here a comparison with a modern sky chart of the constellation:
4. The element number 4 , not a sprout this time, but a volute at the tip of Pegasus' wing (a singular element on which many ancient representations of the griffin insist), recalls for its form and location the characteristic loop of the constellation Dolphin, located straight in front of the two celestial horses as if it were a lure to attract them forward.
Let's repeat from the previous post this beautiful detail from Francesco Coronelli's Celestial Globe of 1693, showing Pegasus, Equuleus, and Delphinus:
As a provisional conclusion, here a comparison between a celestial map and the patera considered in this post.