Manchester Art Gallery

Crabtree Watching the Transit of Venus, 1639

Ford Madox Brown, 1821 - 1893

Crabtree Watching the Transit of Venus, 1639

Ford Madox Brown 1821 - 1893


Reduced version of mural painting depicting the astronomical observation of Venus passing across the sun by a draper called Crabtree. The figure is shown in an attic above his shop. He stands to the left, looking up in amazement; his pipe, stool and astronomical equipment lie on the floor, as a shaft of light from his telescope throws a reflection of the planet onto paper propped up on a table on far left. His wife sits on chair behind him on the right, holding one of her children by the arm; a second child rests against its mother's left arm as she holds knitting in her left hand. In the background, another telescope stands on a large chest covered with drapery in the centre of the room. In the bottom right corner another person is visible through an open trapdoor, ascending a ladder.

Display Label

Crabtree watching the Transit of Venus, 1639 1881-8 Ford Madox Brown 1821-93 Tempera on panel This is a small-scale replica of one of the murals painted by Ford Madox Brown for the Great Hall within Manchester Town Hall. The 12 murals proudly depict the history of the city through Victorian eyes and with Victorian values. They emphasise religion, science, trade and textiles through events of the past rather than recent history for aesthetic as well as political reasons. Here the path of the planet Venus crossing the sun is projected onto a diagram, observed by Crabtree. Mapping this rare occurrence helped to calculate important solar and planetary measurements. G Beatson Blair bequest 1947.87

Object Name

Crabtree Watching the Transit of Venus, 1639

Creators Name

Ford Madox Brown

Date Created



unframed: 26.4cm x 55.9cm
framed: 48.5cm x 79cm

accession number


Collection Group

fine art

Place of creation







George Beatson Blair bequest, 1941.


© Manchester Art Gallery

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