Professor Hills of the Courtauld Institute is exercised by the idea that Ambrogio Barocci may have been what he terms "an artist-scientist."
It is clear, reports the Professor, that in Urbino he moved in learned court circles where the latest theories about mechanics and astronomy were discussed. If the bodies in his own paintings appear to be moved less by their own muscle power, their own volition, than stirred by larger forces, it may be that we catch here some sense of a world apprehended and sustained in constant motion. It is striking also, continues Professor Hills, how often his altar-pieces combine the domestic with intimations of the cosmic. In the same "Annunciation" where the cat lies sleeping, a cloud has entered the Virgin's chamber, where it is mysteriously confounded with the regal canopy.
In the "Last Supper," while the servants wipe the dishes, wisps of cloud emitting vaporous light hang about the table within the closed room. These suggest a changing sense of the natural world and the forces governing it.
But the question for the Professor is, are a few wisps enough?
" ... But the question for the Professor is, are a few wisps enough?"
Probably not! The pre-eminent artist-scientist of the Renaissance, in my opinion, was Leonardo da Vinci. In the twenty-first century, we generally have to specialise, so it is rarely possible to be both artist and scientist simultaneously!