Maximiliana oder die widerrechtliche Ausübung der Astronomie


The title of this 10-minute film translates as Maximiliana or the Illegal Practice of Astronomy which is also the name of an art book created by Max Ernst in 1964. The film was a collaboration between Ernst and filmmaker Peter Schamoni, the subject being German astronomer and lithographer Ernst Wilhelm Leberecht Tempel (1821–1889). Tempel’s astronomy was “illegal” because he was regarded as an amateur by other astronomers which meant he was denied permission to name his discoveries. Maximiliana was the name Tempel and physicist Carl August von Steinheil decided on for an asteroid that Tempel discovered in 1861. This was deemed unacceptable so the asteriod was given the name Cybele instead (now 65 Cybele).


Some of this is related in Schamoni’s film but you’ll need an understanding of German to appreciate the detail. The film is worth a look for other reasons, notably some shots of Ernst filling sheets of paper with the curious hieroglyphs that cover the surfaces of some of his later paintings. These hieroglyphs also feature in the Tempel book, and one of them appears in the film as an animated figure. Peter Schamoni made a number of art films including an excellent feature-length documentary about Max Ernst in 1991. That’s also on YouTube but untranslated so you’ll need some good German (and French) to appreciate it.

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