The Trouvelot Astronomical Drawings (1882)


The French artist, astronomer and amateur entomologist Étienne Léopold Trouvelot is noted for two major contributions in his lifetime. The first, and the one we are celebrating in this post, is the 7000 or so illustrations he created from his astronomical observations, the quality of which reached their zenith in the 15 exquisite pastel works which were published as The Trouvelot Astronomical Drawings in 1882 (and reproduced in this post). Trouvelot was invited onto the staff of the Harvard College Observatory when the then director Joseph Winlock saw the quality of his illustrations, and in 1875 he was invited to use the U. S. Naval Observatory’s 26-inch refractor for a year. As well as his illustrations, Trouvelot also published some 50 scientific papers, and was credited with discovering “veiled spots” on the Sun in 1875.

The second and rather more unfortunate legacy Trouvelot left the world was the accidental widespread introduction of the highly destructive European Gyspy moth onto North American soil. With the intention of interbreeding Gypsy moths with silk worms to develop a silkworm industry, he’d brought some egg masses over from Europe in the mid-1860s and began raising gypsy moth larvae in the forest behind his house. It is unclear what exactly happened, but some of the larvae ended up escaping into the nearby woods. Although he reportedly notified some nearby entomologists and relevant officials no action was taken. A few decades later the species was rife.

Want Trouvelot’s images on your wall? We’ve turned a few into prints. See the first three items in our online shop.

New York Public Library
Underlying Work: PD Worldwide | Digital Copy: Share-alike
Download: Right click on image or see source for higher res versions


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  • Eric Stott