One of my favorite writing assignments is my “ReMaking History” column that appears in each issue of MAKE magazine. The basic premise of the column is to meet a famous scientist or inventor by recreating their work using modern tools and materials. I’ve had a chance to learn about the lives of famous scientists, and very often, I am amazed by their stories.
Case in point: Samuel F.B. Morse, inventor of the telegraph, profiled in MAKE Volume 23. Prior to becoming a full time inventor, he was a very well known painter. He composed a truly remarkable painting called “Gallery of the Louvre.” It’s currently on display at the National Gallery of Art in Washington DC. Painting this picture required a fair amount of DIY initiative.
According to this week’s NPR’s “Weekend Edition Sunday”,
“It was an extremely ambitious undertaking because many of the paintings that he was copying were hung very high up. And so he had to build a movable platform, or scaffold, that he wheeled about the galleries of the Louvre to reach his subjects. And he and the movable scaffold became a tourist attraction themselves.”
I recognize some of the Louvre paintings, notably the one on the bottom row, second picture right of the doorway. The fellow in the waistcoat in the center is Morse. To identify the others, see this page [PDF].
Bio: Bill Gurstelle is a contributing editor for MAKE. His new book The Practical Pyromaniac is now available in bookstores everywhere.