Think of early telescopes and you'll probably think Galileo, not old masters. But a fresh look at early 17th-century paintings has turned up the first-ever depictions of telescopes, and the canvases might even pre-date Galileo's famous demonstrations of their power.
Two distinct types of telescopes appear in several works by the Flemish painter Jan Brueghel the Elder. One painting Extensive Landscape with View of the Castle of Mariemont, shows an archduke staring through a so-called Dutch telescope approximately a foot long. Given that the first telescopes appeared in late 1608 and that the painting was completed circa 1609, it possibly shows the telescope within months of its invention. Pierluigi Selvelli and Paolo Molaro, astronomers at the Osservatorio Astronomico di Trieste in Italy, also noticed that Brueghel tucked a six-foot-long collapsible...