Gualterus Arsenius (Biographical details)

Gualterus Arsenius (scientific instrument maker; Flemish; Male; c.1530 - c.1580)

Also known as

Arsenius, Gualterus; Arsenius, Gualterius; Arsens, Gautier; Arsenius, Walter

Biography

Prolific instrument maker and the most important member of the Arsenius family of instrument makers, Gualterus Arsenius originated from Clevens but worked in Louvain from the early 1550s to the late 1570s. His instruments were often signed 'Gualterus Arsenius nepos Gemmae Frisii', which suggests that his family may have been related to that of the famous Louvain instrument maker Gemma Reyneri Frisius, who took him as an apprentice about 1546.
Gualterus Arsenius produced a wide range of astronomical instruments, nearly 50 of which are extant, including armillary spheres, astronomical rings, cross staffs, sundials and 30 astrolabes. Many of the last are characterized by a 'tulip-shaped' rete pattern (although he developed a different rete pattern for each astrolabe), a throne with reclining satyrs, a universal stereographic projection on the back and an elegant, fluid style of engraving. Their design was greatly influenced by the work of Gemma Frisius (q.v.) and the cartographer Gerard Mercator (q.v.).
Very similar and contemporary instruments signed 'Regnerus Arsenius nepos Gemmae Frisii' may be from the hand of a brother of Gualterus, Renerus or Regnerus (Regner or Renier), also working in Louvain, or from that of Gualterus himself, who, as a mark of his esteem for his tutor Gemma Reyneri Frisius, could have been using the second part of Gemma Frisius' name as his own. Recent research supports the theory that 'Regnerus' and 'Gualterus' are the same person.
Gualterus Arsenius died in or shortly before 1580.
He was probably related to two other craftsmen of the same surname: Ferdinand (his son?), an instrument maker with whom he collaborated on several instruments between 1573 and 1580 (although only one of them is signed by both), and Ambroise, an engraver. He may also have been the teacher of the scientific instrument maker Adrien Descrolieres (q.v.).

Bibliography

Astrolabes Greenwich 2005, pp. 173-4, 181-2.