β Persei uncovers the overlooked history of female astronomers at the Observatory of Paris from its establishment in 1671 to the end of World War Two. Using the few photographs found at the Observatory of Paris, Lily created 13 portraits on optical mirrors. These were installed in the constellation of Perseus, home to the binary eclipsing star β Persei and the metaphor Lily chose for this incredible yet obscured history. The installation also featured “In the footsteps of Venus” a short film realised in collaboration with astronomer Suzanne Débarbat.
Edmée Chandon (1885-1944), acrylic paint on optical mirror, 15 cm diameter, Lily Hibberd, 2015
A French language illustrated guide was produced for Beta Persei and the First Light exhibition. It includes an essay by Laurence Bobis, director of the bibliothèque of the Observatory of Paris. To download the full PDF click on the icon and go to the end of the book for Beta Persei.
Download the text in English
This project was supported by the Victorian Government through Creative Victoria.
It was also assisted by the Australian Government through the Australia Council for the Arts, its arts funding and advisory body.
In the footsteps of Venus
Women in astronomy have been often eclipsed but In the footsteps of Venus reveals the presence of female astronomers at Paris Observatory for 350 years, since its foundation in 1671. This 22 minute film was shot on site at the Observatory of Paris in collaboration with astronomer Suzanne Débarbat.
Still from In the footsteps of Venus, Lily Hibberd and Suzanne Débarbat, 2015
More than thirty portraits in paint and stone decorate the Observatory's walls and halls. Of these, only three represent women: the statue of Notre-Dame de Dessous Terre, a fresco depicting the transit of Venus and a plaster bust of an unknown woman in the Observatory's vegetable garden. These depictions occupy the place of female astronomers who might have been named and remembered.
Still from In the footsteps of Venus, with the portrait of 19th-century Paris Observatory astronmer Dorothea Klumpke, by Lily Hibberd and Suzanne Débarbat, 2015
A series of 11 works realised in paint and photoluminescent pigment on optical mirrors, are presented in the form of the constellation of Perseus, home to the binary eclipsing star system haunting the skies for millennia and known as Algol or Gorgona. These works reflect the few traces Lily found of the forgotten female astronomers of Paris Observatory: one woman representing each of the great stars of the Perseus constellation.