Painting - Law of Orbiting Velocity (Kepler)

This work illustrates two laws of planetary motion proposed by the German mathematician Johannes Kepler (1571–1630) in his book Astronomia Nova (New Astronomy) of 1609. Kepler argued that planets move about the sun in elliptical orbits, with the sun at one focus of the ellipse. He also claimed that a planet moves about the sun in such a way that a line drawn from the planet to the sun sweeps out equal areas in equal times. The ellipse in the work represents the path of a planet and the white sections equal areas. The extraordinary contrast between the deep blue and white colors dramatize this phenomenon.
This oil painting on masonite has a wooden frame. It is signed: CJ65. It also is marked on the back: Crockett Johnson 1965 (/) LAW OF ORBITING VELOCITY (/) (KEPLER). It is #22 in the series. The work follows an annotated diagram from Crockett Johnson’s copy of Newman's The World of Mathematics (1956), p. 231. Compare to paintings #76 (1979.1093.50) and #99 (1979.1093.66).
Reference: Arthur Koestler, The Watershed (1960).
Currently not on view
Object Name
date made
Kepler, Johannes
Johnson, Crockett
Physical Description
masonite (substrate material)
wood (frame material)
overall: 82 cm x 102.2 cm x 3.8 cm; 32 5/16 in x 40 1/4 in x 1 1/2 in
ID Number
catalog number
accession number
See more items in
Medicine and Science: Mathematics
Science & Mathematics
Crockett Johnson
Data Source
National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center
Credit Line
Ruth Krauss in memory of Crockett Johnson
Additional Media

Visitor Comments

Add a comment about this object

**Please read before submitting the form**

Have a comment or question about this object to share with the community? Please use the form below. Selected comments will appear on this page and may receive a museum response (but we can't promise). Please note that we generally cannot answer questions about the history, rarity, or value of your personal artifacts.

Have a question about anything else, or would you prefer a personal response? Please visit our FAQ or contact page.

Personal information will not be shared or result in unsolicited e-mail. See our privacy policy.

Enter the characters shown in the image.