The striking increase in visual representations of the heavenly vault during the 16th century involved experimentation with new methods and the use of different material supports. It is to this period that we must assign the birth of modern cartography. It found expression in maps of the constellations drafted by artists of the highest calibre, in the oldest and most magnificent atlases of the heavens, in the first celestial globes (produced by assembling printed, hand-coloured gores) and in the depiction of planets and constellations, almost always for astrological purposes, on the vaults of noble palaces.
Throughout this period there was a remarkable output of armillary spheres which provide a three-dimensional representation of the celestial sphere. They made it possible to establish every possible configuration of the stars for the purposes of astronomical research, teaching and astrological prediction. These extraordinarily refined and sophisticated instruments, produced by skilled masters, became true collector's items.