Monday, March 30, 2009

The starry night of Vincent van Gogh

Today according to Australian Eastern Standard Time when this item was posted
On this day in 1853, Vincent van Gogh was born.

In 1889, a little more than a year before his death, at his own request the artist was admitted to the psychiatric centre at the Monastery Saint-Paul de Mausole in Saint Remy de Provence, Bouches-du-Rhône, France. Here, looking out his east-facing window, near dawn on the morning of June 19, 1889, he saw the blazing sky that he immortalized in the painting, 'Starry Night'.

American art historian Dr Albert Boime enlisted the aid of astronomer Dr Ed Krupp from Griffith Observatory in California to recreate the night sky as it would have appeared to Van Gogh on the night he painted it and amazingly the basic image was the same (with the significant exception that the Moon on that night seems not to have been a crescent, but a gibbous moon). In the painting we see three stars of the constellation Aries as well as the Moon and Venus. There are eleven stars in total, reminiscent of the Biblical Joseph reporting his dream to his brothers:

And he dreamed yet another dream, and told it his brethren, and said, Behold, I have dreamed a dream more; and, behold, the sun and the moon and the eleven stars made obeisance to me.
Genesis 37:9

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