My favorite painting is currently on display at the Houston Museum of Fine Arts, and I was just able to get my own framed copy of it for my office! Part of the traveling, “Leonardo da Vinci and the Splendor of Poland,” exhibit, this painting by Jan Matejko depicts the Polish jester Stanczyk in deep despair after receiving word the stronghold of Smolensk had fallen. In the background, a royal ball merrily goes on while out the window a comet is seen marking oncoming tragedy. (see zoomable image here).
While I know that comets and meteors don’t generally mean tragedy is coming (exceptions: Tunguska, possibly the end of the bronze age, and possibly the end of the dinosaurs), I am still fascinated with how the crop up as symbols in art and literature.
What is your favorite abuse of astronomy in art?