Stanczyk during a Ball at the Court of Queen Bona after the Loss of Smolensk

Posted By Pamela on Jun 17, 2007 | 3 comments

er02112matejko.jpgMy 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?


  1. “possibly the end of the bronze age” – any references to this? First I’ve heard of it.

  2. Does “art” include modern media? Probably not, otherwise you would have mentioned Phil Plait’s Bad Astronomy site.

    One of my pet peeves are the depictions of the ‘Star of Bethlehem’ casting a searchlight beam of light down into the manger.

  3. “searchlight beam of light down into the manger”

    HAHAHA- That is hysterical. I might be adding that to my list as well.

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