Flintstone Stargazing

July 15, 2009

The Moon in Art

Filed under: astronomy, Moon — Tags: — Ed @ 4:00 pm

We’ve been on vacation in St. Louis this week and today we went to the St. Louis Art Museum. While there, the kids enjoyed the mummies and armor most of all, but I spent a lot of time looking for astronomical details in paintings, just because it was an interesting thing to look for.

The painting above, “The Captive Charger” by Charles Ferdinand Wimar contains an interesting depiction of the Moon. The painting overall contains a lot of detail and tells an interesting story, but I noticed a couple things about how the Moon is painted. The first thing I noticed is bad: the crescent (lit surface) actually wraps past 180°. While Venus, with its atmosphere can indeed have that shape (at least through a telescope), the Moon, without an atmosphere, cannot. The second thing I noticed is good: the thin crescent of the moon is close to the horizon, which contains the setting sun. That’s a nice detail – that a thin crescent moon will only be present setting right after the Sun.

This next painting, “Lake with Castle on a Hill” by Joseph Wright of Derby has a very nice full Moon peeking through the clouds. It’s a nicely illustrated scene and does a good job with lighting. The image above is a detail – you can see the whole thing here.

Next, I saw this painting, “An Island in the Lagoon with a Gateway and a Church”, by Caneletto (Giovanni Antonio Canal). It shows the full Moon rising in the distance. One of the things I like about it is that the scene is lit from behind, which is correct. The full Moon rises as the Sun sets. The full version can be seen here.

Finally, we headed over to the History Museum, also located in Forest Park. There, I saw the painting, “Evening Glow”. This painting by Edmund H. Wuerpel does a nice job of capturing a realisticly shaped moon and a few brighter stars, as seen through clouds. This painting was exhibited at the 1904 St. Louis World’s Fair and is found in the exhibit on the World’s Fair at the St. Louis History Museum.


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