Rebecca Helm-Ropelato
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Friday, September 28, 2007
What I Read In The Paper Today about Van Gogh
Starry Night (on the Rhone) by Van Gogh Starry Night (on the Rhone) by Van Gogh
Today in the La Repubblica daily newspaper, based in Rome, an article by Andrea Bettini begins (translation):
One evening at the end of September 1888, around 10:30, Vincent Van Gogh was on the banks of the Rhone, near the French city of Arles. He had just recently finished a painting of the countryside to the southwest, a view of the river with the lights of the village in the background, and at that moment decided to change the position of his easel.
According to Bettini, the time-precise identification of these moments 119 years after the fact, the move of the easel, and a forty-minute pause by Van Gogh during his painting of the sky that particular night, are the recent discoveries of Italian astrophysicist Gianluca Masi, a scientific curator at the Planetarium of Rome.
In the article, the La Repubblica reporter chronicles what he terms as Masi's Sherlock Holmes venture in astronomy. He describes how the scientist set off on an exploration of this particular Van Gogh creation after leafing through a book of the artist's works and being struck by the accuracy with which the stars were represented in one of the famous Starry Night paintings.
Masi used the painting's positioning of the stars as a guide, Bettini reports, and by using the science of astronomy he was able to trace back and narrow the date of the work's origin to a specific ten-day span of time, plus discover some other interesting details.
The scientist is scheduled to present his discovery this evening at a science event, Notte Europea della Ricerca (Researchers' Night), held for the general public in the town of Frascati, located near Rome.
by Rebecca Helm-Ropelato
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