3 for Thursday: 3 Historic Examples of Comets in Art

In the ancient world, comets were seen as bad omens and occasionally made their way into art. In the modern world, these depictions are sometimes thought of by conspiracy theorists as UFOs. Below are three interesting examples of comets that inspired artists after their appearance. (In all likelihood, no one was taken and probed as a result of their presence.)

1) The Bayeux Tapestry (c. 1070s)

Likely commissioned by William the Conqueror’s half-brother, Bishop Odo (later, Earl of Kent), the Bayeux Tapestry portrays events leading to the Battle of Hastings. Included in the story is Halley’s comet (a sign of bad things to come), portrayed with a large tail.

The Bayeux Tapestry. Circa. 1070s.

The Bayeux Tapestry. Circa. 1070s.

2) Giotto, Adoration of the Magi (c. 1304)

The section of the fresco below from the Arena Chapel is a scene with baby Jesus. In the sky is a comet, which is likely a conflation of the star over Bethlehem in the biblical story with the fact that Halley’s Comet was seen just a couple years earlier in 1301.


Giotto. Adoration of the Magi, c. 1304.

3) Lieve Verschuier, The Great Comet of 1680

Known as Kirch’s Comet, it was visible during the day and the first to be discovered by a telescope.

  • timetherington

    No, these are ancient astronauts! Erich von Däniken told me so in the 1970s!

  • Ancient aliens…makes perfect sense.

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