Donati’s / Great Comet of 1858

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  • #573514
    James Dawson
    Participant

    A friend of my father somehow obtained a framed picture of a comet (I’ve yet to hear the story of this); he knew I was interested in astronomy so he sent me the picture. It’s a bit grubby, but lovely. It features “The Great Comet” and was drawn/painted in October 1858 by “CHD”. On the back it says: “Painted by Clementina Heathcote (afterwards Hon Lady Tryon). The Great Comet of 1858.”

    The comet of 1858 was apparently Donati’s Comet (C/1858 L1), and not being into comets it’s not one I’d heard of before. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Comet_Donati

    Clementina was born in 1809 and died in 1888 according to Wikipedia. I infer from Wikipedia she was living at Drummond Castle in Perthshire in 1858, but looking at images on Google of Drummond Castle I can’t mimic the view in the picture.

    I need to clean the glass and dust the tatty frame, but it’s then going on the wall. I don’t imagine it has much financial value, but felt I should share the “find” with you comet people.

    James

    #577192
    Jeremy Shears
    Participant

    That’s a very nice find, James. I am glad it will find a place on your wall. Donati’s was certainly one of the most impressive comets of the 19th century. It probably stimulated an astronomical interest in many people. Dr. Thomas David Anderson (1853-1932) and Col. E.E. Markwick (1853 – 1925) both mention it as their first astronomical recollection, being shown it when they were 5 years old. The former went on to discover several novae and the latter became the second Director of the VSS and BAA President.

    Jeremy

    #577193
    David Strange
    Participant

    And I hazard a guess (if those group of stars top right are the handle of the plough?)that it was painted on Oct 5th 1858 when it “passed in splendour” over Arcturus. That was also the night that the astronomer of Rousdon: Charles Grover initiated his interest in astronomy.

    David

    #577194
    Denis Buczynski
    Participant

    Hello James, Donati’s comet has been described by many of the 19th Century observers who saw it as the most beautiful comet. Both in scale in the sky, in form with the curved dust tail and the thin straight gas tail. It was painted by many artists, whose paintings can be seen by searching for images of this comet on Google.It was an important comet as it was the first comet to be photographed. This feat was achieved intially by an English Portrait Photographer William Usherwood then by G.P.Bond at Harvard Observatory in the USA. My particular favourite painting of this comet is by James Poole and is held at Sheffield Museum

    Denis Buczynski

    #577195
    James Dawson
    Participant

    Wow, that is a lovely painting.

    James

    #577220
    James Dawson
    Participant

    A copy of this book arrived this morning, and while I probably won’t read it from cover to cover, I’m looking forward to flicking through it at some stage and reading little bits and looking at the lovely pictures:

    Fire in the Sky: Comets and Meteors, the Decisive Centuries, in British Art and Science Hardcover – 26 Feb 1998

    http://www.amazon.co.uk/Fire-Sky-Meteors-Decisive-Centuries-British/dp/0521630606/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1452170446&sr=8-1&keywords=comet+fire+sky

    James

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