Vermeer in DC, just in time for the AAS 231st meeting!

If you are going to the AAS meeting in National Harbor next month, you might consider taking some time to visit the National Gallery of Art for a rare opportunity to view two paintings well-known to Astronomy Picture of the Day (APOD) fans: Vermeer’s luminous The Astronomer and The Geographer. These paintings, owned by the Louvre and the Städelsches Kunstinstitut respectively, are part of the wonderful Vermeer and the Masters of Genre Painting: Inspiration and Rivalry exhibit which runs through January 21, 2018 in the West building of the Gallery.

Why are these two paintings well-known to APOD fans? A mashup of these two paintings appeared on APOD’s first birthday on June 16, 1996; note the introduction of a Hubble image for the painting on the wall:

picture combining Vermeer's The Geographer and The Astronomer paintings into one image, with Hubble's Pillars of Creation appearing on the back wall

APOD for June 16, 1996 (with apologies to Vermeer)

On APOD’s 5th birthday, a new composite of these paintings appeared:

picture combining Vermeer's The Geographer and The Astronomer paintings into one image

APOD for June 16, 2000 (with apologies to Vermeer)

Apparently, a tradition was born, and APOD fans started contributing their own takes on these famous images, as seen below in the 10th birthday image, created by Richard Taillet (Univ. de Savoie, LAPTH, LPNHE) and including a few objects that Vermeer’s astronomer never had the opportunity to view.

APOD for June 16, 2006 (with apologies to Vermeer; composite by Richard Taillet)

The next landmark APOD birthdays featured the image that appeared for the 10th birthday, but with a twist: it was pixelated by APOD fan Rob Stevenson using APOD thumbnail images. The image below does not do this justice, so please click through to the larger image housed on the APOD site to see whether you can find your favorite APOD amongst the ones making up this image.

APOD for June 16, 2016 (with apologies to Vermeer; pixelation by Rob Peterson)

To get back to the art exhibit, Vermeer is not the only painter featured in Genre Painting show, nor is his the only astronomer there. The Geographer and The Astronomer appear on one wall with Gerrit Dou’s Astronomer by Candlelight, owned by the Getty Museum, between them. Paintings by other Dutch artists, including Gerard ter Borch, Caspar NetscherPieter de Hooch, and Jan Steen, are also on display. So many Dutch treats! It’s a lovely exhibit and well worth finding your way to the National Gallery.

You will not have to go to the National Gallery of Art to see the APOD editors, however! Jerry Bonnell and Robert Nemiroff are giving a public talk at the AAS meeting at National Harbor; The Year’s Best Astronomy Images will be held on Tuesday, January 9 starting at 7:00 pm in the Gaylord’s Maryland Ballroom D.

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