Mankind’s fascination with space has spanned centuries and touched many cultures worldwide. It is no surprise that art and decorative objects have historically been inspired by the muse that is the vast night sky. Though explorations into the great unknown have brought us new knowledge over the centuries, there is still so much to discover. Recent news has reminded us of this with supposed Unidentified Flying Object spottings!
Coincidentally, national U.F.O. Day is July 2nd. To celebrate this unusual holiday, we’re here to share some of our favorite out-of-this-world art and antiques that are inspired by the cosmic system.
Beam Me Up
This “zine,” or limited-edition counterculture book, by the great American artist Keith Haring features a playful scene of a U.F.O hovering over a dolphin peering out of the water. While the image itself is exciting and perhaps unusual, it is not the most interesting thing about this work!
Haring produced his first art zine in 1982 and distributed them at his exhibition at the famed Tony Shafrazi Gallery in New York. The present example, however, had a blank cover due to its backwards assembly. Daniel Durning, who possessed the mishap zine, pointed this out to Haring, who, on the spot, drew a new cover and signed the back with a bright pink, felt-tip pen.
Haring was fascinated by U.F.O.s and often referenced them in his work. Tales of alien abductions excited the artist, and he felt a connection to the “otherness” that an unidentified sight in the sky produced. When discussing his U.F.O. motifs, he once said, “Out of these drawings my entire future vocabulary was born... It certainly wasn’t a conscious thing. But after these initial images, everything fell into place.”
True to his roots, Haring’s work is highly influenced by the street art of New York City, where he spent most of his young adult years before his untimely death at 31. His drawings continue to be some of the most popular and sought-after late 20th-century American art, with U.F.O. motifs being a special among serious collectors of his work.
This pair of 21-inch globes by Newton & Son was almost certainly owned by a wealthy aristocrat that was fascinated by the stars. One globe features a terrestrial depiction of Earth while the other depicts the sky, filled with famous constellations and stars. Each constellation is drawn with an image over it — the zodiac equivalent is drawn to illustrate the star pattern.
The celestial globe is labeled with the following: “New and Improved Newton’s Celestial Globe, On which all the Stars Nebulae and Clusters contained in the extensive Catalogue of the late F. Wollaston, F.R.S. are accurately laid down, their Right Ascensions & Declinations having been recalculated for the year 1830 by W. Newton/ Manufactured by Newton & Son, 66 Chancery Lane, London.”
The discovery of the zodiac constellations is typically correlated with the Greeks and the Romans, but other ancient people like the Sumerians and Babylonians understood the pattern of the stars as far back as 6,000 years ago. Today, astrologers have cataloged 88 unique constellations and continue to use them for tracking the sky.
This exceptionally rare Gibeon meteorite fragment fell to the earth in prehistoric times in modern-day Nambia. Comprised of iron and nickel alloy with significant amounts of phosphorus and cobalt, this fragment is labeled an IVA-class octahedrite meteorite. Though this specimen dates to 28,000 BC, these meteorites were discovered by European explorer Capt. J.E. Alexander in 1836. After testing, this stone is believed to be derived from the core of an extinct planet that exploded some 4 billion years ago — during the creation of our solar system — that much later fell into Earth’s orbit.
Meteorites are highly collectible items for space, history and science lovers alike. Owning something dating back to the creation of our solar system is, quite literally, out of this world.
Son, circa 1820
As we continue to make discoveries about our solar system and galaxy, it is interesting to reflect on where we once were with space exploration. This orrery by Newton & Son models our solar system as it was known circa 1820 — before the discovery of Neptune in 1846 and Pluto in 1930. An intricate set of gears allows Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn, with their moons, to revolve around the central brass sun with just the crank of a handle. Earth’s moon even displays moon phases as we see them.
After their creation in 1704 by two clockmakers, orreries were used for educational purposes and for home recreation. The present orrery was almost certainly a prized possession of an aristocrat of the 18th century, given its superlative state and complication.
Since their creation in 1608, telescopes have opened up a vast world of discovery for those entranced with the stars. Scientist Galileo Galilei used the early telescope to discover many important truths of the sky. This included the sighting of Jupiter’s four moons, the moon's rocky and earth-like terrain, and the fact that the Sun is the center of our solar system — not the Earth.
This simple viewing device is not limited to scientists, of course. Anyone has the ability to peer at the stars with one of these useful tools, too. For the person on the go, the present cane is perfect for everyday stargazing given its hidden telescope inside the stylish shaft. Covered in an emerald-hued sharkskin leather, the walking stick is as luxurious as it is useful.
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