Farmers Almanac
The Farmers Almanac
Order your copy today!

Which Stars Were Depicted in van Gogh’s “Starry Night”?

Which Stars Were Depicted in van Gogh’s “Starry Night”?

It was June 19, 1889, when Dutch post-impressionist painter, Vincent van Gogh, finished his Starry Night masterpiece. What was the inspiration for this painting, considered one of the most recognizable and reproduced pieces of art in the world?

The most widely-known bit of information about van Gogh, of course, is that he cut off his left ear, which happened one December night near Christmas, 1888. And while the details of this event are hotly debated (was it because of unrequited love? A fight with fellow painter Paul Gauguin?), history does not dispute that van Gogh suffered a mental breakdown which resulted in him voluntarily committing himself to Saint-Rémy-de-Provence, an asylum in Southern France, the following May. 

View From A Window

From the barred window of his room of the former monastery that overlooked a courtyard, he could see the eastern sky. And it inspired him to paint.

The hospital staff did not allow van Gogh to paint in his bedroom, but he was allowed to sketch with charcoal, and he did so every day. He wrote to his brother about the view outside his window, which he captured at different times of day and under various weather conditions, through clouds, rain, and sun. Eventually, he would finish the piece using oil paint on canvas.

What Did van Gogh Actually See From His Asylum Window?

An art history professor at UCLA, with the help of astronomers, attempted to identify the objects in the night sky depicted in Starry Night as seen by van Gogh from that asylum window.


The stars and planets in the night sky as seen by Vincent van Gogh, the inspiration for his famous painting, Starry Night.

They determined that the scene could have been at 4 am on June 19th. One of van Gogh’s brightest stars in his painting, to the right of the Cypress tree, would have been Venus. In the upper right-hand corner is van Gogh’s Moon, which is not astronomically correct. The Moon would have been waning gibbous, just before Last Quarter at that time, yet van Gogh took some artistic liberties and painted it as a crescent Moon with a bright halo. The other stars and constellations, such as Capella, Cassiopeia, and Pegasus, are all there in the piece.

So the next time you see a depiction of Starry Night, or the real thing (the original painting is housed at the Museum of Modern Art, where it’s been since 1941), remember van Gogh, the ultimate stargazer.

Shop for Related Products on Amazon

Disclosure: We are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites.

Previous / Next Posts

  • PENNY says:


  • K. Howard says:

    I do know that Van Gogh was taking digitalis. That “drug” can make glowing circles appear around lights (stars). Thus his rendition of the stars at night!

  • If you notice a hole in the upper left-hand corner of your Farmers' Almanac, don't return it to the store! That hole isn't a defect; it's a part of history. Starting with the first edition of the Farmers' Almanac in 1818, readers used to nail holes into the corners to hang it up in their homes, barns, and outhouses (to provide both reading material and toilet paper). In 1919, the Almanac's publishers began pre-drilling holes in the corners to make it even easier for readers to keep all of that invaluable information (and paper) handy.

    Reading Farmers' Almanac on Tablet with Doggie

    Don't Miss A Thing!

    Subscribe to Our Newsletter and Get a FREE Download!