Donati’s comet was one of the most impressive astronomical events of the nineteenth century. Its extended sword-like tail was a spectacular sight that inspired several literary and artistic representations. Traces of Donati’s comet are found in popular magazines, children’s books, collection cards, and household objects through the beginning of the twentieth century.
Donati’s comet was discovered in Florence on June 2, 1858. It became visible to the naked eye in the northern and southern hemispheres between September 1858 and March 1859. Its gracefully curved tail, which extended almost 40 degrees in the southwestern sky, made a great visual impact and inspired several pictorial (paintings, watercolours, sketches) and poetic (lyrical and satirical) representations, especially in Great Britain and France. In the Eastern world, the influence of Donati’s comet on contemporary society is particularly significant in Siam and Japan. This contribution outlines the relations and interconnections between a scientific discovery, the artistic movements of the period, and the different social environments in a worldwide context.
"The worldwide impact of Donati’s comet on art and society in the mid-19th century" by Antonella Gasperini, Daniele Galli and Laura Nenzi