This painting is arguably the most famous and
most recognisable of the French artist's works.
It was painted near the town of Saint Remy,
in Provence, Southern France.
It is the most popular of a group of five night-sky
paintings by van Gogh. The fifth one in the series
was lost for half a century, only reappearing in the
last decade of the twentieth century. (See the article
by Donald Olson in Sky and Telescope, April 2001)
The features in the night sky of this painting are
obviously exaggerated, but there is much discussion
and disagreement over the identity of the swirling
mass that commands centre stage in the night sky.
People have tried to fit the points of light to the
pattern of stars they think van Gogh saw. References
to the constellation Aries and the planet Venus abound.
Some feel the dots of light represent points on a map
of France. It is just as likely that the points of
light are symbolic with no reference to the real
celestial hemisphere, although it is just possible
that the central swirling object may be the artist's
interpretation of the spiral nebula M51, also
known as the Whirlpool Galaxy.