Lot 4
  • 4


7,500 - 8,500 USD
bidding is closed


  • "Halley's Comet, China 240 BC," 1960
Oil on artist's board, 16 by 15 inches (sight), signed "Chesley Bonestell" lower left in ink. Extended approximately 1 inch along the bottom edge with a joined piece of artist's board, small crease to upper left corner. Multiple labels and extensive captioning to frame's verso, including Chesley Bonestell's address label, with the autograph notations: "Halley’s Comet, first recorded by both the Romans, and the Chinese in 240 BC" and "Painted for THE SOLAR SYSTEM by C. B. (Columbia Record Club Inc,., New York, 1961) with commentary by Walter Cronkite." Matted and framed to 24 by 23 inches. 


Ex Collection of Frederick C. Durant, III


ILLUSTRATED: Ron Miller & Fredrick C. Durant III. The Art of Chesley Bonestell, p 236. EXHIBITED: California Academy of Sciences, San Francisco, Centennial Exhibit, January-May 1988; Monterey Institute for Research in Astronomy, Monterey, November 1990. 

Catalogue Note

Chesley Bonestell first encountered Halley's Comet as an undergrad at Columbia University in 1910: "He and friends from Columbia sat up all night on the Palisades overlooking New York, waiting to see the comet rise over the horizon ... When it finally appeared it was a spectacular sight — at least two degrees long, the width of four full moons — and got even brighter and larger as the year progressed." (Miller & Durant, 14-15). Bonestell's encounter had a lasting impact on the budding artist, who executed a number of paintings depicting Halley's comet over the years. The present painting was produced in 1960 for the children's book "The Solar System" (see also lot 5). "[Bonestell] decided that, since the Chinese had some of the earliest written records of the comet, it would be appropriate to render the illustration in a Chinese style" (85), making this the first of Bonestell's works to be rendered in a Chinese style. He was reportedly working on another rendering of the astronomical phenomena shortly before his death in 1986, as Halley's Comet was once again blazing across the Earth's skies. 

The verso of the painting, bears the handwritten note: "Halley’s Comet. First recorded by both the Chinese and the Romans in 240 BC. Named for the English astronomer Edmund Halley (1656-1742) who saw in in 1682, studied it, and correctly predicted its return in 1757, this being the first prediction ever made of a comet’s return. Halley’s Comet has an orbit bringing it toward Earth every 75-76 years. Chesley saw it in 1910 (April-May), and in 1986 (Jan). It was last seen in 1985-86 and will be visible again in 2061. Its long elliptical orbit takes it out to a point between the orbits of Neptune and Pluto, the two outermost planets of our solar system."