Tonight we witness the longest Lunar eclipse of the 21st century, one which happens to occur while 6 (six!) planets are in retrograde, including Mars, Jupiter, Neptune, and (as much as we all want to deny it) Mercury, as well.

So as our energies, confidence levels, karmas and communication skills are being shuffled around the universe at random, we are presented with a beautiful 103-minute-long break from all that worry.

Solar and Lunar eclipses have had major historical and mythological significance. In ancient Asian cultures, for example, it was believed that an eclipse occurs when the dragon that hovers around the sun or moon comes to eat it.

Eclipses have even made many appearances in art as well. So, in preparation for tonight’s milestone eclipse, here is a list of 11 Solar and Lunar eclipse artworks from history:

1. Peter Paul Rubens:

Peter Paul Rubens, The Elevation of the Cross, Oil on Canvas, 462x640cm, 1610 (wikiart.com)

In Renaissance art, the eclipse was used in Crucifixion scenes to symbolize the unparalleled darkness and anguish described in the Gospel of Luke*. Here, the eclipse is seen on the right panel of the triptych.

2. Raphael:

Raphael and his Workshop, Lovers’ Deception, Freco, 1518-19, Vatican

In this Fresco, Raphael and members of his workshop depicted the aura of plasma around the sun as an angelic halo. The angelic beauty of this symbolism contradicts the work’s narrative; a biblical interpretation of Genesis 26:8 where Isaac refers to his wife Rebecca as his sister to avoid being killed on account of her beauty. Isaac and Rebecca hide away under the peeping eyes of Abimelech, the king of the Philistines. Raphael and his workshop completed this work along with 51 other biblical interpretations in 1519 as commissioned by Pope Leo X, they are currently located in the Vatican.

3. Diego Rivera:

Diego Rivera, Portrait of Ramon Gomez de la Serna, Oil on Canvas, 109.6×90.2cm, 1915, Argentina (wikiart.com)

Rivera created this Cubist-inspired portrait of his friend, Spanish poet Ramon Gomez de la Serna in 1915 with a full solar eclipse replacing the subject’s right eye. In this painting, Rivera pays homage to de la Serna’s quoted epigram: “after the eclipse the Moon washes its face to clean up the soot.”

4. Roy Lichtenstein:

Roy Lichtenstein, Eclipse of the Sun I (left), II (right), Oil and Magna on Canvas, 1975 (artstack.com)

The intersection of lines in these two paintings alludes speed and perspective. A vanishing point forms on the right side of both paintings. These vanishing points coincide with the black circles to convey Lichtenstein’s illustrative eclipses.

5. Egon Schiele:

Egon Schiele, Crucifixion with Darkened Sun, Oil on Canvas, 1907 (artstack.com)

Painted at 17, Schiele gives a nod to the Renaissance symbolism of using eclipses in crucifixion paintings.

6. George Grosz:

George Grosz, Eclipse of the Sun, Oil on Canvas, 1926 (artmuseum.princeton.edu)

This politically charged Dadaist-Surrealist painting by the German artist Grosz suggests many debates and doubts regarding the American financial support of Germany after World War I through the Dawes plan. The Lunar eclipse seen on the top left corner of the painting is stamped with the American dollar sign.

7. Zakariyyah ibn Muhammad al-Qazwini:

Zakariyya ibn Muhammad al-Qazwini, pages from “Aja’ib Al Makhluqat wa Ghara’eb Al Mawjodat” (The Wonders of Creation), 1203-1283

From his famous 13th century encyclopedia on natural history Aja’ib Al Makhluqat wa Ghara’eb Al Mawjodat, al-Qazwini explains the scientific cause of the solar eclipse in a transcript: “… the moon becoming a barrier between our sight and the sun, because the moon is an opaque celestial body that blocks the view of what lies behind it. If it is conjunction with the sun and it is in one of the two points, “the head” or “the tail,” or near them, it passes under the sun and obstructs the vision”.

Fun fact, naming “the head” and “the tail” of the light’s axis was inspired by the dragon that devours the sun and moon story!

8. Alma Thomas:

Alma Thomas, The Eclipse, Acrylic on Canvas, 57.5×126.5cm, 1970 (americanart.si.edu)

The american artist created this artwork just one year after the moon landing. And in March of 1970, the USA witnessed a total solar eclipse, which can give explanation to the artist’s inspiration. This artwork belongs to a series called Space Paintings where Thomas opted to depict space shuttle launches, sunsets and eclipses.

9. Rufino Tamayo:

Rufino Tamayo, Eclipse, Oil on Canvas, 55.8×76.2cm, 1980 (latinamericanart.com)

Rufino Tamayo’s artwork has long featured the sun. In this 1980 painting, he depicts a partial lunar eclipse in an empty green field.

10. Antoine Caron:

Antoine Caron, Dionysius the Areopagite Converting the Pagan Philosophers, Oil on Panel, 92.7×72.1cm, 1570s (getty.edu)

The figures in the background are in a state of chaotic frenzy as a solar eclipse falls on their city. The sky is represented in hot reds and oranges, with a hovering black disk covering what should be the yellow center of the sun.

11. Howard Russel Butler:

Howard Russel Butler, Triptych, Oil on Canvas, 1918, 1923, 1925 (artmuseum.princeton.edu)

Butler was one of the first artists in history to successfully portray the Solar eclipse on canvas. His early 20th century paintings were even used by scientists at the time to study how the corona of the sun appears during the Solar eclipse. These three paintings currently hang as a triptych at the entrance of the Hayden Planetarium at the American Museum of Natural History.

Images courtesy indicated in captions.
*quoted from article about Blackstar