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Starry Night over the Rhone

I’m currently reading an amazing biography of Vincent van Gogh, by Steven Naifeh and Gregory White Smith.

It’s funny how, when you read about a subject you are not an expert in, you take everything on faith. There is not much point reading a book and not trusting the author to give you a dependable version of events. And yet, I know I won’t be the only one who is shocked how often a trusted author strays onto a subject in which you are an expert and… you suddenly discover their very human fallibility.

See if you can spot the error in this short excerpt about Van Gogh’s work on the painting, ‘Starry Night Over the Rhone’:

“Once set up, he turned his gaze south, looking downriver at the dark town. It stretched out along the great bend of the Rhone, curving and receding from left to right…

In the sky, he started by dutifully laying out the stars of the Ursa Major constellation in the southern quadrant at the center of the his big canvas.”

I’m sure you spotted it: you’d have to drink even more absinthe than Vincent VG did to find Ursa Major in the southern sky.

Still, it is a very good book and highly recommended.

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