Fallen Astronaut


There’s only one piece of art on the moon: Fallen Astronaut, an 8.5-cm aluminum sculpture of an astronaut in a spacesuit. It’s meant to honor astronauts and cosmonauts who died furthering space exploration … but it’s also a testament to the almost limitless patience of its creator.

Belgian artist Paul Van Hoeydonck agreed to the project after meeting astronaut David Scott at a dinner party. Making art for the moon is pretty demanding in itself — it has to be lightweight, sturdy, and tolerant of temperature extremes. But NASA also said the figure couldn’t be identifiably male or female, nor of any identifiable ethnic group. On top of that, because Scott wanted to avoid the commercialization of space, they didn’t want to make Van Hoeydonck’s name public.

The artist agreed to all this, and in 1971 Apollo 15 put Fallen Astronaut on the moon, along with a plaque listing 14 fallen space explorers. Van Hoeydonck even agreed to create a replica for the National Air and Space Museum “with good taste and without publicity.”

But he finally balked when Scott tried to talk him out of selling 950 signed replicas for $750 apiece at New York’s Waddell Gallery in 1972. A guy’s got to make a living.

Hare Raising


This is Hase, a 200-foot bunny erected in September on an Italian mountainside by the Viennese art group Gelatin.

You’re welcome to climb around on it. No rush — it’ll be there until 2025.

Source Forge


One of these Vermeers is a forgery. Which is it?

Click for Answer

A Tennessee Parthenon

Image: Wikimedia Commons

Nashville’s Centennial Park contains a full-scale replica of the Parthenon.

Like the original in Athens, it’s “more perfect than perfect”: To counter optical effects, the columns swell slightly as they rise, and the platform on which they stand curves slightly upward. So the temple looks even more symmetrical than it actually is.

Stendhal Syndrome


“Stendhal syndrome” refers to rapid heartbeat, dizziness, confusion, and even hallucinations in the presence of great art.

It’s named for Stendhal himself, the 19th century French author, who reported experiencing it on an 1817 visit to Florence (and described it in his book Naples and Florence: A Journey from Milan to Reggio).

It wasn’t formally described until 1979, when Italian psychiatrist Graziella Magherini documented more than 100 cases among visitors to Florence. The syndrome was first diagnosed in 1982.

Ars Longa

In the 1840s, John Banvard painted a panorama of the Mississippi River valley — possibly the largest painting ever attempted. It was 12 feet high and 1,300 feet long.

He traveled with it through Europe, Asia, and Africa, and Queen Victoria even got a private viewing.

Improbably, it’s been lost. How do you misplace a painting that’s a quarter mile long?



This is The Ambassadors (1533), the celebrated painting by Hans Holbein the Younger. It’s full of noteworthy symbols of exploration, but what’s that odd skewed element at the bottom?

If you view the canvas from a narrow angle, the image resolves into a skull:


This is an early example of anamorphic perspective, an invention of the early Renaissance. It’s thought that Holbein intended that the painting would be hung in a stairwell, when people ascending the stairs would view the image from the proper angle and get a gruesome surprise.

Why? That’s an unanswered question.