Looking at the comet till you get a criek in the neck

Hand-coloured satirical print, published in 1811, showing a domestic scene of an older man, wearing a dressing gown and night-cap, looking out of a window with a spyglass at the comet of that year. He fails to notice the romantic scene between a young woman and man. This is a common trope, represented also in Le Marchand de Lunettes (ZBA4477), in which those with an interest in astronomy are so distracted by other-worldly thoughts that they fail to see what is going on under their noses.

The print was published during the long period when the great comet of 1811 (also known as Napoleon’s comet, now C/18111 W1) was visible (the comet was visible telescopically from 25 March 1811 to 17 August 1812, and with the naked eye 11 April 1811 to 20 January 1812). It was published by Thomas Tegg in Cheapside and the coloured print cost one shilling.

Object Details

ID: ZBA4569
Collection: Fine art
Type: Print
Display location: Not on display
Creator: Rowlandson, Thomas
Date made: 1811
Credit: National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London
Measurements: Overall: 392 mm x 265 mm

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