Star Lore around the World


Art Work related to Constellations

This is the astronomy section of the Star Lore Around the World project. Click here to get the the introduction.

For as long as people organized stars into constellations, there have been tales about them. And for as long as there have been tales, there have been artistic expressions of those constellations.

The tradition of celestial cartography, also called uranography, dates back to prehistorical expressions (like the Nebra Sky Disk to the right), Mesopotamian clay tablets and the ceilings of Egyptian tombs.
The first comprehensive collections of artwork depicting constellations were several illustrations to the works of Germanicus, a Roman general and writer who in 4 AD wrote a Latin version of Aratus's Phainomena, an introduction to the constellations in poetic form.

Most prominent of these early uranographies was the Leiden Aratea (left), but there were a lot of other publications based on Germanicus' work.
With the invention of the printing press in the 15th century, a number of of quite elaborate pieces of art (like Albrecht Dürer's woodcuts of both hemispheres (see above) reached a large audience.

Probaly the most popular set of star charts was Urania's Mirror (right), a set of star charts showing the constellations of the northern hemisphere, first published in 1824.
All these early works were based on the "traditional" or "western" constellations. In recent years, dedicated artists around the world have taken steps to preserve the star lore of other cultures, such as Native American or Australian Aboriginal. The picture of uranography around the world would not be complete without those collections (left).

Here is a list of our collection of uranographic art work. All pictures were copied from public domains and all sources are properly quoted. If you hold a copyright to any of the material used and want it to be removed from this site, please contact me at
2nd Cent. AD The Farnese Atlas

A marble statue, showing the oldest existing depiction of the ancient Greek constellations.
ca. 650 The Five Agents of the Sky

Paintings from the Chinese Tang Dynasty, depicting the five planets as mythical, immortal yet human-like characters.
816 Leiden Aratea

One of the oldest illuminated copies of an astronomical treatise by Roman general and poet Germanicus.
964 Al-Sufi's Book of Fixed Stars

An illustrated synthesis of the comprehensive star catalogue in Ptolemy’s Almagest with the indigenous Arabic astronomical traditions on the constellations.
ca. 1000 Aberystwyth Folios

A different set of illustrations to Germanicus' treatise.
mid 1300s Alfonsine Tables

A 14th century illustrated version of the Alfonsine Tables - the first star tables of Renaissance Europe.
ca. 1400 Constellation Cycle

Illustrations of the 48 constellations of the Books of Wisdom by King Alfonso X; done by an unknown English artist.
ca. 1400 German Farmer's Calendar

A popular medieval leaflet, showing the Zodiac signs, the amount of daylight and a typical farming tasks for each month.
1411 The Book of the Birth of Iskandar

An illustrated horoscope showing middle eastern interpretations of the Zodiac.
mid 1400s Pergamenthandschrift M II 141

A 15th century copy of the original illustrations of the Alfonsine Tables.
1482 Erhard Ratdolt's edition of Poeticon Astronomicon

The first printed and illustrated edition of Hyginus’s Poeticon Astronomicon was published by German printer Erhard Ratdolt in Venice in 1482.
1482 De Astronomica

Another version of Hyginus' De Astronomica; illustrated by an unknown artist.
1512 Constellation Calendar

A set of woodcuttings of the constellations and the known planets by an unknown artist, based on descriptions given by German astronomer Regiomontanus.
1515 The Planispheres of Albrecht Dürer

Dürer's woodcuts for planispheres of the constellations of both hemispheres were the first printed star charts of the West.
1533-1540 The Planispheres of Petrus Apianus

Inspired by Dürer, Apianus created a star chart combining Ptolemaic and Arabic features, followed by one of the most elaborate early star charts.
1590+ More Planispheres

Over the centuries, many artist followed the trend started by Dürer.
Here are some examples, created between 1590 and 2018.
1603 Uranometria

Consisting of 50 copperplate engravings, Johann Bayer's Uranometria was the first star atlas showing the entire sky.
1624-1628 The star maps of Bartsch and Habrecht

Two starch maps showing seven new constellations - though only two of them would pass the test of time.
1627 Coelum Stellatum Christianum

In an attempt to replace the "pagan" constellations with Christian ones, Julius Schiller created 53 constellations based on Biblical characters and themes.
1633 Manuchihr Globe

Commisioned by Manuchihr Khan, this celestial globe is an outstanding example of the Golden Age of Islamic astronomy.
1641 Uranometria Hand Colored

A hand-colored version of the original Uranometria.
1660 Harmonia Macrocosmica

An illustrated compendium of cosmological concepts - by many considered the most beautiful celestial atlas ever published.
1729 Atlas Coelestis

Atlas Coelestis, assembled by Astronomer Royal John Flamsteed and illustrated by painter James Thornhill was the largest star atlas of its time.
1756 Coelum Australe Stelliferum

Between 1750 and 1754, French astronomer de Lacaille mapped the southern skies. His planisphere contained the first drawings of 14 new southern constellations.
1801 Bode's Uranographia

Johann Elert Bode's Star Atlas, showing more than 100 constellations on 20 plates marked the climax of an epoch of artistic representation of the constellations.
1824 Urania's Mirror

A set of 32 astronomical star chart cards designed by the Reverend Richard Rouse Bloxam. To this day, this is one of the most popular creations of star charts.
1827 Astrophilogeon

Astrophilogeon is a set of playing cards designed by English artist Charles Hodges featuring the classic constellations. It is still in print today - almost 200 years later.
1833 Geography of the Heavens

Published by US-American astronomer E.H. Burritt, Geography of the Heavens was a popular, richly illustrated star map by a now almost forgotten author.
2000 Navajo Skies

A description of the traditional constellations of the North American Navajo people, written by Nancy C. Maryboy and illustrated by Melvin Bainbridge.
2002 Stars over Tyrell

Illustrations of the constellations of the Boorong Aboriginal people in Victoria, Australia, developed by a documentary team.
2012 Native Skywatchers

A set of star maps based on the astronomical knowledge of the Native American Cree, Ojibwe, Dakota and Lakota people.
2015 Ad Wer

Ad Wer: Story of the Stars from the Eastern Torres Strait is a body of linocut print-works by Australian artist Tommy Pau.
2015 Star-Stack

A beautiful set of playing cards combining Indian art and Greek mythology, disigned by South African artist Jessica Benjamin Purmeswar.
2016 Atchakosuk

A description of the traditional constellations of the North American Cree people, written by Wilfred Buck and illustrated by Edwin Bichetty.
2016 The Lost Constellations

US-American artist Lisa Bohnwagner brought some of the animal constellation not adopted by the IAU (such as the Sea Horse and the Pangolion) back to life.
2010 - 2021 Spaceart

Artists have always been inspired by the night sky. In recent years, space artists also found inspiration in images taken by Hubble and other telescopes.
800 BC - 2000 AD The Zodiac

A collection of artistic expressions of Zodiac constellations throughout the centuries and from around the world.

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