Ceramic Comets (Halley’s Comet in 1910)

Royal Delft plate commemorating the return of Halley’s Comet in 1910 (Astronomical Institute Utrecht).
click for a larger image

Comets have been depicted in the past on a great variety of materials. Best known, of course, are depictions on parchment, paper, textiles, wood, metal and stone – countless examples of which can be found in any book on comet lore.

Cometary depictions on porcelain, however, seem to be relatively rare. In fact, I know only of one example of this kind of depictions, namely a series of blue Royal Delft plates issued in 1910 by the porcelain manufacturer ‘De Porceleyne Fles’ in Delft commemorating the return of Halley’s Comet in that year.

These plates, which measure about 25 centimeters in diameter, show a stylized comet passing between a cloud-enveloped Earth and a flame-belching Sun with the texts ‘HALLEY’, ‘HET KOMETEN JAAR’ (‘the Comet Year’) and ‘1910’. The solar rim is embellished with figures which may refer to the zodiacal constellations of Gemini and Aquarius, but their identification (and meaning) is not certain.

Also shown in the top-left corner is a smaller comet labeled ‘1910A’, referring to the unexpected (but much brighter) comet that appeared in January of that year. The copies known to me (see below) all show the comet 1910a and were thus produced after January 1910 but there may have been earlier copies which do not show this addition.

At the moment I know of the following copies of the above-mentioned cometary plate:

Another copy, also in a private collection, is depicted in: Roberta Bromley Etter & Stuart L. Schneider, Halley’s Comet: Memories of 1910 (Abbeville Press, New York, 1985), p. 11.

I am collecting material on these kinds of cometary depictions and I would be very grateful for help in locating more examples of the above depicted plate or similar ceramic ware depicting Halley’s Comet or any other comets.

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[document last updated on 2 March 2003]