How many stars in a Starry Night?🌃

Owen Jones - Joseph dreams of stars
Owen Jones from “The History of Joseph and His Brethren” (1869)

Some people have speculated about the eleven stars in Van Gogh’s Starry Night.
While it’s true that Vincent didn’t have the same religious fervour in 1889, when he painted the work, as he did in his earlier years, when he wanted to dedicate his life to evangelization of those in poverty, there is a possibility that the story of Joseph in the Old Testament may have had an influence on the composition of the work.

Van Gogh might have identified with Joseph, the 12th and most loved son of Jacob,
His brothers were so jealous that they threw him into a pit and sold him into slavery. He underwent years of imprisonment, much like Van Gogh did during the last years of his life in the Arles asylum.
Joseph wanted to receive the acceptance or respect of his older brothers but whatever he did, he didn’t manage to. Likewise, despite his best efforts, as an artist Van Gogh failed to receive the recognition of art critics of his day.

Many believe that Van Gogh’s religious endeavour may be reflected in the eleven stars found in the painting. In the Bible Joseph had a dream, which he told his brothers (progenitors of 11 of the 12 tribes): after hearing it, they hated him all the more. What did he say to them?
He said, “Look, I have had another dream’ he said, ‘I thought I saw the sun, the moon and eleven stars, bowing to me.“- Genesis 37:9

(A symbol of Israel, the sun representing Joseph’s father, Jacob, the moon his mother and the eleven stars his brothers)

11 thoughts on “How many stars in a Starry Night?🌃

  1. Luisa, your post this time is again full of deeper thoughts and possibly facts around
    our loved Vincent Van Gogh. How mystic about the eleven stars and Joseph.
    Vincent was indeed very religious and worked for a while as priest.


    Liked by 1 person

  2. Wow, I love that painting, but never noticed the eleven stars. Very interesting! Eleven is a sacred number, even outside of the Joseph story and biblical references. I am sure it was no coincidence Van Gogh used that number.

    Liked by 1 person

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