Scientists Determine Exact Minute Monet Made Painting

That would be 4:53pm on Feb. 5, 1883
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 23, 2014 6:56 PM CST
Scientists Determine Exact Minute Monet Made Painting
Claude Monet's 'Etretat: Sunset.'   (Wikimedia Commons)

That Claude Monet painted his classic Étretat: Sunset in 1883 is old news. That he painted it at precisely 4:53pm on Feb. 5 of that year is what's new—the result of a nifty bit of sleuthing by researchers at Texas State, reports the Telegraph. The key to their discovery is the setting sun he captured off the coast of Normandy, France, they explain to the school's news service. The team traveled to the same beach, marched up and down armed with reproductions of the painting, and zeroed in on his exact vantage point with topographical measurements. (Turns out, it was a different spot than art historians had thought.)

After that, they used "planetarium software" to compare the modern sky to that of the one that Monet gazed upon, and narrowed down the possible dates that the sun would have been where Monet painted it to five days in February. Based on tidal charts, Monet's own letters detailing his activities, and weather data, they concluded that Feb. 5 was the only possible day. "We were able to determine the month, day, hour, and precise minute—accurate to plus or minus one minute—when Monet was inspired by that beautiful scene," says a Texas state astronomer and physicist on the team. (Click for another recent discovery, this one about the Titanic.)

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