Metropolitan Museum of Art Bequest of Maitland P. Griggs, 1943 (43.99.1)

The journey of the Magi. The star guiding the haloed kings to Bethlehem in this 15th-century painting by the Sienese artist Sassetta hovers strangely, in the foreground. Even a flock of geese, spanning the blue sky, flies higher than the luminous star. According to Matthew 2:9, the star “went before them [the magi] till it came to rest over the place where the child was.” Modern astronomy cannot corroborate this story—but an understanding of ancient interpretations of stars can.