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118 votes
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Is this artwork (used in a video game) real?

Google image search brings this up pretty easily. (Image recognition technology is amazing these days.) It is The Abduction of Orithyia by Boreas, a late 17th century tapestry. I gather it's ...
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101 votes
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Why does this London Underground poster from 1924 have a Star of David atop a Christmas tree?

The hexagram is not an exclusively Jewish symbol. For that matter, the Star of David as a symbol of Judaism (as opposed to a symbol used by Jews) is far newer than people realize, dating only to 1897 ...
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77 votes

How do we know baroque art depicted obese ladies because of a different ideal of beauty?

Art does not exist in a vacuum, but is rather only one part of the historical record. Just as people comment on our modern standard of beauty today, so does early modern writers on theirs. Fortunately,...
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45 votes
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What's the festival shown in this illustration?

It's the Wedding at Cana. The text is in Swedish, written with Gothic script (this was common up to the end of the nineteenth century in Sweden). The text is ... madd [sic!], som blir smakelig. Om ...
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  • 5,411
44 votes
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Was Rosie the Riveter sourced from a Michelangelo painting?

In principle, yes. But it is not the 1943 Westinghouse poster of a "Rosie the Riveter"-like figure captioned "We Can Do It!" by J. Howard Miller that became conflated with "Rosie the Riveter" in ...
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  • 77.2k
39 votes

What is the date and original source of this medieval picture?

This a picture called "La foire du Lendit" Pontifical de Sens, France, 14th century BnF Ms. Latin 962, fol. 264 Source: Medieval Trade and Travel: Home And can be dated with additional ...
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35 votes

What's the meaning of a knight fighting a snail in medieval book illustrations?

This is an example of decorative marginalia, which is quite common on medieval manuscripts. Sometimes the marginalia relates to the context of the subject of that page of the manuscript, but often it ...
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28 votes
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Why did Robert Walpole get painted with a crown on his right side?

The painting shows Robert Walpole in his full regalia as First Earl of Orford. The "crown" is not, in fact technically a crown, but rather a coronet, which forms part of that regalia. The ...
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  • 76.4k
28 votes
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What size are these mosaics of Justinian and Theodora?

According to The Met Museum website, the mosaic Emperor Justinian and Members of His Court measures 104 in. by 144 in. or 264.2cm by 365.8cm, which is 8ft 8in by 12ft. The same dimensions are given ...
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26 votes

Why are there no photorealistic paintings from the old days?

It's obviously not due to lack of talent. It's important to ask first whether the ancients even aspired to photorealistic paintings. Consider that the ancients were adept at a form of artistic ...
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26 votes
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What is the date and original source of this medieval picture?

The image shows shows the Fair at Lendit in France. It is taken from a 15th century manuscript held at the Bibliotheque Nationale in Paris France. MS Latin 962 folio 264. The suggested date for ...
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  • 76.4k
25 votes

How do we know baroque art depicted obese ladies because of a different ideal of beauty?

A lot of the paintings were commissioned as portraits, why would people pay for themselves to be depicted in an ugly way? Wealth nowadays is associated with a slim, tanned, and shaped body because ...
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24 votes
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What are all fantastic creatures on The Nile mosaic of Palestrina?

There’s a detailed description of the mosaic in Meyboom’s The Nile Mosaic of Palestrina, and in this answer I will be mostly quoting from this work. Organization of the mosaic It has always been ...
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24 votes
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How do we know this bust is Aristotle?

The identification was originally made by Franz Studniczka in his 1908 Das Bildnis des Aristoteles. The basis of his argument is a miniature bust, discovered by the Italian antiquary, Fulvio Orsini, ...
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21 votes
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Who is this person?

John Everett Millais, "Self Portrait" - 1880, Uffizi Gallery Florence John Everett Millais
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21 votes
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Who are these red flag worshipers from these early maps?

See Historia de gentibus septentrionalibus / auctore Olao Magno ... Magnus, Olaus, 1490-1558 (click here for full Hathi Trust catalog entry for the 1562 edition) or here for Wikipedia's description. ...
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20 votes
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What are the dates of these panoramas of Paris?

Acknowledgement: this answer owes a debt to some of the comments posted under the question and under this answer, especially Kimchilover. There is conclusive evidence that all three images are from ...
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20 votes
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What is known about the Ubaid lizard-people figurines?

There are many theories & interpretations, but relatively little evidence to support most of them. Of course, there are no written sources from the Ubaid period to support them. You are ...
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  • 76.4k
17 votes

Why are there no photorealistic paintings from the old days?

According to many Hellenistic accounts, photo-realistic painting was well developed and popular at that time. The legend says that an artist made a picture of a boy with some fruits, and it was so ...
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  • 37.5k
16 votes
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What is the origin of this pre-industrial naval depiction

Based on your reading of the signature I did some googling and can offer the hypothesis (just a guess, really) that the artist might be Rudolf Claudus. He was a naval painter of note who was ...
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16 votes
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Did any Moors accompany Hernando de Soto in his exploration of Mississippi?

I understand that there are four surviving accounts of de Soto's expedition. Three of those accounts were written by survivors: Rodrigo Rangel or Ranjel, who was de Soto’s personal secretary; Luys ...
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15 votes
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What is the meaning of the hand gesture performed by King James II in the portrait by Peter Lely?

The hand gesture showing the middle fingers together has been variously described as a ‘W’ or ‘pseudo-zygodactylous gesture’ or the ‘El Greco gesture’. It seems to have originated in late renaissance ...
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15 votes
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What is the title of the Magritte painting that shows a horse-headed woman looking out of a stone window?

Here is a virtual tour of a temporary exhibit Magritte La Ligne de vie that was held at MASI Lugano in Switzerland in late 2018 to early 2019. (I found this by way of an Italian language blog post ...
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14 votes

Who is the man in the red jacket in this painting?

The reason there are errors you can't reconcile is that this is not painted from life. This is a lady of 1850. After this the hoop skirts only get bigger. This is a gentleman of 1855, who wears ...
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14 votes
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What is Darius III wearing on his head?

From this website http://www.iranicaonline.org/articles/clothing-ii , in a section concerning historical clothing it goes into length on several styles of headgear. This style falls under the ...
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14 votes
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Did the medieval Europe have an active "lowbrow" culture?

Lowbrow culture have always existed in human society, they're just not necessarily that well preserved in the historical record, or in modern popular consciousness. Jokes about sex, farts, penises, ...
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  • 96.2k
13 votes

Why is Sulla's nose in the bust in Munich Glyptothek broken?

On very many statues from antiquity exserted parts are broken, in most cases hands, but noses are also very often. The purely mechanical reasons are evident. There are no reasons to conclude that this ...
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  • 37.5k
13 votes

What is the meaning of a glove on the tail of monsters in illuminated manuscripts?

SHORT ANSWER As with most such images in medieval manuscripts, it's hard to tell. The artist may not have intended any particular meaning, but I've listed some possibilities at the end of the long ...
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13 votes

How do we know baroque art depicted obese ladies because of a different ideal of beauty?

Q How do we know baroque art depicted obese ladies because of a different ideal of beauty? Do we really? We don't. The anthropological constant to be observed is: "women are considered 'attractive' ...
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  • 77.2k
13 votes
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What is this tool/thing in an Aztec painting?

It's cuitlatl, a symbol of excrement, sin, perhaps fire. We see plate 57 from the Codex Borgia. It depicts Tlazolteotl goddess of earth and filth, here as a moon goddess and goddess of pulque, ...
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