art history humor

When You Have "No Monet"

My mother-in-law forwarded me the following email this afternoon. I figured that some of my readers will appreciate its corny humor:

“A thief in Paris decided to steal some paintings from the Louvre.
After careful planning, he got past security, stole the paintings, and made it safely to his van.

However, he was captured only two blocks away when his van ran out of gas.

When asked how he could mastermind such a crime and then make such an obvious error, he replied, ‘Monsieur, that is the reason I stole the paintings:
I had no Monet
To buy Degas
To make the Van Gogh.’

See if you have De Gaulle to send this to someone else.
I sent it to you because I figured I had nothing Toulouse.”

*Could we make this joke longer? Can you add any more puns using artists’ names (or major French historical figures) from the 19th century?


Cherub = The Blissful Graduate Student

Dürer, Melencolia I, 1514
I’m getting ready for an activity in tomorrow’s class: we’re going to explore the historiography of arguments surrounding Durer’s enigmatic Melencolia I engraving (shown above). Perhaps one day I’ll outline some of the arguments on Alberti’s Window. For now, though, I wanted to post a very amusing, tongue-in-cheek interpretation of the winged child (in the center of the composition) and the large seated figure:
“The staring winged figure, compass listlessly in hand, has come upon a problem that exceeds her angelic strength, perhaps in string theory, and she is peevish; behind her a small graduate student, unaware of the deep difficulties that has stumped his Doktormutter, scribbles away blissfully at his dissertation.”1
Ha ha!

1 John L. Heilbron, “A Short History of Light in the Western World,” from Visions of Discovery: New Light on Physics, Cosmology and Consciousness, edited by Raymond Y. Chiao et al., (Cambridge University Press, 2010), 8-9. Citation available online here.

The Ecstasy of St. Robert Plant

While commuting to work this morning, I listened to Led Zeppelin’s “Mothership” album in anticipation for my lecture on Baroque art. But there’s no similarity between those two things, you say? I beg to differ:

Bernini, detail of The Ecstasy of St. Theresa (1647-52)
Of course, the “ecstasy” that may have influenced Robert Plant would have been much different from the ecstasy of St. Theresa…

Voldemort’s Cousin?

I don’t have any profound thoughts tonight folks – just something I found a little humorous. The other day I had a good chuckle when I realized that the Human Figure from Ain Ghazal (6500 BCE, shown above) looks a lot like Voldemort. Do you think Ralph Fiennes’ makeup designer was inspired by art from the ancient Near East?


Picasso on a Bicycle

I don’t know how I’ve functioned as an art historian without seeing this Monty Python clip about Picasso on a bicycle:

I found this clip after coming across another art history blog, Art History Ramblings. The author Catherine lists as many artists as she was able to hear in the clip, and I couldn’t decipher the others ones shouted by John Cleese.

So now I propose a game, readers. Do you know of any the artists mentioned in this clip which actually depict a bicycle in their art? (And I don’t think that I heard Duchamp listed in the clip, so you can’t choose his Bicycle Wheel (original of 1913). That’s too easy, anyway.)  I’m not too savvy on bicycle art, but I do have one contribution:

Georges Braque, My Bicycle (Mon Velo), 1941-60
This painting is in a private collection, so I don’ t know much about it. But it is briefly mentioned in this MOMA biography on Braque
Happy bicycle hunting! And happy weekend!

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This blog focuses on making Western art history accessible and interesting to all types of audiences: art historians, students, and anyone else who is curious about art. Alberti’s Window is maintained by Monica Bowen, an art historian and professor.