Tuesday, March 17, 2009

103 Famous Faces in One Painting

An extraordinary oil painting depicting 103 historical figures in striking detail has become the latest internet sensation.

The 6m by 2.6m painting also includes world landmarks like the Great Wall of China, the Egyptian pyramids, and Stonehenge.

On the canvas, Josef Stalin and Leonardo da Vinci are deep in conversation. Vladimir Putin rests his legs next to a sprawled-out Mike Tyson, while Margaret Thatcher – clutching her handbag – looks on with disdain.

Many of the figures in the painting are Chinese. Chairman Mao Zedong appears smoking by a round table in the center, with Chinese Premier Zhou Enlai standing behind him. Mongolian conqueror Genghis Khan is riding a horse opposite Napoleon. Ancient Chinese poet Li Bai is sprawled on a chair, seemingly drunk, with a delicate wine cup and a typewriter in front of him. Other Chinese faces that are instantly recognizable are former Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping, the ancient philosopher Confucius, the initiator of China's democratic revolution, Dr. Sun Yat-sen, Kuomintang leader Chiang Kai-shek, and the first Chinese emperor, Qin Shihuang. Modern Chinese figures include renowned writer Lu Xun, contemporary media mogul Run Run Shaw, artist Qi Baishi, Kung Fu star Bruce Lee, and hurdler Liu Xiang.

Message boards have erupted with contests to identify every person featured, according to The Daily Telegraph. An element of mystery also surrounds the origins of the painting, which appears to have been inspired by Raphael's Renaissance fresco, "The School of Athens". While the figures in Raphael's painting were all ancient philosophers, there appears to be little connecting the characters in this work, which includes historical giants like Napoleon alongside Bill Gates, the bespectacled face of modern success.

But eagle-eyed observers have spotted clues as to the painting's provenance in some of the people depicted, and some people guess the painter may be Chinese.A clue comes from three undistinguished men in contemporary dress surveying the scene from behind a wall at the top right of the picture. Internet detectives have identified these three as the little-known Chinese artists Dai Dudu, Li Tiezi, and Zhang An. They created this oil painting - "Discussing the Divine Comedy with Dante" - in 2006, though it has only become a hit ever since the past few weeks.

Alastair Sooke, the art writer for The Daily Telegraph, says the work reflects a trend of contemporary Chinese artists adopting Western styles and subjects."But the Dante reference makes us wonder whether we are looking at some nether-circle deep inside the Inferno: this is a vision of Celebrity Hell," he added.
This article is reproduced from China daily

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