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Quiz: Cindy Sherman vs The Old Masters
min Read24 March 2022
Time for a little quiz for all those who consider themselves experts in the Old Masters! We will show you photographs made by Cindy Sherman, a contemporary American photographer, which reference famous portraits from art history. See how many of the inspirations in Cindy Sherman’s Old Masters photos you can guess.
1. Untitled #224, 1990
Cindy Sherman’s photographs focus on inventing personas or tableaus that examine the construction of identity, the nature of representation (especially female!), and the artifice of photography.
2. Untitled #216, 1989
Sherman always prepares her images from scratch as she assumes the multiple roles of photographer, model, makeup artist, hairdresser, and stylist.
3. Untitled #205, 1989
Sherman works in series, with each being self-contained and internally coherent, but all of them are at the same time connected by recurring themes such as the grotesque, the mythical, or gender and class identity.
4. Untitled #228, 1990
Her History Portrait or Old Masters series of 35 photographs blend postmodern consciousness with timeless masterpieces (or the tropes that they represent) of European masters. Cindy Sherman’s Old Masters series was created during the years 1989 and 1990 while she was living in Rome, but as she recalled:
When I was doing those history pictures I was living in Rome but never went to the churches and museums there. I worked out of books, with reproductions.
Cindy Sherman, quoted in Michael Kimmelman, “AT THE MET WITH: Cindy Sherman; Portraitist In the Halls Of Her Artistic Ancestors“, New York Times, 19 May 1995.
Is this why they all bear a disquieting quality? For their open artificiality and unsettling use of props?
1. Caravaggio, Sick Young Bacchus
The first inspiration behind Sherman’s photograph was (we hope you guessed!) Sick Young Bacchus by Caravaggio. This painting is believed to be an early self-portrait of the artist. It was most likely painted around the time when Caravaggio arrived in Rome and then spent six months in a hospital. There are various hypotheses on which illness was depicted here. The painting has been analyzed by many health specialists, who suspect malaria or anemia.
Apart from this, the artwork was an excellent advertisement for the artist as it is a portrait, and also includes elements of still-life. A perfect sample of Caravaggio’s work!
2. Jean Fouquet, Virgin and Child Surrounded by Angels
The second photo comes from the right wing of the Melun Diptych, one of the strangest depictions of the Virgin Mary in art history. Sherman perfectly mirrors the strange, round, almost Cubist breast. However, she didn’t represent the unusual red and blue cherubs from the background.
3. Raphael, La Fornarina
Another masterpiece from Cindy Sherman’s Old Masters series is La Fornarina. A painting by a master of High Renaissance – Raphael. This portrait stayed in the artist’s studio until the day of his death. Maybe it was a picture of his lover? Some believe it could be Margarita Luti, a woman whom Raphael wanted to marry, but she refused.
4. Sandro Botticelli, Judith Leaving the Tent of Holofernes
The last of Sherman’s artworks (how many did you manage to guess?) is modeled on Judith Leaving the Tent of Holofernes by Botticelli. It is a popular biblical story depicted by many artists throughout centuries. Judith, a young Jewish widow, decided to save her people from their enemy – King Holofernes of Assyria. She pretended to be attracted to the man and offered herself as his lover in order to behead him while he slept, saving her people from the Assyrian reign. In this depiction of the subject, we see Judith leaving Holofernes’ tent with his severed head.
Did you recognize all the paintings that inspired Cindy Sherman’s Old Masters photographs?
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