Monday, January 15, 2018

Google App Finds Celebrities' Art History Avatars

Louie Anderson (as Christine Baskets) and Elif Pettersen's Portrait of Eivind Hagale (1870)
The Internet's new toy is the Google Arts & Culture app, specifically a feature that searches the world's museums for the user's doppelganger. Download the app, snap a selfie, and Google does the rest. Kumail Nanjiani posted this one on Twitter:


It doesn't have to be a selfie. The app also works with celebrity photos taken off a laptop or desktop screen. It usually isn't fazed by glasses, facial hair, headgear, cropping, gender fluidity, or mugging for the camera.
Donald Trump and Joseph Ducreux's 1783 Self Portrait, Yawning (at the Getty Museum)
Oprah Winfrey and Winslow Homer's Under a Palm Tree (1886)
Results vary. Google matched a photo of Oprah Winfrey to various portraits of black women, none looking especially like Oprah. It seems all black women look alike, in beta-release. My guess is that, with fewer women of color in the Google Arts & Culture dataset, the chance of finding a close match is less. (Should anyone want to do a piece on the many Google faces of Oprah, be my guest.)
Other Google avatars of Oprah: Ernest Crichlow's Woman in a Blue Coat (1948) and Evelyn Joyce McCrea's Isidanga (c. 1935-36)
More matches, white-male department:
Harvey Weinstein and Max Liebermann's Portrait of Alfred von Berger (1905)
Bernie Sanders and Barend Lenardus Hendriks' Portrait of Rudolph Anne Jan Wilt Baron Sloet van de Beele (1861-1886)
Steve Bannon and the woman with glasses in Murillo's Four Figures on a Step (c. 1655-60)

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