Monday, May 28, 2012

One live godwit is worth a thousand paintings

Shooting Parrots posted today about a painting with an unlikely title, 103 people that changed the world discussing The Divine Comedy with Dante. It is an oil-on-canvas work done in 2006 by the Chinese artists Dai Dudu, Li Tiezi, and Zhang An. If you click on the picture in his post you will get an enlarged version with helpful scannable captions conveniently added.

I thought I would add my two cents’ worth in my own post.

I went over the painting with my version of a fine-tooth comb, and here, in no particular order, are who and what I found:

1. Bill Gates
2. Plato
3. Cui Jian – Father of Chinese Rock N Roll
4. Vladimir Lenin
5. Christopher Columbus and the Santa Maria
6. Bruce Lee
7. Golden Eagle
8. Stonehenge
9. Great Pyramids of Egypt
10. The Tianenmen or “Gate of Heavenly Peace”
11. Great Wall of China
12. Original Artist – Li Tiezi
13. Original Artist – Dai Dudu
14. Dante
15. Original Artist – Zhang An
16. Osama bin Laden
17. Liu Xiang
18. Genghis Khan
19. Napoleon
20. Pelé
21. Pavel Korchagin
22. Bill Clinton
23. Peter the Great
24. Margaret Thatcher
25. Charles de Gaulle
26. Ramesses II
27. Guan Yu
28. Alfred Nobel (playing a trumpet)
29. Sun Yat-sen
30. Alexander Pushkin
31. Chiang Kai-shek
32. Franklin D. Roosevelt
33. Deng Xiaopeng
34. Maxim Gorky
35. Saddam Hussein
36. Benito Mussolini
37. Adolf Hitler
38. Ludwig van Beethoven
39. Atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki
40. Audrey Hepburn
41. Jack Kevorkian
42. Sigmund Freud
43. Norman Bethune
44. LOL Cat
45. Lei Feng
46. Henry Ford
47. Charile [sic] Chaplin
48. Mike Tyson
49. Ford Model T
50. Phonograph
51. Vladimir Putin
52. Lewis Carroll
53. Shirley Temple
54. Leo Tolstoy (playing a concertina)
55. Albert Einstein
56. Li Bai
57. Elizabeth II
58. Lu Xun
59. Ernest Hemingway
60. Winston Churchill
61. Henri Matisse
62. Elvis Presley
63. J. Robert Oppenheimer
64. Joseph Stalin
65. Leonardo da Vinci
66. Gutenberg Bible
67. Typewriter
68. Karl Marx
69. Friedrich Nietzsche
70. Alberto Snatos [sic]-Dumont
71. Shakespeare
72. Mozart
73. Steven Spielberg
74. Pablo Picasso
75. Abraham Lincoln
76. Mao Zedong
77. Marie Curie
78. Zhou Enlai
79. Che Guevara
80. Fidel Castro
81. Marlon Brando as Don Corleone – The Godfather
82. Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
83. Lao tzu
84. Marilyn Monroe
85. Yasser Arafat
86. Julius Caesar
87. General Claire Lee Chennault
88. lol cat
89. Celerbrities [sic] that look like camels
90. Houri – the concept of 72 virgins in Islam refers to an aspect of paradise
91. Charles Darwin or Noah (that’s what the caption says, so take your pick)
92. Ol’ Roy (Sam Walton’s dog)
93. Confucius
94. Corneliu Baba
95. Mohandas Gandhi
96. Michelangelo
97. Dolly the Cloned Sheep
98. Vincent van Gogh
99. Marcel Duchamp
100. Henri de Toulouse-Latrec
101. Dwight D. Eisenhower
102. Michael Jordan
103. Salvador Dali
104. Ariel Sharon
105. Empress Dowager Cixi
106. Luciano Pavarotti
107. Goerge W. Bush (looking through a telescope)
108. Liu Xiang
109. Prince Charles
110. Kofi Annan
111. Qi Baishi
112. Hideki Tojo
113. Qin She Huang
114. Aristotle
115. Liu Bei
116. Mikhail Gorbachev
117. Mother Teresa
118. Song Qingling (they obviously mean Soong Ching-ling, known as Madame Sun Yat-sen, and not Song Qingling the field hockey player who won a silver medal at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing)
119. Rabindranath Tagore
120. Run Run Shaw
121. Jean-Jacques Rousseau
122. The flag of the kingdom of Castile and Leon, 1230 - 1516
123. Easter Island statues (moai) created by the Rapanui
124. Easter Island statues (moai) created by the Rapanui
125. Photo by Cartier-Bresson Srinagar, Kashmir, 1948

If you take out the obvious jokes (LOL cat #44, lol cat #88, and celerbrities [sic] that look like camels #89), the list shrinks to 122. If you take out one of the captions that appeared twice (Easter Island statues (moai) created by the Rapanui), the list shrinks to 121. Finally, if you take out all of the captioned items that aren’t “people” so they couldn’t possibly discuss The Divine Comedy with Dante (#7, #8, #9, #10, #11, #39, #49, #50, #66, #67, #90, #92, #97, #122, and #125 – fifteen “things” in all, and many of them -- like the phonograph and the Gutenberg Bible and the Model T Ford -- did change the world), the list shrinks to 106. I’m assuming that the three artists who painted the picture and also included themselves in it (#12, #13, and #15) near Dante (#14) at the upper right are not counting themselves, so the number is reduced -– voila! -- to 103. That number includes Dante.

Christopher Columbus counts but the Santa Maria, which was included on his caption (#5), doesn’t. The little airplane on the table in front of Friedrich Nietzshe (who is sitting between Karl Marx and Abraham Lincoln) counts because its caption (#70) says “Alberto Snatos [sic]-Dumont” who, when spelled the right way, refers to the early aviation pioneer from Brazil. I suppose he’s there instead of the Wright brothers.

All the housekeeping done, we can have a chat now.

The artists, being Chinese, definitely saw the world from a Chinese perspective. We could not expect otherwise. It is heavy with Chinese heroes and Communist stalwarts. I did not recognize some of the names in the painting at all, but I had a grand time reading about them in Wikipedia.

I do question the inclusion of Pelé and Michael Jordan.

Elvis Presley? Maybe. But what about the Beatles?

Marilyn Monroe? Okay, I’ll give you that one.

Marlon Brando? Charlie Chaplin? Bruce Lee? Mike Tyson? Shirley Temple? Really?

The painting is very heavy with folks from the 19th and 20th centuries. What about Pythagoras? Joan of Arc? Galileo? Sir Isaac Newton? Ferdinand Magellan? Alexander the Great? Hannibal? I mean the one who crossed the Alps with elephants, not the one who liked Jodie Foster so much.

And except for Confucius, few religious figures appear in the painting. Mother Teresa is there. Moses? Siddhārtha Gautama Buddha? Jesus Christ? The prophet Muhammad? Nowhere in sight, although they certainly can be said to have changed the world.

Shooting Parrots, you gave me a very busy morning. Thanks a bunch.

Readers, do not leave without checking this out.

Oh, and if you want to read more about any of the people, be my guest. I can’t do all the work.

Click here to see a re-enactment of the painting by a flock of bar-tailed godwits in Auckland, New Zealand. It is not clear whether the role of Dante was played by the pied stilt or the spur-winged plover.


Shooting Parrots said...

That must be a fine fine-tooth comb you have there Mr Plague! You certainly spotted more detail than I did.

I take your point about the inclusions and exclusions, but I suppose that is the problem with lists of the great and the good - it's often a subjective process. We had similar arguments here when the BBC came up with its choice of New Elizabethans.

Shooting Parrots said...

And I have no idea who Snooki is!

rhymeswithplague said...

But Ian, this wasn't a painting of "the great and the good" -- it was "famous people who changed the world" (an entirely different category)!

Snooki is the star of a reality television show called Jersey Shore in the U.S., and many people find her and her friends repulsive (I am part of this group). Yet many other people watch her week after week.

Yorkshire Pudding said...

Wonder why the artists didn't include Osama bin Laden?

rhymeswithplague said...

I say, Pudding, old chap, the artists did include Osama bin Laden. He's #16 on my list and in the painting he is standing next to the last of the 72 virgins and glancing to his left at George W. Bush, who, as I mentioned earlier, is looking through a telescope.

That Indian Ocean salt air must be getting to you.

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Yorkshire Pudding said...

...Oh yeah - sorry. Nice to see the Easter Island moai are there.

Katherine said...

In the bird version, Dante is represented by the New Zealand Dotterel. It's the greyish, smaller bird with the short bill, about the centre top. A rare and thoughtful bird.