7 Classical Masterpieces Surreally Infused With Pop Culture

Art history just took a turn for the bizarre. Artist Hillary White excels at turning classic art on its head.

1. “Vader and Unicorn”

Based on: “A Virgin with a Unicorn”

Created by Baroque painter Domenico Zampieri, “A Virgin with a Unicorn” is a fresco that still resides in the Farnese Palace in Italy. Some art historians attribute the work to Annibale Carracci, Domenico’s teacher, claiming the latter plagiarized his teacher’s work.

2. “Whistler’s Turtle”

Based on: “Whistler’s Mother”

Officially titled “Arrangement in Grey and Black No.1,” “Whistler’s Mother” was completed in 1871 by American painter James McNeill Whistler. Victorians had specific sensibilities about what constituted a proper portrait. Whistler’s muted color palette and seated subject were not up to snuff, hence the clunky moniker in order to get it shown to the public.

3. “Alien the Terrible”

Based on: “Ivan the Terrible and His Son Ivan”

Drawn by Russian painter Ilya Repin in 1885, “Ivan the Terrible and His Son Ivan” depicts the story of the 16th century Russian Emperor Ivan moments after mortally wounding his son in a fit of rage.

You can read more about the painting’s significance here.

4. “The Night Invader”

Based on: “The Nightmare”

The best known work of Anglo-Swiss artist Henry Fuseli, “The Nightmare” has been widely open to interpretation for centuries. The horse head and incubus on the victim’s chest reflect 18th century folklore about the nature of nightmares but may have more specific meaning to the artist. At the time of its creation, the piece was considered shocking and overtly sexual.

5. “The Execution of Lady Smurfette”

Based on: “The Execution of Lady Jane Grey”

Housed in the National Gallery of London, “The Execution of Lady Jane Grey” was completed in 1833 by Paul Delaroche, 300 years after the event in question. Though some of the details included are of questionable historical accuracy, the narrative of the painting is intricate and compelling.

6. “Optimus Prime with Sunflower”

Based on: “Self-Portrait with a Sunflower”

Flemish artist Sir Anthony van Dyck, known as the court painter of English monarch Charles I, ushered in an era of relaxed elegance in portrait painting that would dominate for the next century. His self-portrait, completed sometime after 1633, uses imagery to portray meaning, with the sunflower interpreted to represent the king.

7. “Beaker Slaying Honeydew”

Based on: “Judith Slaying Holofernes”

This was drawn by one of the few women painters of the Baroque era, Artemisia Gentileschi, who brought her own personal pain to the Bibical scene. Using herself as the model for Judith, Gentileschi is beheading Agostino Tassi, her mentor, in an artistic catharsis after being the victim of sexual assault at his hands.

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