Ritratto di Isa in abito nero (1935) by Giorgio de ChiricoLa Galleria Nazionale
The idea of the Beauty Contest was born in 2000 during a visit to the MET in New York by the artist Paco Cao. On that occasion the artist claims to have experienced a feeling of contemporaneity at the sight of the young boy portrayed in 1530 by Bronzino.
Il giardiniere (1889) by Vincent van GoghLa Galleria Nazionale
That event gave birth to the idea to bring the character of the painting to life in the present through two projects: a lookalike contest in which portraits took shape thanks to their real life counterparts and a beauty contest for portraits in museums.
Meditazione (1880) by Cesare DettiLa Galleria Nazionale
The subjects chosen when searching for the lookalikes were: a portrait of an unknown author of the Roman school, exhibited in a Sardinian monastery, the Juan de Pareja portrayed by Velázquez and a portrait of a woman by Cornelis de Vos. This work reveals the key concept of the author's projects in a more pronounced way: the evolution over a long period of time and the overcoming of geographical and temporal boundaries.
Autoritratto (1942-1943) by Renato GuttusoLa Galleria Nazionale
When observing a work of art, we often find ourselves confronted with ideals of beauty that differ from the current ones in terms of beauty standards and stereotypes. We often wonder if Aphrodite's round and reassuring physicality would have the same effect in our contemporary society accustomed to observing sculptural bodies beyond reach.
Ritratto di Mademoiselle Lanthèlme (1907) by Giovanni BoldiniLa Galleria Nazionale
However, thanks to Paco Cao and his lookalikes, it is possible to overcome the limits of contextualising beauty to make them modern and understand that these models are anything but outdated. Starting from these assumptions, one could then pose a question: could a portrait from another era be your match on Tinder?
Autoritratto (1936) by Albert FrisciaLa Galleria Nazionale
The question might seem unrealistic and a bit absurd to most, and it probably is, but simply take a look around the web and search for «works of art lookalikes» to discover that there are countless cases of similarities between contemporary people and subjects of other eras (among celebrities the case of the uncanny similarity between the portrait of Paul Mounet by Louis Maurice Boutet de Monvel and the actor Keanu Reeves gathered quite some fame).
Ritratto di Costanza Monti Perticari (1819) by Filippo AgricolaLa Galleria Nazionale
And many still will remember the success of the Google Arts and Culture app which made it possible to find their own lookalike in the world of art thanks to a selfie and a Machine Learning algorithm. Lastly, the gesture of swiping to the right or to the left to scroll through the images on the page of the Beauty Contest organised at the National Gallery, and which recalls the scrolling of Tinder photos, contributes to making us ask this question. The only difference is that our match will never coincide with our appreciation (for obvious reasons).
Ritratto di Emilio Villari (1880/1885) by Domenico MorelliLa Galleria Nazionale
Starting from these considerations, perhaps this question will begin to appear less absurd and especially eras may not seem so distant, beauty models no longer something static and distant and the subjects no longer as «immortal». In summary: a true overcoming of physical and temporal boundaries.
Sogni (1896) by Vittorio CorcosLa Galleria Nazionale
This way the next time we browse the image gallery on social media or dating apps we will be able to observe more carefully trying to understand if our next match will cross the space/time limits and take us to another era, a bit like Woody Allen does in Midnight in Paris.
Written by Marina Pietrocola.