An extraordinary oil painting depicting 103 historical figures in striking detail has become the latest internet sensation. The 6m by 2.6m painting also includes world landmarks like the Great Wall of China, the Egyptian pyramids, and Stonehenge.
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On the canvas, Josef Stalin and Leonardo da Vinci are deep in conversation. Vladimir Putin rests his legs next to a sprawled-out Mike Tyson, while Margaret Thatcher – clutching her handbag – looks on with disdain. An element of mystery also surrounds the origins of the painting, which appears to have been inspired by Raphael's Renaissance fresco, "The School of Athens".
But many of the figures in the painting are Chinese. Chairman Mao Zedong appears smoking by a round table in the center, with Chinese Premier Zhou Enlai standing behind him. Mongolian conqueror Genghis Khan is riding a horse opposite Napoleon. Ancient Chinese poet Li Bai is sprawled on a chair, seemingly drunk, with a delicate wine cup and a typewriter in front of him.
While the figures in Raphael's painting were all ancient philosophers, there appears to be little connecting the characters in this work, which includes historical giants like Napoleon alongside Bill Gates, the bespectacled face of modern success. But eagle-eyed observers have spotted clues as to the painting's provenance in some of the people depicted, and some people guess the painter may be Chinese.
A clue comes from three undistinguished men in contemporary dress surveying the scene from behind a wall at the top right of the picture. Internet detectives have identified these three as the little-known Chinese artists Dai Dudu, Li Tiezi, and Zhang An.
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