The world of art can be very hard to navigate! I’ll openly admit that even though I’m an art lover, when it comes to the bit about recognizing which time period a piece is from, I end up completely befuddled. Luckily for me, there are plenty of friendly people on the internet to set the record straight, educate us, and help make us seem like art rockstars at dinner parties and art galleries alike.

One of these people is Melbourne art historian and video creator Mary McGillivray, who created a series of very informative and witty videos explaining what art movements a particular work of art is from and who the artist who painted it is. All so we can show off our great taste and in-depth knowledge in front of our friends (and learn something new while we’re at it!). Check out some of Mary’s full videos below, as shared on her _theiconoclass TikTok account, and be sure to follow Mary’s social media accounts for her latest updates if you enjoyed her content.

Mary was kind enough to offer me a glimpse into how she went from studying art history to creating educational videos. "The story begins back in Australia's first COVID lockdown in 2020—ah, memories—where I found myself stuck at home with nothing to do. On a whim, I decided to put my degree in art history and my skills as a professional video editor to good use and make TikToks to entertain myself. I had no idea people would like my jokes about homoerotic frescoes as much as they did, but 10 months later, here we are!" the art historian told Bored Panda. You'll find our full interview with her, as well as with former gallery director and art expert Shelby Bercume, below!

More info: TikTok | YouTube | Instagram | Twitter | MaryMcGillivray.com.au | Patreon

This Australian art historian is helping educate millions of people

Image credits: _theiconoclass

In some of her witty videos, she explains how we can impress our friends by learning to recognize different art movements and artists

@_theiconoclass

Want a part two? 😏😘 #arthistorytiktok #arthistorymajor #learnontiktok

♬ Rasputin (Single Version) - Boney M.
#1

"If It Looks Like The Chaos After A Blackout Where Everyone Is Stumbling Around In The Dark Under One Solitary Emergency Light, It's A Caravaggio"

"If It Looks Like The Chaos After A Blackout Where Everyone Is Stumbling Around In The Dark Under One Solitary Emergency Light, It's A Caravaggio"

"The Taking of Christ" by Caravaggio

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Marion Connolly
Community Member
2 months ago

This painting is also in the National Gallery of Ireland, it's amazing

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#2

"If Its A Portrait Of Rembrandt, It's A Rembrandt"

"If Its A Portrait Of Rembrandt, It's A Rembrandt"

"Self Portrait" by Rembrant

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JuJu
Community Member
2 months ago

If it's mostly dark and has some warm light in it, it's a Rembrandt. He painted the light.

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After Mary graduated from the University of Melbourne, she started on the path of making comedic and engaging video content for TikTok and YouTube about visual culture history. TikTok is a way for her to reach and educate millions of young people.

I was curious to find out what Mary thought were the main challenges keeping some people from delving into art history. "A lot of people think that art history is very serious and very important and this leads to them feeling overwhelmed—or even feeling like art history isn't for them. This isn't true! I've said it before and I'll say it again, art history is just old memes. Once we start to see the humor and the humanity in art, it becomes far less intimidating," she shared how we can change our perspective and embrace the complicated subject. Art as memes? Sign me up!

#3

"If It Looks Like You Need Your Glasses Prescription Updated, Then It's Impressionism"

"If It Looks Like You Need Your Glasses Prescription Updated, Then It's Impressionism"

"The walk" by Claude Monet

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IlovemydogShilo
Community Member
2 months ago

I suck at drawing. Really. We did art and art history at school. We would have a class learning about a particular movement and then we would all have to try and draw a picture in that movement. The ONLY time I got a good grade was when we did Impressionism. I drew the tree outside our classroom. It according to my teacher was drawn in true impressionism style. All I did was take of my glasses and drew the tree as I saw it in my myopic state. Still it was the first time I got an A in an art class.

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#4

"If Everyone In The Painting Looks Unreasonably Jacked, Including The Women, It's A Michelangelo"

"If Everyone In The Painting Looks Unreasonably Jacked, Including The Women, It's A Michelangelo"

"The Creation of Adam" and "Prophets And Sibyls: Libyan Sibyl" by Michelangelo

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Nicky
Community Member
2 months ago

Michelangelo wanted to sculpt, not paint, and did the Sistine ceiling in the hopes of winning a commission to do a bunch of giant Vatican sculptures.

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Mary revealed that she's always had a knack and a passion for art history. Her tale started in her early childhood, having been raised by an art history teacher and a museum curator. "You could say it's 'in my blood!'" she quipped.

"Ever since I watched John Berger's 'Ways of Seeing' in high school, I knew I wanted to be able to reach people the way he did, and demystify the often stuffy and elite world of art history," Mary shared how her passion grew from there.

Meanwhile, if she finds that she's losing faith in her project, she simply re-watches 'The Da Vinci Code' movie. "The fiery rage it sparks within pushes me to go on. Nothing like pure hatred to fuel creativity," she said.

#5

"If It's Got Palpable Female Rage And/Or Vengeance - It's An Artemisia"

"If It's Got Palpable Female Rage And/Or Vengeance - It's An Artemisia"

"Judith Slaying Holofernes" by Artemisia Gentileschi

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Nicky
Community Member
2 months ago

She was raped by another artist and put her assailant in this painting and in "Susanna and the Elders."

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#6

"If There's At Least One Person Looking To The Camera Like They're On The Office, It's Diego Velázquez"

"If There's At Least One Person Looking To The Camera Like They're On The Office, It's Diego Velázquez"

"Las Meninas" by Diego Velázquez

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Easily Excitable Panda
Community Member
2 months ago

Who the heck are the people in the mirror? Are they supposed to represent the viewer(s)?

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Bored Panda also reached out to talk about art history with Shelby Bercume, a former gallery director from Florida. According to Shelby, art history isn't a subject that's taught in all schools, so it's often "intimidating and difficult to grasp" for those of us who don't have a background in it. However, she pointed out, that's true for pretty much every subject that we're unfamiliar with!

"I don’t necessarily think art history is an inaccessible entity, but I know that people tend to feel intimidated by things they aren’t experts in. Since art is often, if not always subjective, it feels even more intimidating than a subject with a 'right answer,' like math for example," Shelby shared with Bored Panda. "I think often that leads to a disconnect between the desire to dive into the subject of art and by relation art history, and the execution of it."

#7

"If Its Got Rich People Frollicing Outdoors Then Its Rococo"

"If Its Got Rich People Frollicing Outdoors Then Its Rococo"

"The swing" by Jean-Honoré Fragonard

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JuJu
Community Member
2 months ago

Jean-Honoré Fragonards "The Swing" (and even if you don't see it, it's full of erotic narratives)

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#8

"If She's Blonde And Has This Exact Face, It's A Botticelli"

"If She's Blonde And Has This Exact Face, It's A Botticelli"

"Figure of Flora", "Portrait of Venus" and "Portrait of Simonetta Vespucci" by Sandro Botticelli

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Lady Artemis
Community Member
2 months ago

Flora looking high, ngl.

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Former gallery director Shelby believes that the idea of educational art history TikTok videos is absolutely great. They help make difficult subjects more accessible, less lofty, and far less scary. "Art is something to be enjoyed and shouldn’t be reserved for an exclusive group," she said.

A major part of the appeal of art, according to the art expert, is that there's no wrong answer. "Art is aesthetics and feelings. If you love something, voice why you love it... if you can’t find the words, that’s ok! Talking about art is really discussing how the art affects your emotional state and what thoughts it provokes," she told Bored Panda.

"And remember, it is ok to not love everything, believe it or not, certain artworks are meant to be disturbing or disliked. Just don’t be intimidated to speak up because that’s really all we’re doing when we talk about art. We’re voicing opinions."

#9

"If It Looks Like A Tupperware Drawer, Then It's Cubism"

"If It Looks Like A Tupperware Drawer, Then It's Cubism"

"Girl with a Mandolin" by Pablo Picasso

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Nicky
Community Member
2 months ago

I wish African artists would appropriate classical European Medieval art and call it "African Modernism," to call attention to Picasso's borrowing of traditional African artistic imagery and calling it modern Western art.

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#10

"If It Looks Like A Nightmare You Once Had About Being Stranded In The Desert Then Its Surrealism"

"If It Looks Like A Nightmare You Once Had About Being Stranded In The Desert Then Its Surrealism"

"The Temptation of Saint Anthony" by Salvador Dalí 

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Raven Sheridan
Community Member
2 months ago

Those spindly legs always creeped me out!

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Meanwhile, TikToker Mary isn’t just a great art historian—she also knows that humor helps people remember her lessons better. That’s because humor activates the dopamine reward system in our brains, meaning that our long-term memory gets stimulated.

If you want to become an art history buff, making humorous associations between art movements and artists is the best way to make things easier for yourself. So when Mary makes a quip about Cubism artworks looking like your Tupperware drawer, you’re quite likely to remember. In fact, this particular example stuck with me so much, I can’t wait to share it with my friends.

Pssst, that’s also one of the reasons why you’ll remember things for your exams that much better if you rephrase things to sound funny (or even a tiny bit rude). Peculiarity and weirdness also tend to stick out more in our memories.

#11

"If It Looks Like An Amateur Theatre Production, Then Its Neo-Classical"

"If It Looks Like An Amateur Theatre Production, Then Its Neo-Classical"

"Oath of the Horatii" by Jacques-Louis David

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𝕥𝕠𝕒𝕤𝕥
Community Member
2 months ago

why were the three soldiers photoshopped out?

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#12

"If It Looks Like Angsty Male Ego, Then It's German Romanticism"

"If It Looks Like Angsty Male Ego, Then It's German Romanticism"

"Wanderer Above The Sea Of Fog" by Caspar David Friedrich

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Easily Excitable Panda
Community Member
2 months ago

I do love this painting, but the caption is spot-on.

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#13

"If It Looks Like A Scene From Madaline, It's A Jean Dufy"

"If It Looks Like A Scene From Madaline, It's A Jean Dufy"

"Paris, La Seine" by Jean Dufy

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Sue Grigg
Community Member
2 months ago

I love this. My favorite illustrated books when I was a kid, loved Madaline.

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#14

"If It's Got Ugly Babies, It's Medieval"

"If It's Got Ugly Babies, It's Medieval"

"Madonna and Child" by Bernardo Daddi

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Seabeast
Community Member
2 months ago

You have to wonder if some of these artists had ever seen a baby.

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#15

"If It Looks Like ... It's An O'keeffe"

"If It Looks Like ... It's An O'keeffe"

"Untitled" by By Georgia O’Keeffe

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Easily Excitable Panda
Community Member
2 months ago

What? I just see flowers. ;=D

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#16

"If It Looks Like A Cottagecore Pinup Girl, Then Its Art Nouveau"

"If It Looks Like A Cottagecore Pinup Girl, Then Its Art Nouveau"

"Moët & Chandon: Champagne White Star" by Alphonse Mucha

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Candace Fitzpatrick
Community Member
2 months ago

My favourite style

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#17

"If It's Got More Flesh Than A Nudist Beach - It's A Rubens"

"If It's Got More Flesh Than A Nudist Beach - It's A Rubens"

"The Feast of Venus" by Peter Paul Rubens

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Raven Sheridan
Community Member
2 months ago

The term Rubenesque came from Paul Rubens the artist. As he have a love of painting fuller figured subjects, particularly women.

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#18

"If Its Unfinished, It's Probably A Leonardo"

"If Its Unfinished, It's Probably A Leonardo"

"The Adoration of the Magi" by Leonardo da Vinci

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Nicky
Community Member
2 months ago

There is another version of the Mona Lisa in private hands. Google the public broadcasting special on this.

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#19

"If It Looks Like A Really Satisfying Game Of Tetris It's A Mondrian"

"If It Looks Like A Really Satisfying Game Of Tetris It's A Mondrian"

"Composition with Red Blue and Yellow" by Piet Mondrian

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John C
Community Member
2 months ago

I don't mean to hate, but I just don't understand how this is considered art and has any value whatsoever.

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#20

"It Looks Like A School Nativity Play Where Everyone's Made A Toga Out Of Different Colored Bedsheets It's A Giotto"

"It Looks Like A School Nativity Play Where Everyone's Made A Toga Out Of Different Colored Bedsheets It's A Giotto"

"Lamentation (The Mourning of Christ)" by Giotto di Bondone

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Sheila Singhal
Community Member
2 months ago

I believe I have been in just such a Nativity play. 😂

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#21

"If There's A Room With Some Nice Furniture, A Window, And Some Women Just Going About Here Everyday Business, It's A Vermeer"

"If There's A Room With Some Nice Furniture, A Window, And Some Women Just Going About Here Everyday Business, It's A Vermeer"

"Lady Writing a Letter with her Maid" by Johannes Vermeer

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Nicky
Community Member
2 months ago

Vermeer used a camera obscura to paint and then just did the equivalent of paint by numbers. See the documentary, "Tim's Vermeer."

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#22

"If It Looks Like The Artistic Equivalent Of A Nicotine Addiction, Its An Egon Schiele"

"If It Looks Like The Artistic Equivalent Of A Nicotine Addiction, Its An Egon Schiele"

"Self portrait" by Egon Schiele

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Nicky
Community Member
2 months ago

There is an amazing Schiele at the DeYoung museum in SF.

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#23

"If Its Got Sad Peasants It's 19th Century Realism"

"If Its Got Sad Peasants It's 19th Century Realism"

"The Gleaners" by Jean-Francois Millet

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Albino
Community Member
2 months ago

The picture that hangs in so many (elderly) people's houses here that, when I was a child, I thought it came with houses.

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#24

"If The People Look Way Too Long, Then It's Mannerism"

"If The People Look Way Too Long, Then It's Mannerism"

"Madonna and Child" by Parmigianino

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Nicky
Community Member
2 months ago

I feel sorry for the little guy in the corner.

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#25

"If It's Got A Happy Presence, It's A Dutch Genre Painting"

"If It's Got A Happy Presence, It's A Dutch Genre Painting"

"The Way You Hear it is the Way You Sing it" by Jan Steen

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M O'Connell
Community Member
2 months ago

What a ridiculous scene! Have you ever been subjected to indoor bagpipes? They're unfathomably loud.

Moosy Girl
Community Member
2 months ago

It depends on the kind of bagpipes, Flemish bagpipes or Irish uilleann pipes are nowhere near as loud as typical Scottish highland bagpipes.

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Thorfin Wolfsbane
Community Member
2 months ago

Those Dutch, always so happy...

Daphne
Community Member
2 months ago

Always laughing and drinking with friends & family, that's the spirit!

Elleke Leijten
Community Member
2 months ago

It is why we have a saying when a family, househould is always chaos. Een huishouden van Jan Steen, a houshould of Jan Steen.

Viv Hart
Community Member
1 month ago

There is a Dutch saying - "A household of Jan Steen" because of all the goings-on!

Sam T Godfrey
Community Member
2 months ago

I never knew the Dutch could laugh!

Synsepalum
Community Member
2 months ago

Looks like fun

Louise B
Community Member
2 months ago

To be fair, it really does!

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#26

"If You're Not Sure If It Is Art, Then Its Dada"

"If You're Not Sure If It Is Art, Then Its Dada"

"Fountain" by Marcel Duchamp

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Nicky
Community Member
2 months ago

A woman actually gave him this idea but Duchamp got all the artistic credit.

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#27

"If It Looks Like A Low Res Jpeg Blown Up Its Pointillism"

"If It Looks Like A Low Res Jpeg Blown Up Its Pointillism"

Detail of "La Parade de Cirque" by Seurat

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Nicky
Community Member
2 months ago

Check out "Sunday on the Pot with George" pointillism painting in Boston's "Museum of Bad Art." It's online.

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#28

"If It's Got Cute Babies, It's Baroque"

"If It's Got Cute Babies, It's Baroque"

"The Virgin and Child" by Ludovico Carracci

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PrincessTheSiameseKat
Community Member
2 months ago

I'm the first to comment and I think that is cuz no one want's to admit that this baby is actually creepy lol

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#29

"If Its Homoerotic And Painted On A Wall Or Ceiling, Then Its High Renaissance"

"If Its Homoerotic And Painted On A Wall Or Ceiling, Then Its High Renaissance"

Sistine Chapel ceiling painted by Michelangelo

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GlassHalfWay
Community Member
2 months ago

How come they censor the woman's breasts, but not the man's junk?

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#30

"If It's Just Got Nice Trees, It's A Claude Lorrain"

"If It's Just Got Nice Trees, It's A Claude Lorrain"

"Pastoral Landscape" by Claude Lorrain

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Khavrinen
Community Member
2 months ago

Or a Bob Ross. ;)

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#31

"If It Looks Like A Really Stressful Game Of Tetris It's A George Braque"

"If It Looks Like A Really Stressful Game Of Tetris It's A George Braque"

"Bottle and Fishes" by Georges Braque

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Iggy
Community Member
2 months ago

Should I be worried by the fact that I can see the bottle and fishes?

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#32

"If It Looks Like A Trendy Collage Artist's Instagram Then Its Constructivism"

"If It Looks Like A Trendy Collage Artist's Instagram Then Its Constructivism"

Movie poster for the experimental avant-garde film "Man With A Movie Camera" by Vladimir and Georgii Stenberg

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Nicky
Community Member
2 months ago

"Desert of Forbidden Art" is an incredible PBS documentary of the man who rescued over 40,000 modern art masterpieces and hid them in desert museum 1700 miles away during Stalin's purges!!!

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#33

"If It Looks Like A Gorman Puffer Jacket It's A Matisse"

"If It Looks Like A Gorman Puffer Jacket It's A Matisse"

"The Sheaf" by Henri Matisse

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Nicky
Community Member
2 months ago

Matisse was having age-related health problems at this point and started doing collages because he couldn't paint the traditional way.

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#34

"If It Looks Like The First Kid At School Who Learnt How To Draw In 3D And Would Not Shut Up About It, It's A Massaccio"

"If It Looks Like The First Kid At School Who Learnt How To Draw In 3D And Would Not Shut Up About It, It's A Massaccio"

"Holy Trinity" by Masaccio

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Kristin Ingersoll
Community Member
2 months ago

The woman (Mary?) on the left looks like a really bored tour guide. "And here we have Jesus. He died. Moving on! We're walking,we're wlking..."

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#35

"If She's Blonde And Got Thicc Thighs, It's A Titian"

"If She's Blonde And Got Thicc Thighs, It's A Titian"

"Sacred and Profane Love" by Titian

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Lilith the Demon Panda
Community Member
2 months ago (edited)

do you really censor boobs in a renaissance painting???

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#36

"If It's Got Nice Trees But Boring Figures, It's A Poussin"

"If It's Got Nice Trees But Boring Figures, It's A Poussin"

"Baptism of Christ" by Nicolas Poussin

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Requiem
Community Member
2 months ago

they arent boring; theyre all jacked an one guys about to be exposed

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