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The Loop

Google Arts & Culture: Find a Painting That Sort of Might Resemble You in the Dark

January 16, 2018

From the internet — the magnificent assemblage of millennia of collected human knowledge that’s best known for bringing you Microsoft’s Age-Guessing Robot, four million iterations of the phrase “Which ‘Friends’ Character Are You?” and pornography involving animated sitcom characters — comes this latest entry into the field of Viral Self-Promotional Silliness, one that affords you a reason to post a selfie while doubling as guerrilla marketing! Ugh, if I’d have invested in the selfie/marketing idea and bitcoin 10 years ago, I’d be writing this from the deck of a yacht parked near Keira Knightley’s infinity pool.

The app is called Google Arts & Culture, and the idea is this: First, you upload a picture of yourself — because 143% of all popular things on the internet involve uploading a picture of yourself, because we are all exceedingly needy. Then, Google’s fancy Voltron algorithm scans its archives, finds an image from a painting that sort of vaguely resembles you if you turned the lights off, put on 1956-era X-ray glasses and stood three houses away and tells you “HEY LOOK, WE HAVE LOCATED YOU IN ‘A SUNDAY AFTERNOON ON THE ISLAND OF LA GRANDE JATTE!’ It was very difficult because your face was all dotty, but we’re pretty sure this is your Parisian doppelganger in 1884.”

The idea, frankly, is kind of great. And it lets you enjoy the brief feeling of being an artistic muse while you hustle off to Google to figure out what “A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte” is. (It’s the one that Ferris Bueller and his friends are looking at. Also I’m pretty sure it’s a magic-eye poster that shows you a picture of the Millennium Falcon when you make your eyes go all squinty.)

Everybody wins! You get a reason to post a picture of yourself, which you need unless you’re a runner or are engaged in a 2018 workout resolution, in which case you’ve been posting multiple selfies for 16 solid days this year alone. Google gets a grande-load of viral traffic. And everybody gets to feel like they’re familiar with arts and culture, which frankly has no measurable downside.

Anyway, in the interest of what qualifies as journalism these days, here are the results of my own venture into Google Arts and Culture. Before we begin, I must confess that I already have several famous doppelgangers. I spent grades 7-11 being reminded how much I resembled Paul Pfeiffer from “The Wonder Years” (the hopeless dork version, not the secret-Marilyn Manson version). I look very much like my family’s only famous Vrabel, pending NFL coach Mike, except with fewer Super Bowl rings and approximately 150 lbs. less muscle mass. I have also been linked with David Schwimmer, David Strathairn and several other people who are significantly older than me. So generally speaking, when there’s a Let’s Figure Out Who You Look Like trope, I like to run screaming in the opposite direction. Which I should have done here, because my results did not get anywhere north of a sort-of-half-match, and included an awful lot of incorrect facial hair:

Portrait of Maria Fortuny (52% match)


This painting by Federico de Madrazo depicts a guy with Gallagher’s hair, twisty mustache and a nefarious-pirate-swordsman goatee. I only have one of those in real life.

Jonkheer Theodorus Frederik van Capellen (49% match)


From his portrait, Jonkheer appears to be 68 years old. Also he was clearly named after the sound a camel makes.

Hubert Work, M.D. (1860-1942) (47% match)


Of my non-matching matches, this one is probably the matchiest. At least we both have gray hair and exceedingly long horse faces. Also, I am told that “Hubert Work M.D.” was the most popular medical drama on 1860s television.

“Man in Ottoman dress” (45% match)


Initially I read this as “Man in an Ottoman dress,” which is something I like to wear only for the special parties. But the man pictured here has not only a luxurious mustache but an enormous purple turban, which I am not wearing in my picture. He does, however, have an accurately enlarged nose. If I didn’t know better, I’d say he looks a lot like Paul Pfeiffer.