Episodes
The Madonna and Child meme described in the episode.
Say My Meme, Apr 12, 2021, Classic Art Memes

Classic Art Memes

This week on Say My Meme, we're describing Classic Art memes! Show notes for this episode:

  • Insta is live and full of memes! @saymymemepod
  • Here are the works featured on the episode:
  • Walter McEwan, Woman of the Empire, 1902.
  • Pietro Perugino, Madonna and Child, 1500.
  • Fernand Cormon, Femme au Narguile, 1878.
  • Nikolaus Schulmeister, Tract of the Passion Manuscript, 14th century.
  • Raphael, Portrait of Maddalena Doni, 1506.
  • Michiel Sweerts, Self Portrait, 1660.
  • You can buy the medieval torture COVID mask on Redbubble.
  • Brian Regan, You Too and Stuff joke.

Episode Transcript

Will Butler:

You're listening to Say My Meme, the podcast that describes the Internet's best memes for those of us who can't see them. I'm Will from Be My Eyes. And I'm joined today as I am every Monday by my cohost, Caroline from Scribely. Hello, Caroline. How are you doing on this lovely Monday morning?

Caroline Desrosiers:

Hello, what a lovely Monday morning this is.

Will Butler:

It really makes Mondays brighter having this show with you. I've got to tell ya.

Caroline Desrosiers:

Oh totally, yeah. And we're giving people some memes they can pass around for the week. So we're doing good work.

Will Butler:

Yep, yep, absolutely. Last week was phenomenal. I'm still moving on loop from our episode about GIFs. GIFs are a weird animal. But I think we did them justice and I'm hoping that folks will think a little bit differently about GIFs, you can make GIFs successful, just like memes.

Caroline Desrosiers:

For sure. And I think maybe we'll just sprinkle them in here and there as we find them, because now, as we talked about last week, a GIF is definitely a meme. We could throw them into these episodes I think.

Will Butler:

Also I should say we got some reader mail about the whole GIF, Jif debate, which frankly, I'm surprised people are even talking about that anymore. I'm not sure if anyone got the memo, but it's GIF.

Caroline Desrosiers:

It's definitely GIF.

Will Butler:

So if anyone wants to claim that it's pronounced like the peanut butter, you're more than welcome to come on the podcast and let us know and read us the news so to speak.

Caroline Desrosiers:

Yeah.

Will Butler:

But it's definitely GIF. Also, Caroline we've got stuff going on on social media. Do you want to tell folks about where they can find one of our new homes on the Interweb?

Caroline Desrosiers:

Yeah. We have a fresh Instagram as of this week, Say My Meme Pod, you can find us there. And every meme that we've described up until this point, so you've got a nice collection, a curated collection.

Will Butler:

I have to say, Caroline, when you were like, "Can we put an Instagram together for the blind community?" I was kind of like sort of skeptical. Instagram is such a visual medium. And I know that so many of my blind friends use it, but it's not the ideal platform, but this page you put together is beautiful.

Caroline Desrosiers:

Yeah. I think that that's what we're doing here after all with Say My Meme is we're making visuals accessible. So why not use a visual platform like Instagram, and for the blind folks that are on Instagram, just having something that pops up on their feed that's funny and that's accessible to them.

Will Butler:

Seriously, if you run through it with a screen reader on, with voiceover or TalkBack on, the alt tags are clean and clear, the grammar you have alt ... Does Scribely specialize in like alt tag grammar? What's up with that?

Caroline Desrosiers:

Yeah. You know, we dabble in that as well. Strategically placed commas and periods will do a world of difference when you play alt text out loud using Voiceover, it makes it easier to understand, kind of the way, mimicking the way we speak.

Will Butler:

So cool. So cool. Well, thank you for being sort of the keeper of our Instagram, Caroline, and yeah folks, feel free to describe memes on Instagram as well. If you want to send us a story of you describing a meme or just a post with some extra description attached to it, we'd be thrilled to see you on Instagram at Say My Meme Pod, just like we are on Twitter. So what have we got cooking this week, Caroline? Where's your head been at meme wise?

Caroline Desrosiers:

My head has been up in the clouds with classical art memes.

Will Butler:

With Michael Angelo?

Caroline Desrosiers:

With Michael Angelo, yeah. Which initially it was quite intimidating because art history for me, it wasn't my best subject in school. There's a lot to know. It can be very intimidating. But what I love about this week is that we're kind of combining the high culture of classical art with the low culture of memes, and bringing that all together. And I actually rather enjoyed describing these classical art memes.

Will Butler:

Amazing. I don't even really quite know what a classical art meme is, but I have a feeling you're going to tell me.

Caroline Desrosiers:

Yeah. So it would be, I'm calling it classical art meme, I guess I've coined that term for this week. But it's basically images of, they could be paintings, they could be drawings, but they're classic works of art that might be found in a museum or in a gallery somewhere. And they have been taken by the meme community and they've added funny taglines that completely just get you to look at these images in a different way. They're finding the humor in classical arts, so it's really interesting.

Will Butler:

Okay, let's do it. Classical art memes number one.

Caroline Desrosiers:

Okay, here we go. Victorian era oil painting. A woman catches her reflection in a mirror, disappointment stares back. Tagline, barista, "Enjoy your coffee." Me, "You to." Me to me, "Why are you like this?"

Will Butler:

Oh my gosh. I was at a hotel last week and we went and checked in at the front desk. You know, she's wearing a mask, we're wearing a mask. It's this awkward thing. And she's like, "Okay, thank you. Enjoy your stay." And we're like, "You too." Oh, I guess you work here. Oh gosh, I totally relate.

Caroline Desrosiers:

Oh my gosh. It's just like one of those things that's like when you're kind of on autopilot or something and you just like, you end up talking and saying something, like putting your foot in your mouth. Yeah, we've all done it.

Will Butler:

And then the self-hate that ensues, right?

Caroline Desrosiers:

Just for like-

Will Butler:

Brian Regan has a great YouTube joke. Brian Regan, the comedian. Who is this Victorian lady that's so self-critical?

Caroline Desrosiers:

So she's a young woman and she's wearing a white satin dress looking into the mirror with kind of like a melancholy expression. And she's alone in a very elegant dimly lit salon and standing very close to the mirror clearly examining her face and kind of she's deep in thought. So she's wearing this beautiful dress, but she's very close to the mirror. That's why that tagline is perfect. Why are you like this? Because it's like, she's staring into her soul.

Will Butler:

I'm going to go way out on a limb here and ask, is this Monet?

Caroline Desrosiers:

No. Ever heard of Walter MacEwen?

Will Butler:

No.

Caroline Desrosiers:

No. Okay. Yeah it's not about [inaudible 00:07:41].

Will Butler:

Next. Yeah. We're not going to try to identify all these paintings, unless I guess you probably did do some research on each artist, right?

Caroline Desrosiers:

Oh, I totally did because I'm a glutton for punishment, but-

Will Butler:

Because you're amazing.

Caroline Desrosiers:

But yeah, what I find interesting is little on this background, on this image, it's actually, for this meme they've zoomed in and cropped the image just kind of tight around her face. But the original painting is actually a full, shows her full dress. So they've altered the painting and they've also darkened it as well. So I thought that was interesting that they've taken an original work-

Will Butler:

Interesting.

Caroline Desrosiers:

... and it's kind of-

Will Butler:

Been photoshopped.

Caroline Desrosiers:

Yeah, they photoshopped it. Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Will Butler:

And of course, if folks want to see it, they can just go to Say My Mean Pod on Instagram, right?

Caroline Desrosiers:

Yeah, yeah. You can find it there.

Will Butler:

Perfect. Okay. Classical art meme number two.

Caroline Desrosiers:

All right. An Italian Renaissance oil painting. Madonna and child posing for their 27th portrait this week. Oh my God, so over this right now. Tagline, when you and your baby are tired of each other's bullshit.

Will Butler:

Oh, man. I love your tag, your descriptive tag lines are, I can't say enough good things about them. Okay, tell us about the painting. How are they looking at each other?

Caroline Desrosiers:

So they're not looking at each other. This is a portrait of Mary, mother of Jesus, holding baby Jesus on one knee. And she's wearing the full blue cloak that she's seen in all the paintings and a red robe that's belted at the waist. And her expression is very aloof. So her eyelids are kind of heavy, but her eyebrows are slightly raised up. And her head is tilted to one side. Lips to me kind of look a little purse together almost. And baby Jesus, quite plump, completely nude. His lips also look a little pursed and his he's doing this sideways look to the right. And both of their expressions are very cool and distant. So the person that selected this painting for this meme, it was just perfect, because they really do look like they're posing for their portrait and they both don't want to be there.

Will Butler:

I can't imagine. I actually can imagine, my mom's a oil painter and she's had me posed before. It's maddening having to sit there for that long.

Caroline Desrosiers:

How long did it take?

Will Butler:

I mean, I probably only sat there for four hours, but I immediately got the flu. I don't think it's natural to sit still for that long.

Caroline Desrosiers:

Right, it does things to you.

Will Butler:

Can't imagine what all these models went through back in the day.

Caroline Desrosiers:

I know-

Will Butler:

It's cold and drafty.

Caroline Desrosiers:

Oh, I know. And it depends on when the painters started working on their facial expression. If they start 10 hours in on that, they might get this cold, distant face. Like, "When can I leave?"

Will Butler:

That's a common thing, kind of sad looking paintings, because the models can't hold a smile for that long.

Caroline Desrosiers:

I know. I know.

Will Butler:

Yeah. Wow, amazing. Okay, meme number three.

Caroline Desrosiers:

Okay. So this is not religious art, French oil painting, extremely frumpy and equally slumpy woman slouches on couches with her boobies out. Tagline-

Will Butler:

Okay, Dr. Seuss.

Caroline Desrosiers:

I know, I know. Yeah, I had too much fun with that one. Okay, tagline. When Netflix freezes to ask you if you're still watching and you yourself reflected in the screen.

Will Butler:

Oh my God. See, this is why memes hook people is because they're not just silly, they tap into deep dark places.

Caroline Desrosiers:

I know. And I'm sure this has happened to a lot of people where you're chilling and maybe you've watched several too many episodes and you're just like a sloth, right?

Will Butler:

Netflix has not detected any movement, and so they're concerned about you. They're like, "Are you still watching or should we call someone?"

Caroline Desrosiers:

Yeah. It's like, "Yeah, I'm still watching, but I don't know who I am anymore."

Will Butler:

Pr, "I'm still watching, but I'm too comfortable to move my hand to click." I'm still watching and so it switches off."

Caroline Desrosiers:

Yeah, it's a little annoying. You're like, "Really? Do I have to go grab the remote to tell you I'm still here? Don't mess with me right now."

Will Butler:

So, sorry, but I'm going to have to ask you to read your description one more time.

Caroline Desrosiers:

All right. Extremely frumpy and equally slumpy woman slouches on couches with her boobies out.

Will Butler:

2020.

Caroline Desrosiers:

Yeah, really, yeah. So she's-

Will Butler:

Do you have additional description here.

Caroline Desrosiers:

I mean yeah, I can tell you a little bit more. So she's lounging back on this red cushion and she's dressed in this white and brown dress, and I'm pretty sure her neck line is puled down below to show off her boobs. And her head is propped up against a wood back board. So she's looking straight out. It's like the perfect lazy watching Netflix position. But yeah, one leg tucked under her knee, the other one's kind of dangling down just above the floor. And a gold hookah is beside her that's kind of framing the left side of the painting. So this painting is called, Woman with hookah.

Will Butler:

That's what I was missing this whole pandemic, a gold hookah.

Caroline Desrosiers:

I know. Yeah, just chilling. Yeah, it's-

Will Butler:

Woman with hookah, wow.

Caroline Desrosiers:

Yeah, I know.

Will Butler:

Who is the artist?

Caroline Desrosiers:

The artist is Fernand Cormon and he was around 1870, '78, and he was a painter in Paris. And my favorite anecdote is that he ran an art school that both Toulouse-Lautrec and van Gogh attended, but he got terrible reviews from his students. They didn't like him. And there's some really funny quotes where it kind of seems he didn't have a very good sense of humor and they wanted to play pranks on him, but were kind of afraid to, because he was so serious, and he just didn't really get a lot of respect. But at the same time he had these famous artists that were his students.

Will Butler:

Love the trivia. And I feel like it does add depth. Like when you think about this sad woman on the couch.

Caroline Desrosiers:

Well, yeah.

Will Butler:

It's probably not a couch, it's probably a day bed or something.

Caroline Desrosiers:

It's like a day bed. Yeah. But I couldn't resist slouches on couches.

Will Butler:

Slouches on couches with snitches.

Caroline Desrosiers:

Yeah.

Will Butler:

Exactly.

Caroline Desrosiers:

Exactly. But yeah, no, I feel the same. And a lot of this research kind of is just because I'm intrigued. I'm like, "What's going on here? Who painted this?"

Will Butler:

There's more to these memes than just silliness folks.

Caroline Desrosiers:

I know, yeah.

Will Butler:

Yeah.

Caroline Desrosiers:

What we're doing is actually quite legit and an art in its own right.

Will Butler:

It's about humanity.

Caroline Desrosiers:

Yeah.

Will Butler:

Wow. Okay, classical art number four.

Caroline Desrosiers:

All right. Medieval art. Two jolly gents interrupt a man's meditation by sawing his head open. He's still chill with it though. Tagline. People today. People are so violent and depraved these days, things were better in the old days. Medieval people, "LMAO. Let's just saw this guy in half."

Will Butler:

Oh my. Is it like some sort of surrealist, like nightmare type painting or what have we got here?

Caroline Desrosiers:

I mean, it's a nightmare to me, but this is the Prophet Isaiah sitting on a pedestal.

Will Butler:

Oh, it's the Bible, yeah.

Caroline Desrosiers:

Yeah.

Will Butler:

That explains it.

Caroline Desrosiers:

Yeah, so this is like a, it's a colored pen sketch from the passion manuscript. And he's on a pedestal with his hands across his chest, below his chin. And there's these two men on either side and they're operating this giant two man wood saw and slowly slicing through the top of Isaiah's head. He's still alive. And what I think is funny about this one is, the executioners are very light on their feet, or at least they were painted that way. But it looks like they're kind of dancing almost. They're both looking at other like, "What's good after this?"

Will Butler:

Wow, like Bible be brutal.

Caroline Desrosiers:

Yeah.

Will Butler:

It's like, this is ... I wonder where our violent culture came from.

Caroline Desrosiers:

Seriously.

Will Butler:

It goes way back folks. Wow, okay. That's amazing. Do we know who this artist is? Or is it too medieval to know?

Caroline Desrosiers:

Oh my God, it's super medieval. Nicholaus Schulmeister, clerk of Lucerne, Switzerland. So this was a manuscript he created for a wealthy widow in the same town. But yeah, I mean, this scene is portrayed often. Usually they're sawing from the other end.

Will Butler:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Caroline Desrosiers:

Mm-hmm (affirmative). Yeah. Like between the legs and going up.

Will Butler:

Oh, oh.

Caroline Desrosiers:

Yeah.

Will Butler:

I feel like that's a whole other set of memes probably.

Caroline Desrosiers:

Oh yeah. Like that's the more common direction that the artists took.

Will Butler:

Those are like the men's rights memes.

Caroline Desrosiers:

Right, so-

Will Butler:

I'm not going to read those memes for you guys.

Caroline Desrosiers:

I know. I know. Oh, it's so funny. Also stumbled across, this image is on Redbubble.

Will Butler:

What's that?

Caroline Desrosiers:

It's a site that takes images and then puts them on everything. You can get a laptop case and a water canteen and a COVID mask of this scene if you want.

Will Butler:

Oh my gosh. If we do any show notes, let's link to the Nikolaus Schulmeister COVID basket.

Caroline Desrosiers:

Yes. I mean that's-

Will Butler:

You know what folks, you can find that for yourself. We're not going to like-

Caroline Desrosiers:

Yeah, just a quick Google. You'll get there.

Will Butler:

My good, good friend, The Schulmeister.

Caroline Desrosiers:

Yeah.

Will Butler:

Wow. You never cease to amaze, Caroline. What is meme number five?

Caroline Desrosiers:

All right. Italian Renaissance oil painting. A portrait of a frizzy haired homely young woman. Definitely not thinking about her posture or her angles or the lighting. Tagline, "OMG, delete that. I'm serious, Bartholomew, do not hang that in the great hall."

Will Butler:

Yes. I meme for our times.

Caroline Desrosiers:

Yes. I mean, this is what we care about. But yeah. So this is someone that's like, "Yeah, I am over this painting, but actually I really don't like the result and we can't hang this."

Will Butler:

Right. It was a lot higher stakes back then. You can just snap another one. It was kind of like, if you thought like not letting your partner post a pic was frustrating. Imagine if they had spent 10 hours capturing your likeness.

Caroline Desrosiers:

Yeah. So this image was commissioned because ... It's actually, there's a pair to this. So there's another painting of a man and it's by Raphael, circa 1506 and it depicts they're recently married. So this is like the husband, wife photo. So even more critical that it's good, but yeah, it just did not turn out well for this poor woman. And it's just very unfortunate. I don't know why he included the frizzy hair, and the eyes are a bit dull and sunken, she's frowning, maybe slightly snickering. It's not flattering, definitely not cute.

Will Butler:

Can you imagine if she knew that this was going to be talked about by two Goofers 600 years later on a podcast for blind people.

Caroline Desrosiers:

I know. She would be even more horrified.

Will Butler:

She'd tear it up right on the spot. Caroline this is incredible stuff. I think, I say this every week, but I think this was my favorite episode yet.

Caroline Desrosiers:

Well, wait, wait, wait. There's one more bonus. I had to include this one. It's probably my favorite of the week. So get ready for this. 17th century Baroque oil painting. You walk into a room to find Hamlet's weird brother, shoving a finger into a skull's nose. Tagline. When the sign in the museum says, do not touch.

Will Butler:

What?

Caroline Desrosiers:

This is so weird.

Will Butler:

Is this literally a painting of a guy putting his finger in a skull?

Caroline Desrosiers:

It is. And they think that it's a self-portrait of the painter. This is what he chose to do. I think he has a sense of humor.

Will Butler:

It's like he's picking his nose, right?

Caroline Desrosiers:

It's like, okay. So it's like he's holding a human skull and sticking his finger straight into the hole where the nose was. And at the same time, looking back over his shoulder towards us and the light is illuminating one side of his face. So it kind of looks like he was caught in the act or maybe he's even inviting you to look at what he's doing. Like, "Ooh, yeah." This is like a, "Check me out over here. I don't care."

Will Butler:

Wow.

Caroline Desrosiers:

He's, I mean interesting, interesting painting. And also Wikipedia was quite entertaining on this one.

Will Butler:

Yeah, I need to know more.

Caroline Desrosiers:

This painter Michiel Sweerts. I probably butchered that, but since he died at 46, but his profile says he died at 45. So either that's a typo, most likely a typo, or he traveled as a ghost for a year, poking sculls with his finger. And that's what I like to imagine.

Will Butler:

He should have called this one, wouldn't be caught dead picking my nose.

Caroline Desrosiers:

I know, it's perfect. I don't know. I guess he's like, if we could get into interpreting this, maybe he's kind of mocking death here, but he definitely cursed it because he died four years later after painting this.

Will Butler:

Oh yeah. I mean, life expectancy not great in 17th century Renaissance Europe, I think, right?

Caroline Desrosiers:

Not great, no.

Will Butler:

Well, at least he got this bizarre painting out into the world, props to you, Michiel. And what a delightful journey through art history.

Caroline Desrosiers:

Yeah, I know, right? It's a whole new way to look at art history through memes.

Will Butler:

It's really cool. Thank you so much, Caroline. As always, what are the things we need to remind people this week? Send us your memes, hello@saymymeme.com, or if you want to read the full instructions, go to saymymeme.com. Check us out on Instagram and Twitter. And can we hint what we might be doing next week?

Caroline Desrosiers:

I feel like four 20s coming up, so.

Will Butler:

Oh, what is that, Earth Day?

Caroline Desrosiers:

Yeah, Earth Day, yeah. A different kind of earthiness, I suppose.

Will Butler:

Amazing. All right, well tune in folks next week. Next Monday, like every Monday, we're here to brighten your week. Caroline Desrosiers from Scribely and me Will, from Be My Eyes. Thanks so much for joining us, and we'll see you all next week.

Caroline Desrosiers:

Later.

Will Butler:

Do you want to describe your favorite memes for our community? Send a voice memo to hello@saymymeme.com, that's hello@saymymeme.com.