Beyond the Google Arts & Culture Selfie

I was not an early adopter of the Google Arts & Culture selfie, but after a couple of weeks of seeing my Facebook and Instagram friends' faces matched up with their fine art doppelgängers, I had to give it a try. I downloaded the app, took a dignified-looking selfie, and let Google search its art collection for my match. I wasn't necessarily disappointed in my apparent resemblance to Antonello da Messina's Portrait of a Young Man (the redhead on the left). I was compelled, though, to learn more about the artist, and thought others might want to learn more about their lookalikes' creators as well. 

I found essays online from the Metropolitan Museum of Art, London's National Gallery and the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC. But I knew the library has an amazing collection of art books, both in the circulating collection and in Central's Reference Services, so I decided to go on a research adventure. I wasn't disappointed. 

I used the DPL and WorldCat catalogs and headed to the 700s section to learn more about this 15th century Sicilian painter with the Netherlandish paintings. Biographical information on Antonello and reproductions of his work are included in Italian Painting: The Creators of the Renaissance and History of Italian Renaissance Art: Painting, Sculpture, Architecture. I learned more about his methods in The Secret Formulas and Techniques of the Masters. Apparently Antonello was the first to cook lead with his painting oils and thus "produced the first medium for painting based entirely on the use of oil." Now you know!

Although Google's app has gone viral, it has drawbacks. Because the app scans facial images, it may cross the line of stricter biometrics laws. That's why Google has not made it available in Illinois or Texas. And many people of color using the app have noticed less-than-perfect matches, which may be due to the scanning technology or to a lack of diversity in the app's digital collections

Whether you've enjoyed the app or found it disappointing, or if you'd rather find your art twin through some old-fashioned browsing, I'd invite you to come get lost in the Central Library's art collection for a while. Browse the books and check out the DPL Staff Art Show. Or go on an adventure with a museum pass from our Library of Things. There's a world of art out there, and in here. 


Written by Hillary on February 9, 2018


Frank W on February 20, 2018


So I wonder if you're on the border between Illinois and Indiana, or let's say between Texas and Arkansas. You can you step across and it starts to work? Or visa versa? What an interesting interview!!

GenineP on March 20, 2018


Nice post, Hillary! Thanks for promoting the collection in such a fun way!

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