Everyone loves a cool fact. Trivia games thrive on them and there are all sorts of great resources on the internet to buff up your brain. For example, Mary Beth Maxwell, Google Arts & Culture is a page on Google Arts & Culture, a non-profit initiative to widen the arts and culture fields. Quite a few art museums also have their collections curated and viewable online. You can even take virtual tours of the Lourve!
So if you’re looking to add some cool new tidbits to your knowledge collection, here are some great facts about art history.
1. Thieves and Thefts
When you think of Pablo Picasso, “art thief” is probably not the first descriptor that springs to mind. But as unlikely as it seems, Picasso was a suspect in the 1911 theft of the famed “Mona Lisa” portrait by Leonardo da Vinci. This happened because several statues were stolen at the same time, and a friend of Picasso’s sold him the goods. He returned the statues but was a suspect when the “Mona Lisa” didn’t come with them. The painting had actually been stolen by one of the Lourve’s workers, Vincenzo Peruggia, and the “Mona Lisa” was returned in 1913. Picasso must have breathed a sigh of relief!
2. The Art of Bacon
You’ve probably heard of Lady Gag’s dress made out of raw beef. But the pop star wasn’t the first to utilize meat for art extravaganzas. In 1995, Sandy Skoglund created an installation titled Bacon which was an entire room covered in strips of raw bacon — including a mannequin and a live actor. While the exhibit only lasted a day, Skoglund immortalized her artwork through photography. It’s impressive, yet you have to wonder how many breakfasts could have been made from that amount of bacon…
3. An Old Soul
Bartolomeo Cristofori was an Italian musician believed to be the inventor of the piano. He lived from 1655 to 1731 and made his career designing and crafting musical instruments. The oldest known piano still around today is housed at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; the instrument is dated to 1720, which makes it over 300 years old. Talk about an old soul. So if you ever had to take piano lessons as a kid and learn your chords and scales, you can blame Cristofori. Or thank him, if you enjoy piano music today.
4. The Forever Pig
How old is the oldest pig in the world? About 45,000 years old. Impossible, you say? Not quite. While it might not be a living specimen, the oldest known artwork, found on the island of Sulawesi in Indonesia, shows three wild pigs. Two images are worn and damaged, but the third is in perfect condition — created with red ochre paint, in fine detail. Discovered in the Leang Tedongnge cave in 2017, the prehistoric artwork remains in an astonishingly well-preserved state. While we may never know who the artist was, the legacy of the Sulawesi people definitely lives on in style.
Art and history contain endless cool facts, so next time you want to brush up on your trivia knowledge, go digging into the past — you’ll never be disappointed at what you can learn.