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Left: “The Adoration of the Magi,” copy after Hugo van der Goes (late 15th century); right: Wiz Khalifa (all images via BFXVI on Tumblr)

The best ideas often seem so obvious that you kick yourself for not thinking of them first. They happen when people draw connections between the millions of bites of information they take in every day, whether by ingenuity or sheer coincidence.

Cecilia Azcarate, a designer at Johannes Leonardo creative agency, must have been having one of those moments when she came up with the idea for her art history tumblelog, B4XVI (which stands for “before the 16th century,” as all the art she uses is). In an unlikely marriage, it pairs pictures of rappers with historical sculptures, paintings, and statues from the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s collection, tracing the swag and power poses of hip-hop artists like Young Thug and Whiz Khalifa to pre-Colombian effigies and Netherlandish paintings.

The results are uncanny. We all know Jay Z wants in on the art world, but who knew that 2 Chainz’s hand signs have their roots in the blinged-out, 14th-century reliquary arm of St. Valentine? Or that Kanye West is actually taking style cues from a fur-swathed young man in a 16th-century northern German painting? Or that Hot Sugar looks so much like a baby-faced Jesus?

It now seems clear: one century’s highbrow is another’s lowbrow. Azcarate’s side-by-side images give us a reason to ditch the labels altogether.

Left: “Reliquary Arm of St. Valentine” (14th-century Swiss); right: 2 Chainz

Left: Detail of “Christ Blessing, Surrounded by a Donor and His Family” (1560); right: Kanye West

Left: “Christ Blessing” by Gerard David (early 16th century); right: Hot Sugar

Left: “Deity Censer” from Mexico (1200–1400 CE); right: YG

h/t designboom

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Laura C. Mallonee

Laura C. Mallonee is a Brooklyn-based writer. She holds an M.A. in Cultural Reporting and Criticism from NYU and a B.F.A. in painting from Missouri State University. She enjoys exploring new cities and...

20 replies on “Hip-Hop Meets Art History”

    1. The ideas in this article are clearly along the lines of “food for thought” more than “historically accurate,” just have some fun wit it.

      1. It’s funny how people are silenced and reprimanded for having an opinion that doesn’t fall in line with the majority. My reply to grahambug was clearly silenced. If that was you Hrag; shame on you. You of all people should know the meaning and experience of being silenced for speaking your mind in what you believe in. If you’re not interested in hearing from me ignore it or close the comments. To be moderated for saying ‘Hrag always seem to make a stale attempt at defending mediocrity” or “HA is a trash can where I can dig for some great articles, hence why I keep coming back” is more absurd than my actual opinion. Let this be the day where a curse of hypocrisy is branded on your forehead.

        1. You are not following the commenting guidelines and you’re demonstrating (again) that you are contributing to an unhealthy commenting environment and contributing nothing to the conversation.

  1. I was quite surprised to have not seen the work of Rashaad Newsome or Kehinde Wiley here. They are already doing precisely what is suggested by the blogger.

  2. The intention indeed was there but I’m sorry to say the effort was very mundane at best .. . Brain pretty much out played your hand with the BOTTICELLI.

  3. This article seems like a stretch, but maybe it showcases that across time and locations, humans don’t really change too much. There’s an underlying need to express ourselves in grandiose and creative ways.

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