In February 2010, the Paris-based band Hold Your Horses! released a music video to go with their song “70 Million,” which became an immediate success. In the video, the band members recreated famous paintings, taking the viewer on an entertaining tour through art history. Try to identify as many paintings as possible, then compare your results with the list of the actual paintings below the jump. Enjoy – and let us know your scores! And, of course, Happy Bastille Day.
All this art history was filmed over two weekends in a parking garage in Paris, using chalk drawings as backdrops and a smoke machine for fog. To re-create the cloudy sky in Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel ceiling, the production team ripped out the stuffing from 200 pillows. “The idea was to make the paintings youthful and funny and rock-and-roll,” the video’s director, David Freymond, says. “We were not trying to be too academic.”
The video begins with Jesus, from Leonardo’s The Last Supper, drumming on a pot with a pair of wooden spoons. Frida Kahlo (from her self-portraits), van Gogh (from his Self-Portrait with Bandaged Ear), and Picasso‘s muse Dora Maar (from his Portrait of Dora Maar) are among the recognizable characters taking subsequent turns with the upbeat tune. One band member sings while smoking a cigarette, interpreting Otto Dix’s Portrait of the Journalist Sylvia von Harden.
The music video “breaks with the image of a rock band,” Freymond says. “This poor band has to get naked—to re-create Renaissance paintings.” Well, not entirely naked: the Venus of Botticelli’s The Birth of Venus wears a guitar as a cover-up.
The irreverent effort—for an enigmatic song the band claims is about the shifting feelings in a romantic relationship—required feats of costuming. A head covering and the perfect piece of jewelry turned guitarist Charles van den Boogaerde into Vermeer’s girl with a pearl earring. A bowler hat transformed bassist Robin Montmusson into Magritte’s Son of man. The same hat, adorned with a feather, appears in a staging of Holbein the Younger’s Henry VIII.
To become van Gogh’s sunflowers, band members covered their arms in green paint. Cellist Simon Tordjman had his face painted white, blue, red, yellow, and black to approximate a Mondrian painting. And six of the band’s seven members got to play the part of Warhol’s Marilyn Monroe. They all wore the same wig, spray-painted a different color for each shot.
Part of the fun is watching unlikely subjects bang out the tune. The cadaver in Rembrandt’s The Anatomy Lesson of Doctor Nicolaes Tulp reaches over to play a few notes on a melodica, for example. In an evocation of Gabrielle d’Estrées and One of Her Sisters, by an unknown 16th-century painter, a shirtless musician sways his head to the beat as he pinches the nipple of a comrade strumming a guitar. In most cases instruments are not in the original artworks, with Chagall’s The Bride a notable exception: as in the painting, in the music video a goat (or rather a man with a goat mask attached to his head) plays the cello.
Florence Villeminot, drummer and vocalist, has starring roles in the stagings of The Creation of Adam, from Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel, Leonardo’s The Last Supper, and Eugene Delacroix’s Liberty Leading the People. “I was happy because I got to be God, the Virgin Mary, Jesus, and Liberty. That was my goal when I joined the band,” Villeminot quips.