Robert Howlett, Isambard Kingdom Brunel, builder of the Great Eastern, ca. 1857-1858. George Eastman House,

Photographer: Robert Howlett | Isambard Kingdom Brunel, builder of the Great Eastern | ca. 1857-1858 | George Eastman House,

Some stories we’ve been reading this week:

Flemish hippo
How did Rubens manage to make an accurate painting of a hippopotamus without having ever seen one? (And why was Dürer not so lucky with his rhino?)

Flemish superheroes
And while on the subject of Rubens, did you ever wonder what superheroes would have looked like in 17th century Flanders? Neither did we, but we were still very amused.

The most important unknown artist ever
What if we told you that an artist you’ve never heard of named John G. Rand changed the history of painting forever? [LINK CORRECTED 11/24/14]

Fixing dioramas
Dioramas of indigenous cultures have been disappearing from natural history museums worldwide because they’re perceived as making their subjects seem less than fully human. But there might just be a way to replace them responsibly. (You may also want to check out our post about the Museum of Natural History’s dioramas in The Catcher in the Rye.)

“New” ancient mosaics
Archaeologists discovered three mosaics at the ancient Greek city of Zeugma, in south Turkey. They look amazing.