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:

  • An ugly copy of a famously beautiful bust of Queen Nefertiti has inspired Egyptians to mock the authorities as well as the current state of art in the country. It’s hard to blame them, see for yourself!
  • We have the perfect place for the Egyptian people to make their snarky comments: a statue in Rome that for the past 500 years has served as the place to go when you want to read something mean or scandalous about someone.
  • Or they could cry in front of it, as people sometimes do. (In fact, there’s a whole book about the phenomenon!)

  • FINALLY, a plausible explanation for why babies in medieval paintings look like ugly old men.
  • And an explanation for the reasons a bright yellow pigment favored a century ago by master artists like Henri Matisse fades to drab beige.
  • But there are still plenty of unresolved mysteries. For example, the 13th-century Codex Gigas took up to 30 years to complete, is composed of 620 pages that are each nearly three feet long, is bound in wood, and weighs in at 165 pounds. But that’s not the perplexing part.
  • And perhaps more vexing, the Plain of Jars in Laos has puzzled researchers for two millennia. The mysterious jars range from just a few feet to 10 feet high and weigh up to 14 tons; some contain human remains and tools while others appear empty. Who made them?
  • Find inspiration in the fascinating and moving story behind the world’s first gay art museum.
  • When Donald Featherstone died recently, he was eulogized for being the creator of pink plastic flamingos. Turns out he did a lot more than that.
  • If Monet’s neighbors had had their way, his water lilies may never have been made.
  • A monumental building project for a working-class neighborhood harking back to the grand cathedral construction campaigns of the Middle Ages was begun in the late 19th century. We’re talking of course about Gaudí’s Sagrada Família basilica in Barcelona—which is still not finished.
  • A specialist in historic paint finishes discovered unknown paintings by 19th-century artist Thomas Cole at his home.