Wikiventures!: 20 Different Abstracts, 20 Different Illustrations

Posted by Whit Barringer , Friday, November 05, 2010 6:52 AM

Recently I was looking up the word "raconteur" when I came across the Wikipedia article for storytelling. The picture used to illustrate the article was Millais's The Boyhood of Sir Walter Raleigh, which depicts a seafarer or sailor telling Raleigh tales about the sea.

This is something that is in general taken for granted, but is actually a really interesting and cool thing that Wikipedia does. If asked what I would use to illustrate a concept like storytelling, it might take me a while to come up with something half as good as the Millais painting, but because of the power of crowds, an illustration was found that really struck at the heart of what storytelling means.

So I decided to perform a little experiment. I came up with a list of words, random at first, then increasingly thematic, and tried to answer the question "What illustration was used to best evoke the epitome of the abstract concepts at hand?" In each case, I have used the first picture displayed next to first summary text on each page. The results are below the fold.

1. Contentment
Result: Adriaen van Ostade's The Drinking Peasant in an Inn or The Contented Peasant
2. Death
Result: Skull
3. Life
Result: Ugandan Ecology

4. Love
Result: Sir Frank Dicksee's Romeo and Juliet. (Interesting side note: Hate has no illustration.)

5. Surprise
Result: Um... Something very German.

6. Anger
Result: Giovanni Battista Tiepolo's Rage of Achilles 

7. Hope
Result: Hans Sebold Beham's Spes (Hope)

8. Depression
Result: Albrecht Dürer's Melancolia I.

9. Sound
Result: "Bass drummer in marching band."

10. Tradition
Result: A Polish Christmas dinner.

11. Myth
Result: Gustave Moreau's Prometheus

12. Past
Result: Vassily Maximovich Maximov's Everything is in the Past

13. Punishment
Result: Stocks.

14. Guilt
Result: John Singer Sargent's Orestes Pursued by the Furies

Result: Dominoes.

16. Idea
Result: Light Bulb

17. Thought
Result: Rodin's The Thinker

18. Perspective
Result: "A sharpened pencil in extreme perspective."

19. Future
Result: The Last of the Spirits from Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol

20. Knowledge
Result: Episteme, the personification of knowledge, in Ephesus, Turkey.

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