The Creepiest Thing Ever: L'Inconnue de la Seine

Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons
Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons

In the early 20 century, a popular piece of art for the fashionable French home was "L'Inconnue de la Seine" (translation: "The Unknown Woman of the Seine"), a completely creepy death-mask of a young woman whose body had been pulled from the Seine River in Paris, sometime in the 1870s or 1880s.

As the (somewhat questionable) story goes, a pathologist at the morgue found the unknown woman's face enchanting, so he made a death mask—a plaster casting of her face. The resulting cast was widely reproduced and became both a popular objet d'art, as well as extremely influential to writers, artists, and indeed young girls who attempted to replicate her (dead) looks. (And you thought your friends were goth in high school.)

Having said all that, there are some questions as to the real origin of the mask (whether its source was indeed a dead woman or if it was a life mask from an unknown living woman who never spoke up), but let's just stick with the standard story and see how creepy it gets, shall we? As Wikipedia explains (emphasis added):

In the following years, numerous copies were produced. The copies quickly became a fashionable morbid fixture in Parisian Bohemian society. Albert Camus and others compared her enigmatic smile to that of the Mona Lisa, inviting numerous speculations as to what clues the eerily happy expression in her face could offer about her life, her death, and her place in society.

The popularity of the figure is also of interest to the history of artistic media, relating to its widespread reproduction. The original cast had been photographed, and new casts were created back from the film negatives. These new casts displayed details that are usually lost in bodies taken from the water, but the apparent preservation of these details in the visage of the cast seemed to only reinforce its authenticity.

Critic A. Alvarez wrote in his book on suicide, The Savage God: "I am told that a whole generation of German girls modeled their looks on her." According to Hans Hesse of the University of Sussex, Alvarez reports, "the Inconnue became the erotic ideal of the period, as Bardot was for the 1950s. He thinks that German actresses like Elisabeth Bergner modeled themselves on her. She was finally displaced as a paradigm by Greta Garbo."

But wait, it gets creepier: Have you taken a CPR class? Then perhaps you've locked lips with L'Inconnue; in 1958, the woman's face was used on the first CPR doll, dubbed Rescue Annie. Some have thus called hers "the most kissed face of all time," despite all these kisses occurring roughly 80 years after her death. No, not creepy in the slightest.

"L'Inconnue de la Seine" was a major inspiration for artists of all kinds. In "Influence and Authenticity of l'Inconnue de la Seine" by Anja Zeidler, it is revealed that L'Inconnue influenced artists including Albert Camus, Rainer Maria Rilke, and Anaïs Nin, among others.

You can read more about L'Inconnue de la Seine and the Rescue Annie story from Snopes.

95 Years of The New Yorker Covers Visualized by Color

Screenshot via C82
Screenshot via C82

On February 21, 1925, The New Yorker appeared on the magazine scene with a cover illustration of a dandy drawn by art editor Rea Irvin, a character later christened Eustace Tilley. Almost a century later, Tilley still graces the cover of The New Yorker at least once a year on the magazine’s anniversary. Other weeks, they commission artists to illustrate timely political topics and evergreen moods.

The magazine has run more than 4600 covers in its 92 years of near-weekly issues (it’s currently published 47 times a year), all of which you can explore by color, thanks to designer Nicholas Rougeux (who has previously visualized sentences and punctuation in classic literature).


Using an algorithm, Rougeux analyzed the top five colors represented in every cover illustration and created a color palette for that issue. Then, he mapped out a palette for every single cover, creating a timeline of New Yorker design. It allows you to see what colors have dominated particular years and decades. If you scroll over the individual palettes, you can see the full image of that week’s cover.


Rougeux found some trends in the colors that have repeatedly graced the magazine’s cover. “Limited and muted palettes were used the 1920s," he writes on his site, while "possibly due to printing limitations, darker greens were more common in the 1940s, lighter palettes were used in the 1970s and 1980s, louder contrasting palettes were popular in the 1990s and more well-rounded palettes started being used since the 2000s.”

You can explore the color timeline for yourself here.

All images courtesy Nicholas Rougeux

Bob Ross's Son Is Holding Painting Classes at a Tennessee Library

Bob Ross.
Bob Ross.
Bob Ross Inc.

For anyone who has ever logged on to the internet, Bob Ross needs no introduction. The painter, who passed away in 1995, spent the years 1983 through 1994 hosting the PBS series The Joy of Painting, where his soothing manner and bubbling-spring landscapes comforted viewers.

On several episodes, Bob’s son, Steve Ross, could be seen painting his own nature scenes as guest host or assisting his father in answering reader questions.

According to WVLT, Steve Ross is now set to offer painting classes at the Blount County Public Library in Maryville, Tennessee. He will be joined by Dana Jester, an artist who also appeared on The Joy of Painting. The workshops will be held March 4 through March 8 and will cost $125 per attendee, who will also be expected to bring their own supplies. The classes will last the entire day.

If locals are curious and don’t want to commit to the fee, Steve and Dana will be hosting a free demonstration on March 5 at 6:30 p.m.

After his guest spots on his father’s program, Steve appeared to retreat from public life, though clips of his appearances were apparently popular on Tumblr for their inadvertently risqué banter. (“It can be dirty, it doesn’t have to be clean,” and so forth.)

Bob Ross also taught classes even while The Joy of Painting was airing. He purportedly received no income from that show, earning a living via merchandising and appearances.

[h/t WVLT]

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