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via Instagram (@covidclassics)

The roommates recreating classic art scenes in quarantine

Caravaggio 1599, but make it COVID-19

At first glance, you wouldn’t be alone in thinking a picture on recently established Instagram page @covidclassics is a real Baroque painting. From the dramatic contrast between light and dark and the delicate detailing on the white cloth which falls from the table, to the barely visible halo which floats above the subject’s head, the picture is deceptively realistic. But stay with the image for a while longer and you will notice a bald cap, fake hair used to create a beard, and a duvet in lieu of a cloak. 

This recreation of Carivaggio’s “Saint Jerome Writing” was made by Cary, Max, Jeannette, and Sam, four roommates in New Haven, Connecticut, who decided to get creative during this period of isolation. Using what they have in their apartment as props (including IKEA tables and colanders), the four have reimagined some of the most recognised pieces of art in art history – including Vermeer’s “The Milkmaid”, “The Old Guitarist” by Picasso, “The Death of Marat” by Jacques-Louis David and “The Son of Man” by René Magritte.

“We started with our favourite paintings and those that seemed famous and ‘doable’,” the four explain. With a behind-the-scenes shot uploaded alongside the final image, the account was started after the four flatmates were on a video chat – basically, how all good stories start right now.

Playing a game where they each had to put on a hat, Max, however, wrapped a towel around his head. After noticing how much he looked like the dead Marat in David’s infamous painting, “Cary and Jeannette rushed to the bathroom with lighting and props”. The result is a photo that uncannily mirrors the image created by the French artist in 1793.

Going on to take on artists like Goya and Wood, the pictures were first sent to friends and later uploaded to Instagram, where “it really just took off”. Posting their first picture to the page on March 22, the account now has 41.3k followers.

With many people turning to creative outlets to find solace (and sanity) during this quarantine, this particular artistic endeavour has provided inspiration and hope to many. 

“We’ve had a lot of people tell us it buoys their spirit to see people stuck together making the most of it, being creative, expressing themselves,” one of the roommates said. “I hope our DIY style inspires other people to make the most of this time and be creative.”  

With self-isolation bringing with it stress, anxiety, and, for many, loneliness, the roommates said they realise how lucky they are to have had this experience in the “midst of a global catastrophe”, adding that they see art as a remedy in these strange times. 

“It may be a private journal. It might be sketched in a notebook. But it’s all an antidote to boredom, loneliness, despair,” they explain. “It will keep us sane and maybe even cheerful. Without keeping up our morale, without understanding who we are and what we’re capable of, the work of rebuilding the world, rebuilding a better world, could never get done. That’s what art is for.”