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Looking for luck? Art history is full of it.

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Ever wondered about Marie Antoinette’s penchant for roses? Or why Frida Kahlo liked to paint herself surrounded by animals

With St. Patrick’s day just around the corner, we’ve taken a good ol’ look at the Sartle database to bring you the luckiest charms in art history. This isn’t just a collection of your typical four leaf clovers and golden horseshoes– we’ve got everything here from ermines to eels!


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Speaking of ermines, here’s Leonardo da Vinci’s Lady with an Ermine. The lady in question is 15 year old Cecilia Gallerani, mistress of the duke of Milan. Ermines are basically just aristocratic-looking weasels but they’re seen as the ultimate symbol of purity… pretty damn ironic considering that young Cecilia was something of a home-wrecker. All infidelities aside, that lucky critter may well have been what saved the painting from being destroyed at the hands of the Nazis. We’d wager a guess that some of this luck also extended to da Vinci, too– painting somebody else’s mistress isn’t exactly risk-free work.


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Frida Kahlo’s Self Portrait with Thorn Necklace and Hummingbird was painted in the midst of Frida’s affair with New Yorker Nickholas Murray. She needed all the luck she could get, at that point– the gruesome undertones of her statement dead hummingbird bloody thorn necklace say as much. But we’ll draw your attention to Frida’s signature black cat– although black cats are usually considered bad luck, she considered hers indispensable in matters of the heart.


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Nude with Cat by Balthus is yet another painting in which the cat brings all the luck. This particular portrait combines striking eroticism with a feline, bringing a whole new depth to the phrase “crazy cat lady.” Balthus himself loved cats and painted over 40 portraits of his cat Mitsou. He also painted himself as a cat overlord in a portrait he titled The King of Cats. Weird. But Balthus was clearly a lucky guy, so we’ll go with it.


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Painter Louise Vigée Le Brun was actually trying to do a bit of damage control with her portrait Marie-Antoinette with the Rose– she’d just painted Marie-Antoinette in her chemise, which brought total scandal to the palace and exacerbated rumors of the pair’s lesbianism even further. So, as artists do, Louise sat down to create this masterpiece and regain some of Antoinette’s dignity. The key element was the rose: feminine, delicate, and, as luck would have it, a stroke of luck for Louise– she later managed to escape the guillotine when shit hit the fan during the French Revolution.


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Aside from the fact that this painting is f**cking bizarre, A Boy and a Girl with a Cat and an Eel by Judith Leyster brings a pretty unconventional lucky charm into the mix. We’re talking about eels, of course. Here are some common eel superstitions:

  • Rubbing a wart with eels’ blood makes it go away
  • A live eel in a drink cures a person from drunkenness
  • Witches can wear eelskin jackets to protect them from bullets 
  • Eating an eel heart gives you the power of prophecy

Maybe that kid’s eel will stop him from looking so much like Donald Trump?


Hope you’re ready for St. Patrick’s Day!

-Louisa

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Louisa Dewey

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