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Do We All See Baby Mark Zuckerberg as Jesus in This 1700 Sculpture?

This story is part of DOUBLE TAKES, a Motherboard meditation on the tech-time continuum that reinterprets old art through the lens of modern digital anxieties.

Arix King, a product designer at Riot Sports, was on a date with his girlfriend at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) when a piece of art caught his eye. As they were viewing an exhibition called “Archive of the World: Art and Imagination in Spanish America, 1500-1800,” King saw someone he did not expect to see: Mark Zuckerberg. On a sculpture titled “Virgin of Mercy, or ‘Pilgrim of Quito,’” the larger female figure cradles the face of baby Jesus that uncannily resembles that of Meta’s CEO.

“I remember leaning over to my girlfriend and whispering in her ear (not to annoy other visitors) that it looked JUST like Zuckerberg,” King told Motherboard. “She ended up laughing pretty hard so my aim to not interrupt the space wasn’t very effective.”

The sculpture depicts the image of the Virgin Mary sitting on a gold chair, wearing a gold dress embellished with floral designs and large pearl earrings, while on her left arm sits a naked baby Jesus, looking up with his right arm raised. The baby’s face features thin brown eyebrows, wide eyes, rosy cheeks, and what people call the Caesar cut.

“I think the biggest resemblance that got me was the haircut and even the ears,” King said.

Zuckerberg is the living public figure most associated with the Caesar cut—a short, horizontally straight cut hairstyle named after Roman Emperor Caesar Augustus (not to be confused with Julius), who wore his hair in the same fashion. In fact, the short Wikipedia entry for the haircut names only two people: Augustus and Zuckerberg. Zuckerberg is also interested in Caesar Augustus, according to Insider. One of Zuckerberg’s daughters is named August, likely based the emperor’s surname, and Zuckerberg chose to go to Rome, the capital of the Roman empire, for his honeymoon.

“My wife was making fun of me, saying she thought there were three people on the honeymoon: me, her, and Augustus. All the photos were different sculptures of Augustus,” Zuckerberg said in a 2018 New Yorker profile.

The history of the sculpture is actually far from Rome and Zuckerberg. Though the Virgin of Mercy has an unknown sculptor, the work of art originates in 18th century Peru and follows a tradition of Spanish polychrome sculpture. The piece is categorized as a Quito sculpture, because Quito is where some of the finest practitioners were located—primarily Indigenous and mestizo artists who had family-run workshops.

The style of Quito sculpture is distinguished by the figures’ smooth and youthful features, rosy cheeks, lifelike eyes made of glass, pursed red lips, and plump, shiny flesh, according to Ilona Katzew, the curator and LACMA Department Head of Latin American art. The sculptures are decorated with estofados, which means emulations of fine fabrics, and typically serve as a figure for private devotional purposes. This particular sculpture is decorated with brocateado, which are gilded patterns in imitation of fine brocades.

The lore behind the image of “The Pilgrim of Quito” comes from a 16th century legend. According to the story, King Charles V sent an image of the Virgin Mary to Quito, which became renowned as a symbol of miracles. After she was able to survive a devastating earthquake in 1698 that destroyed the church, church members saw her miraculous qualities and decided to take her on a 30-year mission across Spanish America and Spain. The image became widely known as “The Pilgrim of Quito,” or “La Peregrina de Quinto” and people, upon seeing her entrance into their city, would be stunned by her miraculous powers and golden appearance.

Now, three hundred years later, “The Pilgrim of Quito” stuns us not through her miraculous powers or shining brocateado, but through the Mark Zuckerberg doppelgänger that is resting on her arm.

In response to King’s revelation, LACMA tweeted “no comment.”

Of course this 18th century devotional figure has no real connection to Zuckerberg. Sometimes we can’t help but find modern similarities in old art, like a woman holding an iPhone in this 1856 statue or in this 1860 painting.

“I saw the statue again and just thought to tweet it—especially since most people that follow me work in technology and would maybe see it too?” King said, “Turns out a lot of people seem to see the resemblance! Pretty funny for a statue made something like 300 years ago!”

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