See 21 Historic Films by Lumière Brothers, Colorized and Enhanced with Machine Learning (1895-1902)

Auguste and Louis Lumière thought that cinema didn’t have a future. Fortunately, they came to that conclusion only after producing a body of work that comprises some of the earliest films ever made, as well as invaluable glimpses of the end of the nineteenth century and the dawn of the twentieth, an era that has now passed out of living memory. Using the motion-photography system that they developed themselves, the Lumière brothers captured life around them in not just their native France, but Switzerland, Italy, England, the United States, and even more exotic lands like Egypt, Turkey, and Japan — all of which you can see in the compilation video above.

The smooth color footage you see here is not, of course, what the Lumière brothers showed to their wide-eyed audiences well over a century ago. It all comes specially prepared by Youtuber Denis Shirayev, who specializes in enhancing old film with current technologies, some of them driven by machine learning.

If this sounds familiar, it may be because we’ve featured a good deal of Shirayev’s work here on Open Culture before, including his restored versions of Victorian England, Belle Epoque Paris, New York City in 1911, Amsterdam in 1922Tokyo at the start of the Taishō era — and even the Lumière brothers’ famous movie of a train arriving at La Ciotat Station.

For this compilation video’s first four and half minutes, Shirayev explains how he does it. But first, he offers a disclaimer: “Some people mistakenly think that the colors in this video are the original source colors, or that the source material had audio, or that the enhanced faces are real.” All that was in fact added later, and that’s where the artificial intelligence comes in: even in the absence of direct historical evidence, it can “guess” what the real details not captured by the Lumière bothers’ camera might have looked like. This is part of a process that also includes upscaling, stabilization, and conversion to 60 frames per second — a form of motion smoothing, in recent years the subject of a cinematic controversy the Lumière brothers certainly couldn’t have imagined.

After Shirayev’s remarks, you can start watching 21 Lumière brothers films after the 4:30 mark.

Related content:

Watch the Films of the Lumière Brothers & the Birth of Cinema (1895)

Iconic Film from 1896 Restored with Artificial Intelligence: Watch an AI-Upscaled Version of the Lumière Brothers’ The Arrival of a Train at La Ciotat Station

Pristine Footage Lets You Revisit Life in Paris in the 1890s: Watch Footage Shot by the Lumière Brothers

Around the World in 1896: 40 Minutes of Real Footage Lets You Visit Paris, New York, Venice, Rome, Budapest & More

Watch the Serpentine Dance, Created by the Pioneering Dancer Loie Fuller, Performed in an 1897 Film by the Lumière Brothers

The History of the Movie Camera in Four Minutes: From the Lumière Brothers to Google Glass

Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities, language, and culture. His projects include the Substack newsletter Books on Cities, the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

Deep Fried Coffee: A Very Disturbing Discovery

Deep fried coffee. Yes, it’s a thing, and coffee connoisseur James Hoffmann decided to give it a go. How did it turn out? We won’t spoil it for you–other than to say, don’t be surprised if deep fried coffee makes its way into a future edition of Hoffmann’s book, The World Atlas of Coffee.

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15-Year-Old Picasso Paints His First Masterpiece, “The First Communion”


It took me four years to paint like Raphael, but a lifetime to paint like a child. – Pablo Picasso

We think it’s safe to say that most of us have a preconceived notion of Picasso’s style, and The First Communion, above, isn’t it.

Picasso was just 15 when he completed this large-scale oil, having lost his 7-year-old sister, Conchita, to diphtheria one year before.

The stricken young artist had attempted to bargain with God, vowing to give up painting if she was spared. As Arianna Huffington writes in the biography Picasso: Creator and Destroyer:

…he was torn between wanting her saved and wanting her dead so that his gift would be saved. When she died, he decided that God was evil and destiny an enemy. At the same time, he was convinced that it was his ambivalence that had made it possible for God to kill Conchita. His guilt was enormous—the other side of his belief in his powers to affect the world around him. And it was compounded by his almost magical conviction that his little sister’s death had released him to be a painter and follow the call of the powers he had been given, whatever the consequences.

If there’s evil at work in the “First Communion,” he keeps it under wraps. All eyes are on the rapt young communicant, embodied in his surviving sister, Lola, in a snowy veil and gown.

Their father, painter and drawing professor José Ruiz y Blasco, assumes the part of the girl’s father or godfather, a solemn witness to this rite of passage.

Ruiz y Blasco provided instruction and championed his son’s gift. He encouraged him to enter the “First Communion,” and later, “Science and Charity” (in which he appears as the doctor) in the Exposicion de Bellas Artes, a competition and exhibition opportunity for emerging artists.

Picasso later remarked that “every time I draw a man, I think of my father.  To me, man is Don José, and will be all my life…”

Ruiz y Blasco, convinced that Picasso’s talent would bring success as a naturalistic painter of classical scenes and portraits, was deeply disappointed when his teenaged son began blowing off class at Madrid’s prestigious Academia Real de San Fernando. 

Just imagine how he reacted to the scandalous Cubist vision ofLes Demoiselles d’Avignon,” unveiled a mere eleven years after the “First Communion.”

The rest is history.

Just for fun, we invited the free online AI image generator Craiyon (formerly known as DALL-E Mini) to have a go using the prompt “Picasso First Communion”.

The results should surprise no one. 

Related Content 

The Gestapo Points to Guernica and Asks Picasso, “Did You Do This?;” Picasso Replies “No, You Did!”

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How To Understand a Picasso Painting: A Video Primer

Ayun Halliday is the Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine and author, most recently, of Creative, Not Famous: The Small Potato Manifesto.  Follow her @AyunHalliday.

8th Century Englishwoman Scribbled Her Name & Drew Funny Pictures in a Medieval Manuscript, According to New Cutting-Edge Technology

Most of us have doodled in the margins of our books at one time or another, and some of us have even dared to write our own names. But very of few us, presumably, would have expected our handiwork to be marveled at twelve centuries hence. Yet that’s just what has happened to the marginalia left by a medieval Englishwoman we know only as Eadburg, who some time in the eighth century committed her name — as well as other symbols and figures — to the pages of a Latin copy of the Acts of the Apostles.

Eadburg did this with such secrecy that only advanced twenty-first century technology has allowed us to see it at all. That the readers in the Middle Ages sometimes jotted in their manuscripts isn’t unheard of.

But unlike most of them, Eadburg seems to have favored a drypoint stylus — i.e., a tool with nothing on it to leave a clear mark — which would have made her writing nearly impossible to notice with the naked eye. To see all of them necessitated the use of a technique called “photometric stereo,” which Oxford University’s Bodleian Library Senior Photographer John Barrett explains in this blog post.

The scanning process collects images that “map the direction and height of the original’s surface, and are processed into renders showing only the relief of the original with the tone and color removed.” Subsequent steps of filtering and enhancement result in a digital reproduction of “the three-dimensional surface of the page,” which, with the proper enhancements, finally allows drypoint inscriptions to be seen. Eadburg’s name, reports the Guardian‘s Donna Ferguson, was found “passionately etched into the margins of the manuscript in five places, while abbreviated forms of the name appear a further ten times.”

Other new discoveries in the manuscript’s pages include “tiny, rough drawings of figures — in one case, of a person with outstretched arms, reaching for another person who is holding up a hand to stop them.” What Eadburg meant by it all remains a matter of active inquiry, but then, so does her very identity. “Charter evidence suggests that a woman called Eadburg was abbess of a female religious community at Minster-in-Thanet, in Kent from at least 733 until her death sometime between 748 and 761,” writes Barrett, but she wasn’t the only Eadburg who could’ve possessed the book. All this contains a lesson for today’s marginalia-makers: if you’re going to sign your name, sign it in full.

via The Guardian

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Medieval Doodler Draws a “Rockstar Lady” in a Manuscript of Boethius’ The Consolation of Philosophy (Circa 1500)

When Medieval Manuscripts Were Recycled & Used to Make the First Printed Books

160,000+ Medieval Manuscripts Online: Where to Find Them

Discover Nüshu, a 19th-Century Chinese Writing System That Only Women Knew How to Write

Ayn Rand Trashes C.S. Lewis in Her Marginalia: He’s an “Abysmal Bastard”

Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities, language, and culture. His projects include the Substack newsletter Books on Cities, the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

Ancient Roman Coins Reveal the Existence of a Forgotten Roman Emperor

Image by Paul Pearson, University College London

You may think you know your Roman emperors, but do you recognize the face on the coin above? His name was Sponsian, or Sponsianus, and he lived in the middle of the third century. Or at least he did according to certain theories: vanishingly little is known about him, and in fact, this very gold piece (above) is the only evidence we have that he ever existed. Given that numismatists have long written the coin off as an eighteenth-century fake, it’s possible that emperor Sponsian could be a wholly apocryphal figure — but it’s become a bit less likely since the coin went under the electron microscope earlier this year.

“Using modern imaging technology, the researchers said they found ‘deep micro-abrasion patterns’ that were ‘typically associated with coins that were in circulation for an extensive period of time,'” writes the New York Times‘ April Rubin.

“In addition, the researchers analyzed earthen deposits, finding what they called evidence that the coin had been buried for a long time before being exhumed.” In the details of their design, they’re also “uncharacteristic” of forgeries created in the eighteenth century. If this Sponsian-headed money is fraudulent, then, it’s at least authentically old, or at least much older than had long been assumed.

You can find the published research paper here, at the site of its journal PLOS ONE. Summarizing findings in the paper, a University College London site notes: “The coin … was among a handful of coins of the same design unearthed in Transylvania, in present-day Romania, in 1713. They have been regarded as fakes since the mid-19th-century, due to their crude, strange design features and jumbled inscriptions.” According to Professor Paul N. Pearson, the lead author of the research paper: “Scientific analysis of these ultra-rare coins rescues the emperor Sponsian from obscurity. Our evidence suggests he ruled Roman Dacia, an isolated gold mining outpost, at a time when the empire was beset by civil wars and the borderlands were overrun by plundering invaders.” Jesper Ericsson, a curator at The Hunterian at the University of Glasgow, adds: “we hope that this [research] encourages further debate about Sponsian as a historical figure” and sparks more research into “coins relating to [Sponsian] held in other museums across Europe.”

Keep tabs on the Sponsianus Wikipedia page to learn more about this long-lost Roman emperor.

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The Ups & Downs of Ancient Rome’s Economy — All 1,900 Years of It — Get Documented by Pollution Traces Found in Greenland’s Ice

How the Ancient Mayans Used Chocolate as Money

Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities, language, and culture. His projects include the Substack newsletter Books on Cities, the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

Meet Honey Lantree, the Trailblazing 1960s Female Drummer

Quick, who’s your favorite female drummer?

Hardly a strange question!

(Yes, you are allowed to pick more than one favorite.)

Things were decidedly different when drummer Honey Lantree, the only female member of the 60s British Invasion group the Honeycombs, took up the sticks.

Drums were not her original instrument. Her boyfriend, employer, and eventual bandmate Martin Murray was giving her a guitar lesson when she asked if she could take a whirl at his kit.

Murray recalled his surprise when she started whaling away like a vet:

She was just a born, natural drummer; she hadn’t played before and just went for it. I was aghast, staring at her, and said, “All right, you’re our new drummer.”

Lantree’s gender helped the Honeycombs secure press.

She snagged a celebrity endorsement for Carlton drums and turned 21 with a cake festooned with marzipan bees, and, more importantly, a #1 single, “Have I the Right.”

Of course, her gender also ensured that most of the coverage would focus on her appearance, with scant, if any mention of her musical talent.

Lantree was not the only member of the Honeycombs to find this galling.

As lead singer Denis D’Ell told the Record Mirror in 1965:

How can it be a gimmick just because we have a girl, Honey, on drums? Honey plays with us purely and simply because she is the right drummer for the job. If she wasn’t any good, she wouldn’t hold down the job.

On tour, we don’t have any troubles by having a girl with us. We just operate as a group. Perhaps it is that the novelty has worn off – we hope that fans soon will forget all about this so-called gimmick.

The following year, he quit, along with lead guitarist Alan Ward and Peter Pye, who had replaced Murray on rhythm guitar. Lantree and her brother, Honeycombs’ bassist John, soldiered on with new personnel until the 1967 death of producer Joe Meek.

Still, for a brief period, the Honeycombs’ recordings, tours, television appearances, and yes, press coverage made Lantree the most famous female drummer in the world.

Admittedly, the field was not particularly crowded. Just challenging in ways that outstripped the disproportionate focus on figures, boyfriends, and beauty tips.

Male fans dragged Lantree offstage during a concert in Cornwall, leading her to remark, “You expect this sort of thing but it’s still terrifying.”

Around the same time, another British band, the all-female Liverbirds, were invited to cross the pond for a coveted gig in Las Vegas…provided they’d play it topless. “Can you imagine me on the drums playing topless,” Sylvia Saunders, who shortly thereafter was forced to choose between the drums and a high risk pregnancy, gasped.

Although she is said to have inspired a number of young female musicians, including Karen Carpenter, Lantree, who died in 2018 at the age of 75, rarely shows up on curated lists of notable female drummers.

In a strange way, that spells progress – there are many more female drummers today than there were in the mid 60s, and mercifully more opportunities for them to be taken seriously as musicians.

via Messy Nessy

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Ayun Halliday is the Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine and author, most recently, of Creative, Not Famous: The Small Potato Manifesto.  Follow her @AyunHalliday.

Open Culture is Now on Post (and Mastodon)

A quick FYI. If you want to follow Open Culture on social media, we would encourage you to find us on Mastodon and now also Post. Right now, Mastodon feels like the early days of Twitter, when the discourse was more edifying and the mood less toxic. Meanwhile, Post is a new service (currently in beta) that hopes to promote learning and civil conversations–something that could be right up our alley. Here’s to new beginnings. Hope to see you there…

P.S. If you have favorite people/accounts to follow on Post or Mastodon, feel free to add them to the comments below.

A List of 1,065 Medieval Dog Names: Nosewise, Garlik, Havegoodday & More

The Rovers, Fidos, and Spots of the world have been regarded since time immemorial as man’s best friends. But they haven’t always been named Rover, Fido, and Spot: early fifteenth-century English dog owners preferred to give their pets names like Nosewise, Garlik, Pretyman, and Gaylarde. Or at least the author of a fifteenth-century English manuscript thought those names suitable for dogs at the time, according to a thread posted just a few days ago by Twitter user WeirdMedieval. Other canine monikers officially endorsed by the author (whose precise identity remains unclear) include Filthe, Salmon, Havegoodday, Hornyball, and Argument, none of which you’re likely to meet in the dog park today.

The complete list of 1,065 dog names is included in David Scott-Macnab’s academic paper The Names of All Manner of Hounds: A Unique Inventory in a Fifteenth-Century Manuscript” (or here on Imgur).

Meant to cover hunting dogs including “running hounds, terriers and greyhounds,” the compilation includes “numerous recognizable proper names, including several from history, mythology and Arthurian romance” like Absolon, Charlemayne, Nero, and Romulus. Some “have the quality of bynames or sobriquets. Some are descriptive, some are simple nouns, and others are compounds of different lexical elements.”

Dog names in the Middle Ages also came from the natural world (Dolfyn, Flowre, Fawkon), human professions (Hosewife, Tynker), and even the nationalities of Europe (Ducheman, German). You can learn more about the variety of pet names back then from this post at King Henry VIII “had a dog named Purkoy, who got its name from the French ‘pourquoi’ because it was very inquisitive.” In Switzerland of 1504, the most popular dog name was Furst (“Prince”). And as for cats, in medieval England they tended to be “known as Gyb — the short form of Gilbert,” while in France “they were called Tibers or Tibert,” named for a character in the Reynard the Fox fables. All of these sounded normal five or six centuries ago, but who among us is daring enough to reintroduce the likes of Synfull, Crampette, and Snacke into the trend-sensitive word of pet ownership in the 2020s?

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Here’s What Ancient Dogs Looked Like: A Forensic Reconstruction of a Dog That Lived 4,500 Years Ago

Cats in Medieval Manuscripts & Paintings

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Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities, language, and culture. His projects include the Substack newsletter Books on Cities, the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

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Open Culture was founded by Dan Colman.