British comic actor Rowan Atkinson’s two most famous projects have always seemed at odds with each other: Blackadder was that rare, weird thing, the historical period sitcom, catering to the actor’s talent for highbrow references and the relish with which he can attack a nice, protracted bit of wordplay. On the other hand, the title character of Mr. Bean is nearly mute, relying solely on Atkinson’s penchant for physical comedy and his distinctive, rubbery, expressive face to sell the humor of whatever digusting, bizarre, or ridiculous situation the hapless hero has stumbled into now.
At last, though, the two warring sides of the Atkinson persona have been merged, in this set of portraits by caricature artist Rodney Pike, who digitally inserted the actor’s elastic mug into a variety of classical portraits. Works benefiting from the inclusion of Mr. Bean’s trademark dopey smile or look of shocked, uncomprehending horror include Holbein the Younger’s famous “Sir Thomas More,” and William Adolphe Bouguereau’s “Irene.”
These wouldn’t be half as funny if they were exaggerations or caricatures like some of the other work in Pike’s portfolio, but they’re actually quite good approximations of Atkinson’s amazing face, which only makes them all the more giggle-inducing against the staid backdrops.