Some see Renaissance influences; others, hints of Norman Rockwell. Have you noticed the Benjamin Franklin bust in the background and the clock on the mantle bisecting the frame? The instantly iconic photo of Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi literally standing up to Donald Trump in a contentious cabinet-room meeting about Syria on Wednesday is sparking a great many takes, both about the political dynamics—Pelosi stood out as the lone woman at a table lined with men—and the photo’s artistry. It was snapped and released by an uncredited White House photographer.
Tellingly, the president perceived the photo of a powerful woman asserting herself as somehow incriminating: He tweeted it on Wednesday night with the cantankerous caption: “Nervous Nancy’s unhinged meltdown.” But it was quickly reclaimed as more evidence of the first and only female Speaker’s political courage; Pelosi herself made it her Twitter background photo.
Discourse soon raged about the photo’s composition, lighting, and even its likenesses to The Last Supper. To further examine what will surely go down as a historical Trump-era photo, Vogue asked an art history professor, a museum curator, and two former coeditors of the Tabloid Art History Twitter account for their close reads.