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‘This is Not a Renaissance Painting, This is a Picture Someone in Poland Took of the Window of a Train from Lviv’

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"This is not a renaissance painting. This is a picture someone in Poland took of the window of a train from Lviv ..."

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On March 9 2022, an Imgur user shared a screenshot of a tweet, which contained a photograph with remarkably artistic qualities:

On March 4 2022, the image only (not with the additional tweeted commentary) was shared to the subreddit r/AccidentalRenaissance with a similar observation:

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Woman sits by the window of a Lviv-bound train. AP from AccidentalRenaissance

In that context, the observation was inherent — a sidebar introduction to r/AccidentalRenaissance explained:

Welcome to /r/AccidentalRenaissance, the subreddit that showcases photographs that inadvertently resemble well-composed, Renaissance style art.

Commenters on the subreddit largely remarked that the photograph so closely resembled a painting that they struggled to view it as a modern photograph:

“Her posture and the tint and graininess from the window make this look indistinguishable from a painting … On a more serious not he expression and body language combined with the little dog are just heartbreaking 🙁 I want to give her a hug[.]”

“I just saw this one in the news and came straight here. I thought it was photoshopped at first.”

“The sad part is this isn’t rennaissance, it’s concurrent real life. Unlike the Mona Lisa this lady is somewhere having the worst time of her life. So many people were touched by this photo, can’t we somehow find this poor lady and her dog and help her re-establish her new life somewhere else? … Old people displaced by war must feel like their life is over, disheartening[.]”

In the title, the original poster indicated that the image originated with an Associated Press (AP) photographer. Our reverse image search demonstrated that the image existed primarily in larger galleries of AP photographs in syndicated content about the invasion of Ukraine.

We located the image in a gallery attached to a March 3 2022 AP piece, “Russia shells Europe’s largest nuclear plant, starting fire.” That iteration featured the image of the woman on a train, and a caption explained:

A woman sits by the window of a Lviv-bound train, in Kyiv, Ukraine, Thursday, March 3, 2022. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s office says a second round of talks with Russia aimed at stopping the fighting that has sent more than 1 million people fleeing over Ukraine’s borders, has begun in neighboring Belarus, but the two sides appeared to have little common ground. (AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda)

One aspect of the tweet was a claim the photograph was “taken in Poland … of the window of a train from Lviv.” An Associated Press gallery featuring Ghirda’s work in Ukraine in early March 2022 contained several similar images of passengers behind windows, all of which were captured at a station in Kyiv with trains departing for Lviv — and its specific caption described a woman sitting “by the window of a Lviv-bound train, in Kyiv, Ukraine.”

One of many viral images of train stations in Ukraine during evacuation efforts involved a woman on a train from Lviv, in a composition which so closely resembled a Renaissance painting it confused users. The image was real, unaltered, and largely described in an accurate fashion. AP photojournalist Vadim Ghirda (“someone”) captured the image in Kyiv on March 3 2022 (a day before it began spreading virally), during evacuation efforts at a train station in Kyiv (not Poland), on a train headed to (not from) Lviv. Nevertheless, the image was authentic and the underlying claim — that it is a contemporary photograph of a woman fleeing a violent and hideously destructive war waged on Ukraine by Russia — is true.