Apollo Magazine

Sex Education meets art history

The students of Moordale High have been reimagined as a cast of painted saints and sinners

On the left is Caravaggio’s Boy with a Basket of Fruit. On the right is Sex Education’s Otis Milburn (Asa Butterfield)

On the left is Caravaggio’s Boy with a Basket of Fruit (1593–95). On the right is Sex Education’s Otis Milburn (Asa Butterfield)

Introducing Rakewell, Apollo’s wandering eye on the art world. Look out for regular posts taking a rakish perspective on art and museum stories

Among the glut of shows recently released on Netflix is the second series of Sex Education, a delightful if improbable story about Otis, a teenage schoolboy (Asa Butterfield) who dispenses sex and relationship advice to his peers.

The show’s creator Lulu Nunn is clearly a fan of cultural mash-ups: the series is filmed in the Welsh countryside, with a cast of British-accented actors, playing teachers and students at the quintessentially American Moordale High (think varsity jackets, swim teams and bullying by the lockers). No surprise, then, that ­– as the eagle-eyed art dealer Philip Mould pointed out on Twitter – the posters for the new series take a similarly hybrid approach. Cue: Otis as Caravaggio’s Boy with a Basket of Fruit (or, rather, fleshy vegetables).

Your correspondent can’t resist trying to match further Sex Education posters to Old Master paintings – with mixed success. Let Rakewell know if you can do better.

First up: the headmaster’s son Adam Groff and his pet pup Madam – as Rembrandt’s Portrait of a Lady with a Lap Dog (c. 1665)?

The studious Maeve Wiley appears to have taken notes from this portrait of a certain Geronimo Foscarini, Procurator of St Marks, by Jacopo Tintoretto.

The kids of Sex Education are no saints – but Maeve’s best friend Aimee certainly has a beatific air here. Guido Reni’s St James the Great (c. 1636–38), anyone?

And finally, with his flamboyant ways, it’s only fitting that Eric Effiong model his look on the queen of excess – Marie Antoinette as rendered by Vigée Le Brun.

Got a story for Rakewell? Get in touch at rakewell@apollomag.com or via @Rakewelltweets.

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