Emile Corsi: The Artist That Never Existed

Apr 22, 2024

By Thanvi Nimmala 
Recently, as I was scrolling through Instagram, I came across an image captioned "Bastet by Emile Corsi, 1877." At first glance, this appears to be a legitimate post displaying the work of a 19th century artist. However, it is in fact a product of generative AI.

I was curious to find how “Emile Corsi” came to be. Was it the name of the AI user? Could it be a persona or a pen-name? With a little searching, I found that the creation of the persona “Emile Corsi” traces to a tumblr account by the name Shuttered Gallery. By scrolling through their account, you can see many images credited to the name Emile Corsi followed by a year in the 19th century.
Despite the circulation of these images among art accounts, it is important to note that Shutter Gallery explicitly states that these images are products of AI generated technology and that the persona of “Emile Corsi” are fabricated. Even in their blog posts, the images are tagged with phrases such as "#fictional artist," "#fictional dates," "#ai generated!!," etc.

The name Emile Corsi is credited to many painterly-styled works that have been reposted on social media. Reposters do not credit the AI user but rather the persona, creating a layer of illusion to this mythical artist. Let’s say there is an individual who actively follows art pages who they believe to be a reliable source of content. They suddenly come across an “Emile Corsi” image presented in the way as traditional paintings.