My first great artist spawned during the same year Sistine's was finished, in 275AD, and I used him as a "culture bomb" (construct a great work) in Medina, to push away Germany's borders and to gain access to their resources.
This hadn't work as well as I had hoped! I had hoped to steal dyes and copper away from Hamburg, but it looks like against a creative leader, this isn't so easy after all. At least I managed to get Nottingham's wines...
You can also see in that screenshot that Medina was busy building the Great Library. Note that I didn't start to build it in Mecca, even if Mecca would finish it a lot faster (and thus with less risk of losing it) than Medina. But the Great Library would produce GPPs for great scientists, plus would automatically install two scientists in your city which in turn would generate even more GPPs for great scientists - and I didn't want to dilute my GPP pool for great artists in Mecca!
The Great Library is shown to be complete in 125 turns, which of course is not true (every other AI would have finished it by then!). But I had just been able to raise the maximum happiness limit of Medina with some resource trades, so I had set the city to emphasize food for some time to let it grow, then micromanaged it to max hammers to build the wonder. Overall, that way the Great Library would be finished faster.
More culture for Medina, and a much-needed boost to my research efforts! Also, a turn before Mecca had completed construction of the National Epic, which boosted its culture output by 100%. As mentioned in my preliminary thoughts, it makes the most sense to put buildings that increase your culture by a percentage value into the city with the highest culture output. That way, you will get the most absolute gain in overall culture out of it. And because Mecca had the Palace and built the most cultural buildings and wonders so far, the National Epic was best placed there.
Of course, the National Epic also generated more great artist points, and my second great artist was born in 760AD. Again, he was used to create a great work in Medina, and this time it was enough to steal the copper resource from Germany.
The culture bomb was still not enough to steal the dyes from Hamburg, but mousing over the tile told me that it was only 56% German now, so it should change ownership soon. Note also in the upper right corner of the shot that Germany had managed to capture the Barbarian city! It's under severe cultural pressure from me, though. To add more cultural pressure on Hamburg, a great scientist which happened to be born in Great Library City constructed an academy in Medina.
I was still very weak on military, basically had only some archers and spears to defend myself. Any AI could have easily attacked me during that time, causing me a lot of trouble. I relied completely upon my good relations to most of the AIs, and even gifted techs and resources from time to time to keep them happy. That worked well apparently, as they didn't attack. And just when one of my cities had the chance to take a small break from building culture, Louis finally agreed to sign an open borders deal with me! So I delayed building military even longer and ordered some Jewish missionaries instead. I did not manage to convert him though, as more pressing need arose soon thereafter, and I had to switch from missionaries to wonders instead. That was the price of having only three cities!
No AI declared war on me, but nevertheless the following time wasn't very successfull. I started to construct the Notre Dame - and lost it to Egypt.
I was about to finish the Hanging Gardens, four turns left only!, then Mao completed it.
I was in the proces of producing the Spiral Minaret with a food deficit to squeeze out even more hammers - and lost it by two turns!
I beelined to Liberalism, mainly because of Free Speech, but also because the first one to discover it will immediately receive a free tech. One turn before I had researched it, Mao discovered it first!
And when I rushed to nationalism for the Taj Mahal next, Egypt constructed it only a couple of turns after knowing the tech, probably with the help of a great engineer. Argh, no golden age for me this game!
I seriously began to doubt if I would be able to win this. Maybe limiting myself to three cities was too hard for my playing skills at the moment? I expected to fall behind in tech sometimes soon with my three cities, especially seeing how large Egypt's empire was, and I had already lost several good wonders. Would I be able to produce enough great artists to compensate for this? The only upside of all that mess was that I now was officially rich, because all my failed attempts at these wonders were converted to gold instead, and so I was able to upgrade all my obsolete units.
At least my Great People Point Generator(tm) in Mecca began to hum along nicely, and more and more great artists were born: Artist #3 in 1090AD, #4 in 1250AD, #5 in 1390AD. All constructed great works in Damascus, which trailed behind culturally. And then, I had finally adopted my optimal combination of civics for my task!
Representation wasn't directly geared towards a cultural victory, but helped tremendously with my research efforts (and the +3 happiness in my 5 largest cities was nice too, especially because I had only three... ). Free Speech boosted my cultural output by 100% across the board, which is a no-brainer if you go for a cultural victory. Caste System allowed me to hire unlimited artists (see below what that meant...), and Mercantilism granted me a free artist in every city. And the +100% birth rate for great people from Pacifism would accelerate my great artist production even more during the next centuries!
France and Germany had made peace in 475AD already, without any cities changing ownership. Then, in 1290AD, Louis had declared war on Frederick again, and had managed to take Munich from him. Now, in 1460AD, they made peace again. Frederick lost yet another city though...
That was the ex barbarian city that had now joined my empire. The problem with this was that my personal variant rules limited me to three cities only, and the option to abandon a city was not in the game (which is a bit unrealistic anyway). So I gifted the city back to Frederick. The funny thing about it was that I had received a free longbow with the city, which I kept of course. Thanks!
Not a hundred years after Louis had made peace with Frederick, he next declared war on Egypt! I was not entirely sure that this would be a wise decision, as Hatshepsut was the tech leader in this game and had a bigger empire than Louis. But in the end, not much happened during the war which was ended 300 years later.
Meanwhile, Damascus completed construction of the Colossus(!) - in 1555AD! I have no idea why no AI ever came around to build this. I discovered Democracy in 1605AD and immediately began to build the Statue of Liberty, eben though Egypt knew the tech for some turns already. But that wonder was just too juicy to ignore! Some serious micromanaging and forest chopping later...
Another three free artists, which together with Sistine's Chapel and Representation meant more culture and science! One drawback though: This wonder produced 2 great merchant points per turn. Well, 2 measly points shouldn't do much when I produced A LOT more great artist points in Mecca, right? RIGHT? I mean, I had installed what, about 10 artists in the city? Had several national and great wonders which all produced great artist points as well, so no problem, right?