The Arts

Secrets Hidden in Famous Works of Art

Though recognizable, many famous works of art contain unsolved riddles, secret meanings, and even hidden images covered in the many layers of oil, paint and varnish. Here are some of them.

1. Angel Rudely Gestures to Pope Julius II

On the ceiling of Sistine Chapel, an angel with attitude can be spotted. Pope Julius II was widely disliked because of his aggressive papacy and fight for power. Michelangelo’s also included those who hated him and decided to take a subtle dig at his unpopular patron by painting the prophet Zechariah to look like him and have one of the angels behind make a hand gesture called the fig in his direction.

2. Primavera

Botticelli primavera

The artist widely known for The Birth of Venus had quite the harmony with plants. In his other famous paintings, researchers have managed to recognize over 500 many different plant species which were painted with detailed accuracy to makes them identifiable enough to be recognized.

3. The Arnolfini Portrait

Arnolfini Portrait

That artist Jan van Eyck sneaked himself into his own famous art work the Arnolfini Portrait in a not secret. Van Eyck wrote “Jan van Eyck was here 1434” on the wall behind the two figures. But another less noticeable hidden secret are the other two figures seen in the mirror standing where the viewer presumably would be looking from.

4. Second last supper

There is a strong theory that Van Gogh’s Café Terrace at Night is based on Leonardo da Vinci’s Last Supper. There are a lot of clues pointing to this painting being a more modern version of da Vinci’s famous work. The portrait includes exactly 12 people dining at the café which is surrounding a long haired figure who happens to be standing in front of a cross like shape to the window. And another figure is seen leaving the area which can probably be Judas. Van Gogh was the son of a minister and was very religious and had originally planned to follow his father’s footsteps before pursuing art.

Madame X

Madame X

19th century artist Jon Singer Sargent decided to paint a portrait of Virginie Amelie Avego Gautreau, who was a Parisian socialite and American expatriate. Sargent painted her portrait for the Paris Salon of 1884 in hopes of gaining traction in his career. The painting portrays Gautreau posing suggestively in a black gown with one of the straps having fallen down her right shoulder. People were scandalized by the portrayed sexual nature of a person of such a high society figure which made Sargent repaint her strap to appear securely in place.

5. The Madonna with Saint Giovannino

The Madonna with Saint Giovannino, which was painted by Italian Renaissance artist Domenico Ghirlando, depicts Mary praying over a baby Jesus. And to the right of her head is a recognizable shape of a UFO and a man in the background gazing up on it.

6. The Old Guitarist

Old guitarist chicago

Because money ran low during Picasso’s Blue period, the artist took to reusing what supplies he already owned. The painting, The Old Guitarist, was one of his more scary and iconic pieces made during that time. And it was actually painted over a previous work. At the man’s neck, an obvious outline of a woman’s face and figure is seen.

7. God Rides on a Brain

A scientific secret hides in one of the most famous paintings of all time. It resides on the ceiling of Sistine Chapel by Michelangelo. As God gives Adam the first spark of life, he is seen riding a cloak along with other angels. The cloak is also in the exact same shape of a human brain. Researches have also been able to point out certain parts of the brain like the vertebral artery and pituitary gland.

8. Musical Last Supper

The Last Supper

The details in da Vinci’s Last supper have been studied and theorized for centuries. And one of the more interesting theories is made by Italian musician Giovanni Maria Pala who found that the positions of the breads and the Apostles’ hands form a 40 second musical composition which echoes a requiem.

9. Hidden Sands

The beach scene by artist Hendrick van Anthonissen was hung for over a century in the University of Cambridge’s Fitzwilliam Museum before a student took a closer look at the crowd on its wintertime beach. Removing a yellow coat of varnish during the restoration revealed a beached whale, which was previously painted over probably to make it more marketable.

Those are some of the revealed secrets hidden in famous paintings and some of which are still unsolved.

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