20+ Top Secrets Hidden In Artwork
Fishing out hidden messages in artwork will make you feel like you just cracked a code to an encrypted message. Famous artworks have cryptic messages that haven't been disclosed in half of a thousand years.
Many secrets like a secret musical score, an unknown object in the sky and a well-known composer's eulogy to a secret worldwide organization have been found in different works of art. Below we're going to share with you seven secrets that are concealed in popular artworks. Enjoy!
23. THE SECRET DIAGRAM
Michaelangelo's depiction of The Creation Of Adam is one of the most famous artworks in the world. Angelo depicted the book of Genesis where God breathed life into Adam through the tip of his finger because a painting in which God breathed into Adam's mouth may have been sexually improper for the Sistine Chapel.
In 1990, American physician, Dr. Frank Meshburger discovered something known about the scope of the surface surrounding God. He found out that the painting resembles the side structure of the human brain if you look at the outermost edge of the back of God.
He even completed it, labeling the pituitary gland, vertebral artery, frontal lobe, Sylvian fissure, spinal cord, and the brain stem. For more proof, you need to know that at the tender age of 17, Angelo was an impassioned anatomy student that dissected cadavers from his local church graveyard.
22. EVIDENCE OF ANCIENT ALIENS
"Madonna with Saint Giovannino" painting was made in the 15th century. Even though there is a dispute over the actual person, who made the painting, Italian artist Domenico Ghirlandaio has often been credited with the work. If you observe the painting closely, you will notice how both a man and dog seem to be gazing above at something in the sky. The object which is hanging behind Madonna's head has the appearance as a dark oval structure with light rays being out from all points. Many believe that the structure looks like a UFO.
This would suggest that alien sightings can be dated as far back to the 15th century. However, many are convinced that it is merely a religious portrayal of one of the passages of the Gospel of Luke: "Shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And lo, an angel of the Lord come upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them." It's up to you to decide which one of the two theories work for you.
21. A MESSAGE FOR THE POPE
Michaelangelo made a painting of The Prophet Zechariah which he painted in the Sistine Chapel in 1512 during the term of Pope Julius the second. Everyone didn't exactly love Pope Julius as he was even known as papa terrible. Well, Michaelangelo too wasn't a friend of the Pope, and people believe that his painting of Zechariah has an uncanny resemblance to the Pope.
The resemblance is not even the crux because that seems like he was paying homage to the Pope. The primary issue arises when you see the two children at his back and the way one of them positioned his hand. We're sure the Pope and the Vatican didn't catch a glimpse of it - if not, it wouldn't have been ranked high in the chapel. The thumb that's showing between the middle and index finger is called a fig, and it is not a good symbol.
20. MONALISA'S SECRET
Well, we are aware of how Da Vinci hides music notes in paintings but what else could he be hiding in one of the most famous paintings in the world, The Monalisa? People have been trying to figure out precisely what it is about the Monalisa painting. Some said the way she placed her hands means she was pregnant. Some even said her face being void of facial hair indicates that she was a prostitute.
However, when a doctor carefully assessed the painting, he realized that Monalisa had a tumor in her right eye. Da Vinci must have noticed the tumor, but we don't know if he brought her attention to it. Looking more in-depth, the realization was that there is LV written on top of her right eye and CE written on top of her left eye. On the bridge of the painting is number 72, and at the bottom of the art is the number 149 written obscurely.
Da Vinci's previous attempts at the painting was viewed through layer amplification technology, which is how we found out about the number 149 and that there is an entirely different painting of another woman beneath. Who could that be?! Also, we wonder what all the letters and numbers could represent because Da Vinci is not a man to do things without motive. We do not have an idea yet, but we hope it doesn't take another 500 years to find out.
19. BILL CLINTON'S PORTRAIT
The portrait of Bill Clinton that was painted by Nelson Shanks that graces the walls of Smithsonian Natural Portrait Gallery also has its secrets. The painter made admissions of hiding a clue to a crucial time during Clinton's period of governance. The dark image projected on the mantel of the oval office is from a mannequin which Shanks secretly brought into the oval office during the painting of the backdrop when Bill Clinton wasn't there.
The mannequin was clothed in a blue dress just like the one worn by Monica Lewinsky when she repeatedly helped the president find his lost contact lens times without number. Shanks said that the shadow represents the soiled period of Clinton's time in office. We're so surprised it makes us think which other presidential paintings have secret meanings.
18. THE MYSTERIOUS MUSICAL MAESTRO
This is an artwork featuring the painting of six-year-old Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, a classical composer. This painting is the creation of Pietro Antonio Lorenzoni in 1793. What you didn't know is that this painting shows Mozart as a member of a secret society; the mysterious Freemasons.
Though Mozart was later identified as a member of the 'Freemasons', did this painting mean that he had been a member at a much earlier stage of his life? One hand inside the shirt or the jacket is perceived as a sign of loyalty to the secret society. Though much later in his paintings, we see him put his hand in his pocket, we would be shocked if that picture of the little boy means he had been initiated at such a tender age.
17. AN UNKNOWN WOMAN UNDER "THE PATCH OF GRASS"
"Patch of Grass" is one of the paintings of artist Van Gogh. The painting which was created in 1887 depicts a flamboyant pastoral landscape. However, it was discovered that there was something more to the art. In 2008, Joris Dik from Delft University of Technology, Netherlands and Koen Janssens from the University of Antwerp, Belgium led the team behind the startling revelation of the painting. They discovered the portrait of a countrywoman concealed under the blades of grace. Using advanced X-ray techniques, they were able to recreate the hidden drawing.
Van Gogh had the reputation of painting over his earlier works. According to 'Guardian' experts claimed that a third of his first paintings have concealed framework beneath them. It has been speculated that the portrait is likely one of the strings of heads Van Gogh painted between 1884-85 while he lived in the Dutch village of Nuenen. Perhaps, this woman was from the village; we might never get to know.
16. A SCIENTIFIC DISCOVERY IN "THE STARRY NIGHT"
Here is another one of Van Gogh's paintings. It was painted in June 1889. "The Starry Night" has been considered as one of Van Gogh's most exceptional and recognized works. It has been in the possession of the Museum of Modern Art in New York since 1941. The oil-on-canvas painting portrayed a sunrise view in a model village.
Natalya St. Clair, a science research associate, described how the movement in this portrait gave an inkling to an intensely complex mathematical theory known as 'turbulent flow' many years before scientists found out about it. St. Clair stated:
"In 2004, using the Hubble Space Telescope, scientists saw the eddies of a distant cloud of dust and gas around a star, and it reminded them of Van Gogh's 'Starry Night.' They discovered that there is a distinct pattern of turbulent fluid structures hidden in many of Van Gogh's paintings."
15. A CHEESE INSPIRATION BEHIND "THE PERSISTENCE OF MEMORY"
"The Persistence of Memory" painting created by artist Salvador Dalí in 1931. It is one of his most acknowledged works. In popular culture, due to its descriptive illustration, it has widely received titles, such as "Melting Clocks," "The Soft Watches" or "The Melting Watches." However, there is more to Dalí's work than our mere assumptions. Knowing Dalí as an original surrealist painter, it was postulated that the melting clocks in his paintings are about Albert Einstein's theory of relativity.
Now, we know we were wrong. It has been revealed that the clocks were inspired by gooey Camembert cheese. Also, the artist had once been quoted stating that the clocks "are nothing other than the tender, extravagant and solitary paranoiac-critical Camembert of time and space." In case, you are wondering what Camembert is; it is a soft, creamy, sultry, and a top-ripened cheese from cow milk. Sounds yummy!
14. AN ALLUSION TO FERTILITY IN "THE BIRTH OF VENUS"
"The Birth of Venus" painting is one of the most prominent work of the Italian artist Sandro Botticelli. It is quite uncertain, but the artwork was most likely created in the mid-1480s. Venus is a Roman goddess of love, beauty, desire, sex, fertility, and prosperity. The painting shows the goddess as she arrived at the shore following her birth, standing naked in a huge scallop shell.
The drawing can be found in the Uffizi Gallery in Florence, Italy. Notably, the nudity depicted in this painting was quite revolutionary for the 15th-century era. However, the subtlety illustrated by Botticelli in the drawing is more profound. According to some art historians, they are convinced that the scallop shell depicted in the painting symbolizes female genitalia. This implies that it was an indication of fertility. Who would have thought the shell stood for something as such?!
13. A MUSICAL NOTE IN "THE GARDEN OF EARTHLY DELIGHTS"
The triptych oil painting made by Hieronymus Bosch, the Early Netherlandish was endowed with the modern title -- "The Garden of Earthly Delights." The art made on the oak panel was created between the year 1490 and I510. During this period, Bosch's age was between 40 and 60 years. The painting has been in Madrid since 1939 at the Museo del Prado. Intriguingly, the painting has remarkable allusions within it.
However, one of the most bizarre ones was brought to light in 2014 by a college student named Amelia. If you look closely at the left region of the painting, you will notice a musical composition tattooed over someone's backside. The student was successful in translating the music into modern notation. Now, anyone can listen to the music piece on Tumblr. You deserve a heads up; it is not unexpectedly frightening and disturbing — way to go Bosch.
12. A TENSED "DAVID"
David is a magnificent Renaissance sculpture built in marble between 1501 and 1504. It was made by the Italian artist Michelangelo. The David statue is about 17.0 feet. The facial expression of the statue has been a topic of debate for many. Stanford University launched a Digital Michelangelo project a few years ago. In 2007, they made an amazing discovery. They explained that if you observe the statue from below, as people frequently do, you will notice a confident and peaceful look on David's face.
However, when it is viewed from an elevated angle, David appears to be nervous about facing Goliath in battle. This makes good sense. According to Biblical history, Goliath was a giant who was skilled in combat, and David was a young man who had never participated in any war. David was depicted to be quite confident about fighting Goliath, a battle he eventually won. Nevertheless, just like every human, David was also probably tensed about the battle as opposed to being only unperturbed in the Bible. This would imply that his confidence wasn't entirely born out of certainty but courage. Perhaps Michelangelo saw David in this perspective.
11. LOVE AND MUSIC IN "THE MUSIC LESSON"
Many of Johannes Vermeer's works are laced with hidden symbols of sexuality. One such is "The Music Lesson." The painting has also been referred to as "Woman Seated at a Virginal" or "A Lady at the Virginals with a Gentleman." The painting depicts a lady taking a music lesson from a man. The gentleman's man mouth is moderately agape, which suggests that he is singing to the music the young woman is playing on the instrument.
Furthermore, it appears as if the young woman is looking down at the key of a virginal. A virginal is an instrument affiliated with female purity. However, she is indeed gazing away from it to look at her music instructor. Also, the instrument on the floor could be regarded as a phallic token, and the wine is an aphrodisiac. Too many sexual subtleties for one painting if you ask us.
10. ANOTHER MAN IN "BACCHUS"
Italian Baroque Lord Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio's 1595 oil painting "Bacchus" is one of his most recognized works. The painting portrays a young-looking Bacchus leaning back in elegant style, caressing the drawstring of his slacking draped robe with grapes and vine adorning his hair. Right in front of him is a stone table with a bowl of fruit and in front of him is a bowl of fruit and a flask of red wine. He holds out a goblet containing wine, enticing the observer to join him.
The artwork is presently displayed in the Uffizi Gallery in Florence. With the help of advanced technology known as reflectography, experts were able to discover something mind-blowing about the painting in 2009. The portrait of a man is concealed in the flask of wine in the lower left. Mina Gregori explained to 'Telegraph':
"Caravaggio painted a person in an upright position, with an arm held out towards a canvas on an easel. It appears to be a portrait of himself while he was painting."
9. PROVERBIAL THEMES IN "NETHERLANDISH PROVERBS"
"Netherlandish Proverbs" is also known as "Flemish Proverbs," "The Blue Cloak" or "The Topsy Turvy World" (cool name: we love it). The painting was created in 1559 by Pieter Bruegel, the Elder. This painting is a brilliant and extraordinary piece that shows a scene in which objects, animals, and mostly humans, are used to portray a precise pictorial representation of Dutch-language idioms and proverbs.
It has also been revealed that Bruegel used the painting to detail human folly. It has over 112 discernible proverbs illustrated in it. A couple of them are idioms we are familiar with such as "swimming against the tide," "banging one's head against a brick wall" (circled above), and "armed to the teeth." You can try to find others like: "To be able to tie even the devil to a pillow," "To bell the cat," "To be armed to the teeth," "Shear them but do not skin them" among others. Enjoy the exercise.
8. HORTICULTURAL SCIENCE IN "PRIMAVERA"
Italian Renaissance painter Sandro Botticelli is credited with painting the "Primavera." The painting is also known as "The Allegory of Spring." Even though no exact year has been agreed upon, it is said to be painted between 1477 and 1482. "Primavera" has a reputation for being the most controversial paintings in the world. However, it is also one of the most popular in Western art. The painting is said to have been made for the cousin of Lorenzo the Magnificent -Lorenzo di Pierfrancesco de' Medici. Back then, the Medici was a very prominent family.
The work of art is characterized by lots of metaphorical meanings, and decoding them has proven to be a herculean task. However, it is generally accepted to a certain degree the painting is a commemoration of spring and fertility the season ushers in. It has also been established that the artwork is brimming with horticultural discoveries. Botanists have been able to identify about 200 various species of plants that are well illustrated in "Primavera."
7. A HIDDEN WHALE IN "VIEW OF SCHEVENINGEN SANDS"
If you happen to have viewed this painting about five years ago or more (between 1873 and 2014), you wouldn't have seen this giant whale in it. The painting is exhibited in the Fitzwilliam Museum's gallery of Dutch Golden Age painting. Until recently, the painting made by Hendrick van Anthonissen around the year 1641 — only depicted groups of people converged on a beach in The Hague in the Netherlands. While conservators were cleaning the 17th-century artwork, they found out that a part of the painting had been concealed for a long time.
Notably, when conversator Shan Kuang got rid of a coat of yellow varnish, and the image of the whale appeared. While it is uncertain why that part of the artwork was concealed, Kuang pointed out a couple of reasons why the alteration could have been made. Kuang explained:
"Today, we treat works of art as entities, but in the previous centuries, paintings were often elements of interior design that were adapted to fit certain spaces — or adjusted to suit changing tastes. It's possible that the whale was removed because the presence of a dead animal was considered offensive — or perhaps without the whale, the picture was more marketable."
6. THE SCANDAL OF "MADAME X"
"Madame X" also called "Portrait of Madame X" is the name of this portrait painting done by John Singer Sargent. The model --Virginie Amélie Avegno Gautreau, was a young socialite, and the wife of the Pierre Gauteau, a French banker. According to history, Sargent approached the woman and requested to paint Madame X. The painting depicts a young woman striking a pose in a black satin dress which has jewelled straps. The dress conceals and reveals at the same time. Originally, the jewelled strap of her gown was illustrated falling off her shoulder.
However, the reception of the artwork by people was far from what Sargent had expected. By the time the portrait was unveiled under the title "Portrait de Mme ***" in 1884, people were taken aback and outraged. Sargent was forced to remove the painting from the exhibition and modify it by raising the slipping straps. This way, it made the straps look well fastened to the woman's body. Also, while his effort to maintain the model's anonymity failed, he renamed the painting "Madame X." Eventually, he had to move to London to avoid more humiliation.
5. "THE OLD GUITARIST" IS NOT ALONE
The Old Guitarist is an oil painting made by Pablo Picasso between the late 1903 and the first part of 1904. It portrays an old male musician who is blind, poor in ragged clothes leaning weakly over his guitar while playing music in the streets of Barcelona in Spain. The artwork is presently exhibited at the Art Institute of Chicago as one of Helen Birch Bartlett Memorial Collection. It is widely believed that Pablo Picasso poor living condition and suicide of his friends inspired the painting and some others. This period of Picasso's life about some of his haunting paintings is known as the Blue Period.
In 1998, with the aid of an infrared camera, researchers found out that there is another painting under the portrait, which is that of a woman. It is getting less harder to see the face of the woman right above the elder man's neck because the painting has begun to fade. Altogether, it has been disclosed that three different illustrations are concealed behind the old man.
4. THE SKULL IN "THE AMBASSADORS"
"The Ambassadors" is a 1533 painting created by Hans Holbein the Younger. The was made in the same year Elizabeth I was given birth to. The painting is also known as Jean de Dinteville and Georges de Selve, and they are known to be the names of men in the portrait. It is among a collection at the National Gallery located in London. The painting beautifully contains many precisely placed objects. Objects such as shepherd's dial, universal equinoctial dial, quadrant, polyhedral sundial, torquetum, Peter Apian's arithmetic are found in the painting.
However, what's more, interesting about the artwork is the irregular image at its base. If you look at the image at the base of the painting from left to right, you will notice that it is a skull. The use of anamorphosis by Holbein is a brilliant feat. While no one knows why it was included in the picture, scholars are convinced the skull is meant to be a nudge that death is often close at hand.
3. VAN EYCK IN THE "THE ARNOLFINI PORTRAIT"?
The Arnolfini Portrait can also be referred to as "The Arnolfini Wedding," "The Arnolfini Marriage," "The Portrait of Giovanni Arnolfini and his Wife," among other titles. The painting was made by Jan Van Eyck is an Early Netherlandish painter in 1434. It is widely accepted that the paint shows Giovanni di Nicolao Arnolfini, an Italian merchant and his wife, most likely in their house located in the Flemish city of Bruges. If you swiftly glance at the Jan Van Eyck's painting, it will be hard for you to notice the extra detail in it.
However, if you observe well, you'd spot two people entering the room. Many are convinced that Van Eyck himself is one of the two figures. Also, you'd see a Latin inscription in clear writing on the wall close to the mirror. The writing translates to "Jan van Eyck was here. 1434."
2. JESUS AND HIS 12 DISCIPLES IN "CAFE TERRACE AT NIGHT"
Dutch artist Vincent van Gogh painted "Café Terrace at Night" in 1888. The painting is presently displayed at the Kröller-Müller Museum in Otterlo, Netherlands. When it was first displayed in 1891, the painting was titled "Coffeehouse, in the evening." The painting depicts a picturesque café terrace on a balcony in the French city. Jared Baxter, an expert in Van Gogh work, speculated that it is Gogh's version of "The Last Supper."
A close observation reveals one man with long hair at the center. Coincidentally, the people surrounding the man in the middle are 12 in numbers, and one of them appears to be gliding into the shadows just like Judas. Also, there are small crucifixes concealed all over the painting. Particularly, there is one right above the man in the center. Could all these be attributed to mere coincidence, or is it Gogh's model of "The Last Supper."
1. THE FISH AT THE "THE SUPPER AT EMMAUS"
"The Supper at Emmaus" was painted by Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio in 1601. The artwork is on display at the National Gallery in London. Initially, Ciriaco Mattei, the brother of cardinal Girolamo Mattei endorsed and paid for the painting. The painting portrays the period when the resurrected but unrecognizable Jesus made himself known to two of his disciples in the town of Emmaus and then disappears. The disciples are speculated to be Cleopas and Luke. This was narrated in the Gospel of Luke 24:30-31.
Well, Caravaggio concealed a little detail in this painting. The shadow made by the basket of fruit on the table seems like a fish. This is most likely about how Jesus fed a huge crowd with little fishes. Later on, Caravaggio painted another model of "The Supper at Emmaus" in 1601. It is situated in Brera, Milan. More easter eggs, we hope!
BONUS: THE SECRET OF THE LAST SUPPER
Leonardo Da Vinci was a widely talented man. He was an inventor, architect, scientist, sculptor and most popularly, an artist. But there's one other skill of his that is well hidden from the world but visible through his artwork of the last supper. Guess what it is? Music!
Well, in 2003, Giovanni Mario Pala discovered that if you draw staffs of music across the painting to correlate with the hands of the apostles and loaves of bread, you will find out the melody that has been kept a secret for 500 years. At first, Giovanni failed to understand the music, but when he remembered that Leonardo wrote songs from right to left, it made perfect sense.
We were quite surprised to learn of some of these enormous secrets of old and famous artworks. Tell us which of these artworks you love best. Also, which of the above secrets shocked you the most? Honestly, who had an idea there could be such intricate details in paintings. Well, tell us your thoughts in the comments section and share this article with a friend today.