10 HIDDEN DETAIL YOU MISSED IN FAMOUS PAINTINGS

10. “Mona Lisa by Leonardo da Vinci”
Artists, critics and even scientists have studied this portrait’s famous smile for centuries and the more it is studied the more hidden secrets and details are revealed. Painted by Da Vinci in the 16th century even the subject of the painting has been debated. Is it Lisa Gerhardini the wife of an Italian aristocrat? Is it an obscure self-portrait of Da Vinci himself? But some of the biggest mysteries involve what is hidden in the brushstrokes. Recently, Italian scholars announced that the artist and inventor left microscopic inscriptions within the painting. On a bridge behind Mona, there is what the scholars believe is either the letter L followed by the number two or the number seventy-two.

If you zoom in on her left eye you can see what looks like either the letter B or the letters C and E. In the right eye, even more distinguishable are the letters L and V. The most confounding writing lies behind the painting where the numbers 149 followed by a smudge where a fourth letter may have been placed. The scholars reason that this most likely was the year Da Vinci painted the piece but that could place it as being created almost a decade before most art historians currently believe--somewhere between 1503 and 1517. What do these numbers and letters mean? Are they a secret code? Was Da Vinci using some sort of paint-by-numbers kit? Or are they just scribbles and initials?



9. “El Autobus by Frida Kahlo”
Mexico’s most renowned matron of masterpieces, Frida Kahlo, was known for her surreal and self-deprecating style of art but no piece has a more striking hidden meaning than that of her 1929 piece, known in English as The Bus. On first viewing it appears as a picture of an ordinary bus-stop, seated are representations of each class of Mexican society: a housewife, a man of the working class, a Native-Mexican and children, a white-collar businessman and a beautiful young woman clad in pink. But when considering Kahlo’s backstory the painting becomes a much darker affair.

Four years before she painted this piece, at the age of 18, Kahlo was involved in a life-altering traffic accident when the bus she was riding on crashed into a trolley. She would survive but was permanently damaged from a handrail that penetrated her pelvic bone leaving her unable to bear children and cause her to live in pain the rest of her life. Traumatized by the event, it would become the basis for a bulk of her work and El Autobus is no different. It depicts the scene just before Kahlo, the lady in pink, gets on the bus headed towards fate.

8. “La Primavera by Botticelli”
Painting in the early Italian Renaissance, Sandro Boticelli was known as sort of a renegade. He brought a slightly less-realistic approach to his painting then other contemporaries of his time, often painting scenes out of mythology and dismissing anatomical precision for a more dream-like style. His most mysterious work is that of La Primavera, with an unknown origin and debatable subject matter (most say it has something to do with the Roman goddess Venus welcoming Spring), it’s what’s in the details that is so astonishing. Around the goddess and women in the painting, Botticelli painted an extremely ornate garden full of over two-hundred plant and flower species and around five-hundred individual plants making them up. Historians aren’t sure whether the plants are products of Botticelli’s imagination or actual plants that grew around his home of Florence but the accuracy in minutia is staggering. Some scholars say that the true subject of the painting is not the alleged goddess but the plants themselves.

7. “The Madonna with Saint Giovannino by Demonico Ghirlandaio”
If you are familiar with the theories of Ancient Alien theorists and UFOlogists then you might recognize this one. Ghirlandaio was one the many great artists hailing from Florence during the Italian Renaissance and like his contemporaries some of his best works were those depicting scenes from the Bible. The Madonna with Saint Giovannino depicts an infant Jesus being embraced by John the Baptist while The Virgin Mary looks over them in prayer. So what could be controversial about that? Well, besides the fact that there is still dispute over who truly painted the piece, there is a small detail in the artwork that has puzzled those who look upon it and sparked conspiracy.

If you look up and to the right over Mary’s shoulder you can see an object that may be from out of this world and definitely shouldn’t have existed at the time of Christ’s birth. What looks like a glowing grey or metallic object hovering innocently over the horizon has many convinced that Ghirlandaio painted a flying saucer into his nativity scene. Why he would do such a thing? Maybe he had to get an ancient secret off his chest or maybe it’s just a meteor. But why paint a meteor? We’ll leave it for you to decide.

6. “Cafe Terrace at Night by Vincent Van Gogh”
The Dutch impressionist master of the late 1800s, you might best know Van Gogh for his work Starry Night or his depression induced self-amputation of his ear, but Van Gogh painted hundred of amazing works in his short life and one of his most revered is Cafe Terrace at Night. It seems to portray and ordinary French bistro on cobbled streets at night. But as recent theories suggest that may not be the half of it--It may depict a modern interpretation of The Last Supper.

If one squints and peers into the cafe you can see that there are twelve people eating closely together around the tables. In the middle of them you can see a man in a white robe standing with the full attention of the twelve patrons. Not only that, there are several crosses Van Gogh seemed to have painted as Easter Eggs leading to the painting’s true meaning. Apparently, Van Gogh was a zealous Christian when growing up and though not as spiritual in his adult life, he may have clung to the foundations of his Christian upbringing and expressed it through his work.



5. “The Sistine Chapel by Michelangelo”
As far as mysterious messages in his work the Italian Renaissance artist extraordinaire Michelangelo is rivaled only by that of Da Vinci. So it’s not a surprise that his most elaborate piece, the ceiling of Vatican’s Sistine Chapel, is full of metaphor and Michelangelo’s personal expression. One of the main details that many art historians focus on when  studying the ceiling are his insanely accurate depictions of human anatomy. Michelangelo, beyond being an artistic Jack-of-all-trades was also an avid anatomist. At the time of the painting, the Catholic Church was not yet hip to the importance of science in everyday-life, still participating in the hassling of those who practiced it.

It is thought that Michelangelo likely to it to heart and in order to subtly subvert the Church peppered his art with symbolism in the name of science. Though the Sistine Chapel has several of these references the most astounding is that of the section called The Creation of Adam in which god is carried by angels to touch the finger of his newly created man. But the secret lies in the cloth that encompasses God and the angels--It is shaped like half of the human brain! In fact, scientists and artists have taken the painting and completed the brain and found that Michelangelo’s was anatomically accurate, right down to the vertebral artery, which is signified by a piece of green cloth that weaves through the angels.

4. “Bacchus by Caravaggio”
Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio was one of the godfathers of Baroque painting, he worked with an exceptional understanding of lighting and an astounding precision when it came to presenting the physical world. His work Bacchus which depicts the fun-loving Roman god of wine and the harvest. However, that’s not all that Caravaggio painted in the piece--In 1922, when it came time for the canvas to be cleaned, the restorer found that after wiping off hundreds of year of gunk and dust that Caravaggio had hidden a tiny self-portrait of himself inside the god’s bottle of wine. Though the restoration inevitably resulted in the slow fading and eventual complete disappearance of the image, the miniature scene of Carvaggio working at his easel can still be viewed using computer imaging. The remaining question is: what is he painting inside the wine bottle? Is it Bacchus? Or maybe another self-portrait?

3. “Man Writing a Letter & Woman Reading a Letter by Gabriel Metsu”
One of many great painters of the Dutch Golden Age--Gabriel Metsu, was a master of many techniques and like many of his Dutch contemporaries had an affinity for painting scenes that contained subtle messages or hints towards context. One of the practices that are commonly seen is that of a painting inside the painting. Man Writing a Letter and Woman Reading a Letter are companion pieces--In Man Writing a Letter Metsu portrays a young man seated at a table quill in hand writing a letter. In Woman Reading a Letter a woman, you guessed it, is reading a letter. They seem like generally normal events--But! Each of these paintings show another painting in the background and that’s where the real story lies. In Man, the painting on the wall is that of a blustery autumn day and in Woman, another maiden is lifting a curtain to reveal the ominous image of a ship during a storm. Critics debate on the story but a common theory is that the two are in a long-distance relationship and that the inner paintings represent their worries or the hardships to come.

2. “The Tempest”
Giorgione, Italian painter of the High Renaissance was known for his dramatic and thought provoking works which usually portrayed events in Roman mythology or Christianity. But in one of his most critically acclaimed and thought-provoking pieces entitled The Tempest the subject matter is unclear. It has been debated that it portrays everything from Jesus, Mary and Joseph; Adam, Eve and Cain; to varying stories of Greek or Roman legend. It is also considered one of the first landscape paintings ever made in the Western hemisphere. In this piece, it is not just one detail that is hidden from view, but more the great complexity that Giorgione put into it without being too specific as to clue us in on the true meaning. The painting has such perplexed and provoked those who view it that some say the soul of Giorgione, who passed away in his thirties, dwells within it.

1. “The Last Supper by Leonardo Da Vinci”
We end and begin our countdown with the enigmatic genius: Leonardo Da Vinci. Da Vinci’s iconic painting The Last Supper has inspired conspiracy after conspiracy, enough to warrant several books both fiction and non. There has been debate over the symbolic nature of the food to theories that it holds the secret to a cover-up by the Catholic Church of Jesus’ true identity, but probably the most fascinating hidden message was found in 2007 by Giovanni Mara Pala, an italian musician. He contends that Da Vinci had hidden a song within the painting!

In 2003, Mara Pala began investigating a myth he heard from researchers that Da Vinci had incorporated a series of musical notes into his portrayal of Jesus’ last meal. He discovered that by charting out the lines of the musical staff and reading from right to left (which was the way Da Vinci had) that the hands of Jesus and his Apostles, as well as the the bread placed along the table, reveal a short requiem-like hymn. His theory has since been backed up by several Da Vinci experts. They reason that Da Vinci as well as being an incredible inventor and visual artist was an adept musician and composer, so it’s very possible that the song is not just a coincidence.

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