Art is not just a source of inspiration but a great mystery too. Artists often add curious little details to their paintings or leave messages that are impossible to notice at first glance.
We have collected painting masterpieces with unexpected secrets. If you get to the end of the article, there’s a bonus waiting for you: one of the strangest hypotheses about the Mona Lisa.
1. The wrong ear
Vincent van Gogh’s Self-Portrait with Bandaged Ear depicts the artist with an injured right ear. In reality, he cut off his left ear. The discrepancy is explained by the fact that van Gogh used a mirror to create the picture of himself.
2. The painting under the painting
If you look closely at The Old Guitarist by Pablo Picasso, you can see a dim female silhouette behind the man’s head. After taking infrared and X-ray images of the painting, researchers from the Art Institute of Chicago discovered a few other shapes hidden underneath. Most likely, the artist didn’t have enough money to buy new canvases and had to paint over old ones.
3. The Night Watch is set at daytime
During the restoration of Rembrandt’s The Shooting Company of Frans Banning Cocq and Willem van Ruytenburch (better known as The Night Watch) in 1947, it was cleaned of a thick layer of soot. After that, it became evident that the scene portrayed in the painting takes place not at night but in daylight.
4. The Sistine Chapel’s anatomical code
An image of the human brain is discernible not only in The Creation of Adam by Michelangelo but also in another fresco of the Sistine Chapel: The Separation of Light and Darkness. Look at God’s neck: if you superimpose it onto a photo of the human brain as seen from below, you’ll get a perfect overlap of the lines.
5. The symbol of strength
The figures of David and Goliath in another fresco of the Sistine Chapel created by Michelangelo form the Hebrew letter gimel, which symbolizes strength in the mystical Kabbalah tradition.
6. Rembrandt’s squint
Margaret Livingstone and Bevil Conway studied Rembrandt’s self-portraits and proved that the painter suffered from stereoblindness. This peculiarity made the painter perceive the world a little differently: he saw reality in 2D instead of 3D. However, it is possible that stereoblindness helped Rembrandt create his immortal masterpieces.
7. Vengeance to lovers
One of the most famous paintings by Gustav Klimt portrays Adele Bloch-Bauer. It was commissioned by her husband, the sugar baron Ferdinand Bloch-Bauer. He found out that Adele and Klimt had an affair and believed that after hundreds of sketches the painter would come to hate his mistress. Routine work really made the feelings between the sitter and the artist cool down.
8. Prediction of the end of the world
The Italian researcher Sabrina Sforza Galitzia proposed an unusual interpretation of Leonardo da Vinci’s Last Supper. She is certain that in his painting the artist left a prediction of the end of the world, which will happen on March 21, 4006. To come to this conclusion, the researcher deciphered the mathematical and astrological code of the painting.
That is not the only mystery of Last Supper. The hands of Christ and the apostles, along with the loaves of bread on the table, form something that could be read as a musical notation. Upon testing, it does sound like a short tune.
9. The world in yellow
Almost all the paintings of Vincent van Gogh feature a dominant yellow. Professor Paul Wolf explains that as a side effect of an epilepsy remedy that changes color perception. The artist’s world could really look the way we see it in his canvases.
10. Mozart and the Masons
There is solid evidence that Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was a Mason. Even in his child portrait by Pietro Antonio Lorenzoni, we can see a Masonic symbol: a hidden hand that indicates a hierarchical rank in the secret society.
Bonus: Toothless Mona Lisa
Dentist and art expert Joseph Borkowski carefully studied Leonardo da Vinci’s painting and claims to have unveiled the secret behind La Gioconda’s smile. He believes that she had lost her front teeth and that influenced her facial expression.