One of the great things about art is that it is open to interpretations, thus rendering it with different meanings depending on who created the artwork, when it was made, the style used, and how it is perceived. Artworks are usually created to feature a subject or to express an idea. In essence, art is a discovery and development of principles of nature that is meant to boggle our minds or touch our hearts. And there are artworks that are more than what meets the eye.
Several famous paintings that we know today have hidden details or cryptic symbols. According to an article by The Vintage News, a popular history site that contains interesting stories from the past, as well as stories from today about history, famous artists from the past, especially in the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, placed hidden messages within their works of art. Mostly, these messages were moral, political, or religious allegories. Let’s take a look at some of the more famous art pieces.
|The Last Supper / Photo by: Alamy via Best Life Online|
The Last Supper
Created by Leonardo da Vinci, an Italian artist, this painting is probably the famous portrayal of Jesus and his disciples at the Last Supper. In recent years, it became the heart of some popular theories, as portrayed in the 2006 movie adaptation of the book 2003 novel “The Da Vinci Code” by Dan Brown. According to an article by Best Life Online, the digital destination for sophisticated men and women, Brown proposed that the disciple to the right of Jesus is actually Mary Magdalene disguised as John the Apostle. Also, he suggested that the “V” shape formed between Jesus and “John” represents the female womb. This implies that Jesus and Mary Magdalene had a child together.
|Cafe Terrace at Night / Photo by: Janet Lunn via Flickr|
Cafe Terrace at Night
“Cafe Terrace at Night” is one of Vincent van Gogh’s most valuable paintings. The vibrant colors and the artist’s mesmerizing brush strokes are the first things that catch the eye. Van Gogh expert Jared Baxter proposed a theory in 2015 that the artwork is the artist’s own version of “The Last Supper.” If you look closely, you will see one central figure with long hair that’s surrounded by 12 individuals. The person who seems to be slipping into the shadows is believed to be Judas. Also, there are small crucifixes that appear to be hidden throughout the painting.
|Mona Lisa / Photo by: Glen Scarborough via Flickr|
“Mona Lisa” is Da Vinci’s 15th-century masterpiece that is one of the world’s most recognizable artworks. For centuries, the painting has been baffling researchers and art historians. According to an article by Live Science, a science news website that features groundbreaking developments in science, space, technology, health, the environment, our culture, and history, French scientist Pascal Cotte revealed in 2017 that original painting portrays a different woman, who is looking off to the side instead of directly at the artist.
|The Creation of Adam / Photo by: The Vintage News|
The Creation of Adam
Michelangelo’s “The Creation of Adam” is one of the most replicated religious paintings of all time. In the artwork, God, carried by 12 figures, stretches his hand and nearly touches the hand of Adam. At first, the painting shows an allegory of the relationship between man and God. However, if you look closely, the image where God and the 12 figures are placed closely resembles the shape of the human brain. Michelangelo even depicted some of the complex brain parts. This shows that the painter is an expert on human anatomy.
|Botticelli's Primavera / Photo by: The Vintage News|
Botticelli’s painting is not only popular because it is an “elaborate mythological allegory of the burgeoning fertility of the world” but also it contains a lot of hidden symbols and meanings. It is full of characters from Roman mythology and provides an obvious mythical explanation and representation of springtime. However, a lot of experts think the artwork tells a clue to a plot against the Medici family. Aside from that, researchers have discovered as many as 500 different plant species in the painting.
|The detail of the Arnolfini Portrait / Photo by: cea + via Flickr|
The Arnolfini Portrait
Normally, people would see a simple depiction of merchant Giovanni di Nicolao Arnolfini in Jan van Eyck’s 1434 “The Arnolfini Portrait.” However, if you look closely, there are two figures reflected in the mirror in the center of the room. It is widely believed that one of them is Van Eyck himself. The painter’s signature also appears as graffiti on the wall: “Jan van Eyck was here, 1434.”
|The Patch of Grass by Vincent van Gogh / Photo by: Live Science|
Patch of Grass
Just like many struggling painters, Van Gogh often reused his old canvases since he was extremely poor most of his life. It was found out that around 15 percent or more than 20 paintings of the artist’s entire collection covered earlier compositions by the artist. In 2008, scientists from the Netherlands and France revealed an unknown portrait hidden beneath the “Patch of Grass.” Through powerful X-rays, they found hidden layers of paint on the artwork.