One of the great things about art is that it's always open to interpretation. You can pore over your favorite painting over and over again and still discover a new cryptic symbol or hidden detail.
Some of the most famous artists in the world intentionally put secret messages in their paintings, whether to subvert authority, challenge audiences, or reveal something about themselves. Hundreds of years later, thanks to advancements in technology, many of these secret messages are first being discovered. So read on to learn 25 mind-blowing secrets hidden in the most famous works of art.
If you've readDan Brown'sThe Da Vinci Code, you know that this late 15th-centurymural byLeonardo da Vinci has been the subject of lots of speculation.
Brown proposed that the disciple to the right of Jesus is actually Mary Magdalene disguised as John the Apostle. He also suggests that the "V" shape that forms between Jesus and "John" represents a female womb, which implies that Jesus and Mary Magdalene had a child together.
Art historians, however, are skeptical. Many suggest that John's appearance is feminine simply because that's often how he was depicted. ExpertMario Taddeitold Artnet.com: "Leonardo had to copy the last suppers before him, and John looks like a woman."
But a much more compelling secret message was discovered by Italiancomputer technician Giovanni Maria Pala.He claims that Da Vinci hid musical notes within "The Last Supper" that, when read from left to right, correspond to a 40-second hymn that sounds like a requiem.
"The Creation of Adam"is probably the most famous of the nine biblical panelsMichelangelo paintedon the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. But did you know the scene contained a hidden human brain?
It turns out, Michelangelo was an expert in human anatomy. At 17, he had a somewhat grisly job dissecting corpses from the church graveyard. According toneuroanatomy expertsIan Suk and Rafael Tamargo,the painter placed some carefully concealed illustrations of certain body parts onto the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. And if you look at the shroud surrounding God in "The Creation of Adam," you'll find that it creates an anatomical illustration of the human brain.
Suk and Tamargo believe Michelangelo intended for the brain to represent the idea that God was endowing Adam not only with life, but also human knowledge.
"The Creation of Adam" wasn't the only panel in the Sistine Chapel in which Michelangelo hid anatomical illustrations. According to Suk and Tamargo, in "Separation of Light from Darkness," you can find a depiction of the human spinal cord and brain stem in the center of God's chest leading up to his throat.
At first glance, Vincent van Gogh's 1888 oil painting looks like it's simply what the title describes: a quaint café terrace in a colorful French city. But, in 2015, Van Gogh expert Jared Baxter proposed the theory that the painting is actually the artist's own version of "The Last Supper."
A close study shows one central figure with long hair surrounded by 12 individuals, one of whom seems to be slipping into the shadows like Judas. There are also what appear to be small crucifixes hidden throughout the painting, including one above the Jesus-like central figure.
Some of Michelangelo's work in the Sistine Chapel might have some pretty cheeky hidden secrets. "The Prophet Zechariah," for example, seems like a mural of the eponymous prophet reading a book while two cherubs glance over his shoulder.
But, if you look closely, it appears as if one of the angels is "flipping the fig,"which is when one puts their thumb between their middle and index fingers. Basically, it's the ye olde version of the middle finger.
Rabbi Benjamin Blech of Yeshiva University told ABC News: "This perhaps is the key to understanding Michelangelo's courage, Michelangelo's true feelings about the Pope, and the fact that Michelangelo did not hesitate to present us with messages that might've been offensive."
Da Vinci's 15th-century masterpiece is one of the most recognizable artworks in the world, but there's more to see here than that infamous half-smile.
Firstly, there's some speculation that she's pregnant, given the way her arms are positioned over her belly and the veil around her shoulders, which was often worn by pregnant women during the Italian Renaissance.
But the newest findings are in her eyes. In 2011, Italian researcherSilvano Vinceti claimed that he found letters and numbers microscopically painted onto them. He told the Associated Pressthat the "L" over her right eye likely stands for the artist's name.
But the meanings of the letter "S" he sees in her left eye and the number "72" under the arched bridge in the backdrop are less clear. Vinceti believes the "S" might refer to a woman in the Sforza dynasty that ruled Milan, meaning the woman in the painting may not beLisa Gherardini, as it's long been believed. As for the "72," Vinceti argues that could be due to the numbers' significance in both Christianity and in Judaism. For example, "7" refers to the creation of the world, and the number "2" could refer to the duality of men and women.
When you first look atJan van Eyck's 1434 oil painting, it seems to simply depict the merchantGiovanni di Nicolao Arnolfini and his wife.
But if you look closely at the mirror in the center of the room, you'll see that there are two figures entering the room. It's widely believed that one of them is meant to be Van Eyck himself. You'll also notice that there's a Latin inscription in very elaborate writing on the wall above the mirror, which translates to "Jan van Eyck was here. 1434."
Hans Holbeinthe Younger's 1533 painting, "The Ambassadors," features a rather impressive illusion at its base. If you look at the lopsided image at the bottom of the painting from right to left, it appears to be an anamorphic skull. Scholars believe it's intended to be a reminder that death is always around the corner.
Pablo Picasso's haunting early 1900s depiction of an elderly man cradling a guitar is one of the most revered works of his Blue Period.
However, in 1998,researchers used aninfraredcamera and discovered that there is another painting layered underneath it, which features awoman. Now that the paint is fading, it's become easier to see the woman's face above the old man's neck.
In 1884,John Singer Sargent painted a portrait of wealthy Parisian socialite Virginie Amélie Avegno Gautreau. He originally depictedthe jeweled strap of her gown slipping off her shoulder, but the artwork scandalized upper-class society. Sargent had to repaint the straps, rename the painting to disguise the subject's name, and move to London to avoid further embarrassment.
If you visitedHendrick van Anthonissen's"View of Scheveningen Sands" at the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge, England between 1873 and 2014, you wouldn't have seen that giant beached whale.
That's because it took 140 years for someone to notice that in the artwork, a bunch of people are gathered in a cluster to gaze at nothing. When conservator Shan Kuangremoved a coat of yellow varnish while restoring the 1641 landscape, she revealed a beached whale and solved the mystery.
The specific meaning behind Sandro Botticelli's masterpiece is contested. But it's widely accepted that on some level, the artwork is a celebration of spring and the fertility the season brings.
The painting does have secret delights for horticulture enthusiasts.Botanists have identified at least 200 different species of plants in "Primavera" that are rendered in specific detail.
This1559oilpainting byPieter Bruegel the Elder—which is also known as "The Blue Cloak" or "The Topsy Turvy World"—has at least 112 identifiable proverbs acted out within it. Some of them are idioms that we still use, like "swimming against the tide," "banging one's head against a brick wall" (which is circled above), and "armed to the teeth." Try to see how many you can name and try not to go cross-eyed.
Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio's 1595 painting "Bacchus" is one of his most acclaimed works.
There doesn't seem to be much hidden, but thanks to modern technology calledreflectography, art experts in 2009 were able to discover that the image of a man is actually hidden in the carafe of wine in the bottom left. And it may just be Da Caravaggio himself. "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," expert Mina Gregori toldThe Telegraph.
Much of Johannes Vermeer's work is brimming with secret symbols of sexuality. For example, in "The Music Lesson," it seems as though the woman in the painting is gazing down atthe keys of a virginal, an instrument associated with female purity. But she's actually looking away from it to meet the gaze of her instructor, as you can see in the mirror above her. The wine on the table is also an aphrodisiac, and the stringed instrument on the floor could be seen as a phallic symbol.
This panel on the Sistine Chapel showsDavid defeating the giant Goliath. But Michaelangelo added something pretty cool to this particular scene: David's stance is intentionally in the shape of the Hebrew letter "gimel." This letter tends to refer to reward and punishment, which is perfect for the biblical underdog story.
Italian Renaissance painter Domenico Ghirlandaio'swork "Madonna with Saint Giovannino" gets a lot of attention for the strange item hovering behind Madonna's head. Some believe itlooks like a UFO, which could be an indication of early alien sightings dating back to the 15th century.
Others believethe object is a representation of the Gospel of Luke passage: "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 all depends which side of the alien debate you stand on, we suppose.
Caravaggio hid a fun little Easter egg in his 1601 painting "Supper at Emmaus."The shadow cast by the basket of fruit on the table looks like a fish, which could be an allusion to when Jesus fed the masses with just a few fish.
Georges Seurat'spainting of a woman putting on makeup may look innocent enough, but there's a lot more to explore in this late 19th century work.
Recent X-rays have revealed that the seemingly sweet flower painting in the top left corner of the painting was originally a self-portrait of Seurat, but the story goes that "a friend warned him it looked bizarre."
It's particularly noteworthy since it was later revealed that the woman in the painting was Seurat's 20-year-old mistress Madeleine Knoblochand that self-portrait was the only known one Seurat ever did.
As has long been the case with "Mona Lisa," the facial expression on Michelangelo's "David" has been the subject of debate for many years.
In 2007, however,Stanford University'sDigital Michelangelo Project discovered that if you view this enormous statue from below, as people often do, he appears to have a calm and confident look on his face. But when viewed from a higher vantage point, David seems to be feeling pretty tense about battling Goliath.
Hieronymus Bosch's panel on the perils of worldly temptation has many interesting references within it, but one of the strangest was discovered by a college student in 2014.
In the lower lefthand corner of the work—which was done sometime between the late 15th and early 16th centuries—you can see a musical score tattooed across someone's rear-end. The student translated the music into modern notation, andyou can now listen to it.Spoiler alert: It's fittingly creepy.
The nudity in Botticelli's famous painting was pretty groundbreaking for the late 15th century. But that's not where the artist's boldness ends.
Some art historians believe that the scallop shell that Venus is riding the ocean waves on is actually meant to symbolizefemale genitalia and thereby allude to fertility.
Given what at ingenious surrealist painter Salvador Dalíwas, it's natural to assume that the melting clocks in his 1931 painting "The Persistence of Memory" are an allusion to Albert Einstein's theory of relativity.
But, as it turns out, the clocks were actually inspired by gooey Camembert cheese. He's been quoted as saying that the famous melting clocks "are nothing other than the tender, extravagant and solitary paranoiac-critical Camembert of time and space."
In a 2014 TED Talk,science research associateNatalya St. Clair explained how the movement in Vincent van Gogh's 1889 painting "The Starry Night" hinted at an extremely complicated mathematical concept called turbulent flow decades before scientists discovered it.
"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,'" St. Clair explained. That motivated scientists to study Van Gogh's paintings in detail and when they did, "they discovered that there is a distinct pattern of turbulent fluid structures … hidden in many of Van Gogh's paintings."
Van Gogh's 1887 painting "Patch of Grass" vividly recreates a dynamic pastoral scene, but that's not all.
In 2008, Dutch scientists Joris Dik and Koen Janssens pioneered anX-ray techniquethat helped them discover a hidden portrait of a peasant woman buried under the blades of grass.Van Goghwas known to paint over his earlier works—and according to The Guardian,experts estimate that about a third of his initial pieces have hidden compositions concealed beneath them.
To discover more amazing secrets about living your best life, click here to follow us on Instagram!
The most valuable painting in history must surely be the Mona Lisa by Leonardo da Vinci. Although it is considered priceless, we can determine some numerical value by looking at the insurance value of the painting. In 1962 the masterpiece was assessed at a value of $100 million.What are 7 ways artists get ideas? ›
- 1.) Other artworks. Pablo Picasso once said, “Good artists copy, great artists steal. ...
- 2.) Music, film, and literature. ...
- 3.) Your life experiences. ...
- 4.) The world around you. ...
- 5.) Your old ideas. ...
- BONUS IDEA! Take a break or make a little every day.
Guinness World Records lists Leonardo da Vinci's Mona Lisa as having the highest ever insurance value for a painting. On permanent display at the Louvre in Paris, the Mona Lisa was assessed at US$100 million on December 14, 1962. Taking inflation into account, the 1962 value would be around US$900 million in 2021.What is the most expensive paint? ›
Salvator Mundi by Leonardo da Vinci
Originally estimated at $ 100 million, this oil painting costing around 1500 and auctioned by Christie's in November 2017 broke an absolute record: $ 450.3 million.
Mona Lisa, Paris
It is no surprise that the number one painting on our list is the famous Mona Lisa. The enigmatic painting of the smiling woman painted by the greatest Leonardo da Vinci dates back to 1503 to 15019.
1. The Mona Lisa – 10 million per year. Unsurprisingly, the most visited painting in the world is also the most famous portrait ever painted – the Mona Lisa. Created by Leonardo da Vinci at the start of the 16th century, it's valued at well over $660 million.What is the #1 most famous painting in the world? ›
Mona Lisa (da Vinci)
Widely considered to be the most famous painting in the world, the Mona Lisa has delighted onlookers ever since it was painted in the early 1500s by Leonardo da Vinci. The painting is named for Lisa del Giocondo, a member of a wealthy family of Florence.
Leonardo da Vinci, probably the most important Renaissance artist, is widely recognized as the most famous artist of all time. He's the genius behind the iconic Mona Lisa painting masterpiece, after all.What type of art is most popular? ›
But the most popular ones are painting, sculpture, photography, prints, and works on paper. The Contemporary Art Market Report recorded in 2020 that currently the most used mediums were painting at 65% and sculpture at 16%.What are 5 things an artist needs to be successful? ›
- Improve and/or perfect skills.
- Learn new skills.
- Finish individual pieces of art.
- Build an exceptional body of work.
- Build a successful art career.
- Sustain an art career.
The best way to get inspiration for art is to look at other art! Frequent museums and galleries, pack your social media feeds with artists, and fill your home with art books. Take the time to study pieces and notice what about them inspires you.How do I find creative ideas? ›
- Generate as many ideas as possible. The first way to beat a creative block and generate new ideas is to generate as many good ideas as possible. ...
- Pay attention to your needs. ...
- Keep track of your ideas. ...
- Observe the world around you. ...
- Break your routine. ...
- Doodle. ...
- Don't be afraid of trial and error. ...
- Seek new experiences.
Since most abstract artwork doesn't have a recognizable subject or relate to anything external, individual viewers can interpret an abstract painting for themselves. So it makes sense that abstract paintings are always top sellers.
The most costly thing in the world is actually a substance called antimatter. The price of one gram is a staggering $62.5 trillion. Its scarcity and difficulty in production account for its exorbitant price. Antimatter is currently too expensive for practical use, but its potential is limitless.Can I buy the Mona Lisa? ›
Truly priceless, the painting cannot be bought or sold according to French heritage law. As part of the Louvre collection, "Mona Lisa" belongs to the public, and by popular agreement, their hearts belong to her.What's the most expensive car? ›
- Rolls-Royce Boat Tail.
- Bugatti La Voiture Noire.
- Bugatti Centodieci.
- Bugatti Divo.
- Bugatti Bolide.
- Pagani Huayra Roadster BC.
- Bugatti Chiron Super Sport 300+
- Bugatti Chiron Pur Sport.
Supply and demand still play a role. Demand still exists and, even though the artist is still alive, he or she can only produce so much art. It often takes lots of time to produce a single piece of artwork. This leads to another factor that affects the price of art: each piece of art is unique.What is the most expensive food in the world? ›
Iranian Beluga caviar is officially the world's most expensive – a kilo will set you back 20,000 pounds. If you're up for a splurge, a 30g tin from The Truffle Man costs a whopping $157.
Gerhard Richter is at the very top of our list – the most famous living painter today. Born in 1932 in Dresden, Germany, Richter currently lives and works in Cologne, Germany. Richter dedicated his career to exploring the medium of painting in close relation to the effects of photography.What is the masterpiece of art? ›
In modern use, a masterpiece is a creation in any area of the arts that has been given much critical praise, especially one that is considered the greatest work of a person's career or to a work of outstanding creativity, skill, profundity, or workmanship.
Da Vinci's Mona Lisa
The Mona Lisa out of all the copies of paintings by famous artists that we get asked to paint by far exceeds all others.
- Leonardo da Vinci Master Draftsman, by Carmen C. Bambach (Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, New York)
- Leonardo da Vinci: The Complete Paintings and Drawings, by Frank Zollner and Johannes Nathan (Taschen, Cologne, Germany)
Archaeologists believe they have discovered the world's oldest-known representational artwork: three wild pigs painted deep in a limestone cave on the Indonesian island of Sulawesi at least 45,500 years ago.Where is the most famous painting in the world? ›
Mona Lisa (The Louvre, Paris)
Inarguably the most famous painting to have ever been created in the Western World, the Mona Lisa was painted by Leonardo da Vinci between 1503 and 1506. He finished working on it in 1519. The painting is displayed in Louvre museum of Paris.
There are countless forms of art. When it comes to visual arts, there are generally 3 types: decorative, commercial, and fine art. The broader definition of “the arts” covers everything from painting through theatre, music, architecture, and more.What's the importance of art to life? ›
Art helps you process your emotions and understand your surroundings. It allows you to see life from a different perspective and it makes you feel alive. Art has always been an important part of human society since the beginning of time. Art has been used as a tool for cultural exchange, education, and expression.Who is the biggest artist in the world 2022? ›
Justin Bieber takes the top spot, with millions of followers across socials and billions of plays on streaming services. The most popular female artist currently goes to Taylor Swift, while BTS are unsurprisingly the most popular band. Any surprises here amongst the most popular artists in 2022?Who is the first artist? ›
More than 65,000 years ago, a Neanderthal reached out and made strokes in red ochre on the wall of a cave, and in doing so, became the first known artist on Earth, scientists claim. The discovery overturns the widely-held belief that modern humans are the only species to have expressed themselves through works of art.What kind of art is trending in 2022? ›
The company's findings show that the most popular art styles in 2022 are expected to be abstract (54%), followed by contemporary (48%) and modern (42%) while 48% of designers indicating they anticipate an increase in use of sculpture.What is today's art called? ›
Strictly speaking, the term "contemporary art" refers to art made and produced by artists living today. Today's artists work in and respond to a global environment that is culturally diverse, technologically advancing, and multifaceted.
R.A.R.E Art — a marketplace for limited-edition digital art, secured by the blockchain.How much is the Mona Lisa worth today? ›
Today, in 2021, the Mona Lisa is believed to be worth more than $ 867 million, taking into account inflation. Leonardo Da Vinci painted the Mona Lisa between 1503 and 1506 AD.How expensive is the Mona Lisa? ›
Mona Lisa's Record Valuation
In 1962, The Mona Lisa received a valuation of $100m. If you account for inflation, she's worth over $834m in today's money.
It was acquired by King Francis I of France and is now the property of the French Republic. It has been on permanent display at the Louvre in Paris since 1797.What can I do with my digital art? ›
- Digital art NFTs.
- Making Fonts.
- Live stream your work on Twitch.
Compared to traditional art, the most significant advantage of digital art is its convenience: digital art is easy to carry, easy to publish and share, easy to be printed in many places, and most importantly, easy to be corrected.Can I buy the Mona Lisa? ›
Truly priceless, the painting cannot be bought or sold according to French heritage law. As part of the Louvre collection, "Mona Lisa" belongs to the public, and by popular agreement, their hearts belong to her.Has anyone tried to steal the Mona Lisa? ›
1911: The Mona Lisa is stolen
Part of the reason the Mona Lisa is known worldwide is because of its theft in 1911 by the Italian handyman Vincenzo Peruggia.
Indeed, the Mona Lisa is a very realistic portrait. The subject's softly sculptural face shows Leonardo's skillful handling of sfumato, an artistic technique that uses subtle gradations of light and shadow to model form, and shows his understanding of the skull beneath the skin.How can I see Mona Lisa? ›
The Mona Lisa is located inside the Louvre Museum in Paris, France. Because of its high value and its global popularity, it is on display inside the biggest room of the museum, the Salle des États. You can find this room on level 1 of the Denon Wing.
It has been in the permanent collection of the Museum of Modern Art in New York City since 1941, acquired through the Lillie P. Bliss Bequest. Widely regarded as Van Gogh's magnum opus, The Starry Night is one of the most recognizable paintings in Western art.