Mysterious Secrets in Famous Paintings

March 31st, 2017

Have you ever wondered why people in art galleries stare at paintings for hours? It’s perhaps because they’re appreciating the brushwork of the creator or they’re trying really hard to comprehend the deeper meaning behind a work. But, it could also be because they’re trying to uncover a secret hidden in the painting. Perhaps a stray symbol caught their eye or the faint trace of a name, or maybe something less covert like the inclusion of an object or the exclusion of it. Art historians have showed us time and again that painters of yore enjoyed infusing their creations with secret signs and meanings. Don’t believe us? Here are 5 famous paintings that are said to contain hidden meanings.

Et In Arcadia Ego by Nicolas Poussin

On first glance, what you see is shepherds hunched around a tomb. The tomb has the words Et In Arcadia Ego, which means, “Even in Arcadia I exist,” inscribed on it. However, British researchers Henry Lincoln, Michael Baigent and Richard Leigh claim that the painting conceals clues that point towards a hidden treasure South of France, where Jesus is believed to have lived with Mary Magdalene!

wikimedia commons

Image courtesy: Wikimedia Commons

The Creation of Adam by Michelangelo

The artist has painted God with his arm outstretched, reaching out to Adam. Adam sits in a languid pose with his arm extended towards the figure in front of him. The tips of their fingers touch and art historians believe that the picture captures God’s attempt to impart divine knowledge to man. However, if you look closely, the cloak that surrounds God resembles a part of the human anatomy we’re all too familiar with – the human brain! Some believe it was the artist’s way of covertly attacking the church for its rejection of science.


Image courtesy: Wikipedia

The Old Guitarist by Pablo Picasso

Picasso’s ‘Blue Period’ i.e. the period during which he created mostly monochromatic paintings in shades of blue and blue-green was also the time during which the artist had to face extreme poverty. Unable to afford new canvasses and paints, he recycled as much of his tools as he could. In this painting, at first glance, one sees an old musician with tattered clothes playing a guitar. However, if you look carefully, you’ll see the outline of a woman’s face because Picasso created this painting over a previous work.


Image courtesy: Wikipedia

public art in chicago

Image courtesy: Public Art in Chicago

The Arnolfini Portrait by Jan van Eyck

The painting captures not just the closeness between husband and wife, but also the artist’s obsession with light. On further inspection, however, one notices some text in the background. The elaborate Latin signature reads “Jan van Eyck was here 1434.” There’s also a mirror in the background that is reflecting the scene unfolding. However, if seen through a magnifying glass, one spies two additional figures. It is believed that the artist painted his own reflection in the mirror! The other figure is supposed to be the reflection of the viewer.

travel leisure

Image courtesy: Travel + Leisure

Madonna with Saint Giovannino by Domenico Ghirlandaio

At first glance one sees the Virgin Mother praying over baby Jesus. But, if you look at the painting carefully, you’ll see a UFO like object floating in the sky in the upper right corner of the painting. Below the object is a figure. He shields his eyes as he gazes up at the object. The belief that life exists beyond Earth was prevalent even in the 1400s!

Historic Mysteries

Image courtesy: Historic Mysteries




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