8 Unexpected Mysteries Behind Art Masterpieces That Have Only Recently Been Solved
Almost every well-known piece of art has a mystery behind it, a unique story that we want to reveal. Even the masterpieces that everyone knows about have their own secrets. And we only know about the secret meaning of these paintings, thanks to technology.
We at Bright Side want to invite you on a trip to this amazing world created by artists, to find out about the secrets that these famous paintings are hiding.
The girl in Francisco Goya’s The Clothed Maja is actually naked.
Francisco Goya’s The Clothed Maja and The Nude Maja, 1795, 1800
There are 2 versions of this painting. The first one was The Nude Maja. The painting is famous for being one of the earliest pieces of western art that depicted a woman without clothes, but wasn’t about mythology. But in 1808, the painting was found by the Spanish inquisitions and Goya was charged with being immoral.
The second painting is The Clothed Maja. Both paintings belonged to the minister of Spain, Manuel Godoy, a famous ladies’ man. The thing was that The Nude Maja was hidden under The Clothed Maja so that she could have been seen at any moment using a special mechanism.
Degas decided to replace one portrait of a woman with another.
Edgar Degas’ Portrait of a Woman, 1896
Scientists discovered a hidden portrait by the French artist Edgar Degas. Researchers from Australia used powerful X-ray machines to see the face of a young woman hidden under Portrait of a Woman. They think the woman is Emma Dobigny who is found in other Degas paintings.
It wasn’t Shishkin that drew the bears on Morning in a Pine Forest.
Shishkin’s and Savitsky’s Morning in a Pine Forest, 1889
The famous painting Morning in a Pine Forest was not just done by Shishkin. He spent his entire life drawing nature and he was worried that he wouldn’t draw bears the way he wanted to see them. This is why he asked another artist he knew for help.
Savitsky drew them but when Tretyakov bought this painting, he ordered his name to be removed from the canvas. He thought that everything about the painting (“the idea and the work”) indicated that it was Shishkin who drew it.
These 3 paintings by Da Vinci were supposed to be a triptych.
Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa, 1503, Virgin of the Rocks, 1483, and The Virgin and Child with Saint Anne, 1513
Some art experts believe that Mona Lisa, Virgin of the Rocks, and The Virgin and Child with Saint Anne, are one single painting, drawn in different ways and in different aspects. Also, some people think that the landscape in these 3 paintings is from the Moon, not from the Earth. This was probably because the artist was interested in geology.
The character on Caravaggio’s The Lute Player was believed to be a girl.
Caravaggio’s The Lute Player, 1595, 1596
The Lute Player exists in 3 versions: one of them is in the Hermitage, the other one is in The Metropolitan Museum of Art. And the third, which is a copy of the one in the Hermitage, is in the English estate, Badminton House.
Some experts think that this painting is paired with Caravaggio’s Musicians. The Lute Player was believed to be a woman because of the soft facial features. But recently, researchers agreed that it’s more likely that it is a young man. The artist’s friend Mario Minniti often posed for him, and also the profession of the lute player was only for men in the 16th century.
In one of his paintings, Van Gogh discovered one of the secrets of aerodynamics.
Van Gogh’s The Starry Night, 1889
The Starry Night is believed to be, not only one of the best works from the artist, but also one of the most significant pieces of western art. But it was only recently that experts found out that Van Gogh didn’t just draw a beautiful sky.
Scientists found a distinct turbulent structure amazingly close to a math equation hidden in many of Van Gogh’s works. Somehow, he was able to perceive and portray one of the most complicated concepts nature has ever created (the turbulence concept).
In fluid dynamics, turbulence, or turbulent flow, is fluid motion when a powerful vortex appears which leads to the appearance of smaller vortexes and so on. It is hard to express this phenomenon in math but it can be drawn, which is what we see in the painting.
Alma Tadema’s weird, and slightly scary, painting is just an illustration of a legend.
Lourens Alma Tadema’s The Flood at Bisbos, 1421
This painting is hard to understand, but it actually shows a Dutch legend. At the end of November 1421, there was a flood in the Netherlands. According to different sources, there were from 2 to 10 thousand victims. And there is a legend about this event.
After the flood, people went outside to see if anyone was alive and check how bad the damage was. And they saw a baby crib floating on the water. When the crib was close to the shore, people saw a cat on it that was jumping from one corner of the crib to the other, like crazy. As it turned out, the cat was trying to maintain the balance of the crib, otherwise, it would have overturned. The cat was so good at it, that the sheets of the baby sleeping inside of it were totally dry.
There’s a reason why Repin’s painting only has one naked Cossack on it.
Ilya Repin’s Reply of the Zaporozhian Cossacks, 1891
Artist llya Repin was famous for his meticulous approach to creating paintings. Every single detail in his works, is there for a reason. And he spent 13 years creating Reply of the Zaporozhian Cossacks. You can spend hours looking at this work and discovering all the new details. For example, why is the cossack sitting to the left of the scribe, half-naked?
As it turns out, he is the banker: the card player that deals and keeps all the money of the participants of the game. Look closely: a deck of cards is there right next to them. During those times, these people traditionally took some of their clothes off to show their honesty to others.
Have you ever made any stunning discoveries just by looking at a painting for a long time? Tell us about the interesting art facts that you know!