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Questions from the Met > 'Hidden' Details

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message 1: by Heather, Moderator (new)

Heather | 8385 comments Have you every gazed intently at a work of art and discovered "hidden" details?

I have! The very first painting that comes to mind is The Garden of Earthly Delights by Hieronymus Bosch because there is so much to look at! And of that which there is to see, it is different, too. Not what you would expect so the eye gazes intently, not just a casual passing over the painting.

Are there other artworks that you have found hidden details in? Oh, also M.C. Escher, some of his have some interesting 'twists'...

Feel free to share examples of some art you have found that has had some sort of hidden detail. Also, what about hidden meaning? Like the infamous The Ambassadors?


message 2: by Connie (last edited Sep 02, 2019 12:08PM) (new)

Connie G (connie_g) | 368 comments I've always liked Dali's "Apparition of face and fruit dish on a beach". In addition to the face and the dish, there is also a dog that first looks like rocks. I've noticed that the docents at the museum always bring their school groups to view it to pick out all the details.

I can't post photos, but this is the website for the painting at the Wadsworth Atheneum:

message 3: by Ruth (new)

Ruth | 1905 comments I don’t think one can ever stop discovering stuff in Bosch’s Garden. And a lot of Breughels.

message 4: by Heather, Moderator (new)

Heather | 8385 comments I’m glad you posted that link, Connie, because I can’t see pictures that are posted to the group from my phone but I can go to different web pages.
And this page you posted also gives the viewer a chance to zoom in on the painting. I discovered many other hidden things I never noticed in the painting before! Good example!

message 5: by Heather, Moderator (new)

Heather | 8385 comments Connie wrote: "I've always liked Dali's "Apparition of face and fruit dish on a beach". In addition to the face and the dish, there is also a dog that first looks like rocks. I've noticed that the docents at the ..."

I looked at that painting again on my PC and really scoured it. There are so many hidden 'people' in it! I found 10 images of bodies. They are really people! I had no idea, and I want to keep staring at it to find more that I've missed. Now I really want to see it in person!

message 6: by Heather, Moderator (new)

Heather | 8385 comments

There is a brain in ‘The Creation of Adam’

It is traditionally thought that his Creation of Adam recalls the Biblical episode in which God breathes life into Adam. But a human brain cleverly hidden in the picture adds an extra dimension to interpretations of his work.

The brain is concealed in the image of God and went unnoticed until 1990 when American physician Frank Meshberger described his realization in the Journal of the American Medical Association. He saw a splendid illustration of the brain’s anatomy.

On closer inspection, the Sylvian fissure that separates the brain’s frontal lobe from both the parietal and temporal lobes can be recognized. “It is represented by a bunching up of the cape by one of the angels and by a fold in God’s tunic,” writes Psychology Today.

Different areas of the brain are represented by those otherworldly, divine figures surrounding God, altogether composing an entirely brain-looking realm of the panel picture indeed.

message 7: by Heather, Moderator (last edited Sep 07, 2019 04:33AM) (new)

Heather | 8385 comments There is more than one brain in the Sistine Chapel

Among the last pieces which Michelangelo did for the Sistine Chapel project was his take on ‘God Dividing Light from Darkness.’

Michelangelo normally portrayed bodies to perfection, however, in this panel God appears to wear an anatomical anomaly around his neck.

It has been proposed that Michelangelo added a concealed image of a brain stem, with both eyes and the optic nerve.

The detail can be spotted by superimposing the original Michelangelo with an image of the human brain photographed from below.

The idea is that the two images show how Michelangelo’s anatomical oddity on God looks the same as the image of the brain.

The robe that God is wearing is also found to have a strange roll that could further represent the human spinal cord, according to Scientific American.

uk and Tamargo proposed that there are three concealed neuroanatomical images in the Separation of Light from Darkness, the first panel in the Genesis series. photo by Nus1937 CC BY-SA 3.0

So, what could possibly be the hidden message here, if Michelangelo ever intended one? Perhaps ‘God Dividing Light from Darkness’ was the artist’s response to the ongoing friction between religion and science that was omnipresent at the time.

message 8: by Heather, Moderator (new)

Heather | 8385 comments Flying saucers on 15th-century paintings?

Another painting, called ‘Madonna with Saint Giovannino’ and attributed to another Florentine, Domenico Ghirlandaio, might reveal nothing unusual at first sight.

But a closer look at the painting reveals a large speck looming in the sky, to the left of the image’s central figure.

The painting, which was produced in between 1449 and 1494, today is said to lure crowds to the Palazzo Vecchio in Florence, precisely to see this weird speck.

For conspiracy theorists, it’s more than a speck. It reminds them of a flying saucer. And there is more: a man in the background seems to be observing the mysterious-looking object that emits radiant rays of light. A dog next to him is apparently hostile to the intruder.

The Madonna’s posture is also “purposefully” turning her back to the hovering object, shielding the children from any harm that might come from it.

Her halo also seems somewhat obscured, possibly by the UFO.

However, the UFO speck may be dismissed as just another stellar object. The Nativity star shines brightly just on the left upper corner of this beautiful painting.

message 9: by Heather, Moderator (new)

Heather | 8385 comments Hidden images and harmonious music in ‘The Last Supper’

The halo used to designate the status of someone as sacred proves to be problematic in other Renaissance paintings.

In fact, in Da Vinci’s ‘Last Supper,’ which depicts Jesus having his last meal in the company of the 12 Apostles and just before he is betrayed, there is a total absence of halos.

In earlier renderings of this scene from before the 15th century, the halo is present almost everywhere. Da Vinci sort of downplayed the convention of how the Biblical characters should be represented. Perhaps he wanted to show all of them, Jesus included, as mere mortals.

But the halo question is not the most intriguing one that revolves around this mural painting that was produced from 1494 to 1494 in Milan’s Church of Santa Maria Delle Grazie.

A more interesting claim is that the painting features a hidden image of a woman holding a child. The Dan-Brown-oriented suggestion was made in 2007 by Italian scholar Slavisa Pesci.

The hidden figures show up only when Da Vinci’s painting is superimposed with its mirror image. The two images need to be further adjusted for their translucency so that the figures appear before the spectator.

Many were fast to assert the figure was that of Mary Magdalene, but more acclaimed critics received the news with reserve as they deemed the double-image too blurry to be conclusive.

Besides the woman, a goblet also emerges with the help of the mirror image. It appears in front of the portrayal of Jesus and might stand for the blessing of the bread and wine that is laid for the supper. Two of the disciples at the table transform simultaneously into knights.

Others have linked the painting with music, finding harmonies in the way the food is placed on the table and the how the hands of the characters are positioned. Italian musician and computer technician Giovanni Maria Pala has proposed there is an entire 40-second-long composition left in the painting to accompany the scene.
Pala has said the composition “sounds like a requiem,” and that it is “like a soundtrack that emphasized the passion of Jesus,” according to Live Science.

Musicians are instructed to read the hidden musical signs from right to left and use a pipe organ if they want to hear the best results.

message 10: by Heather, Moderator (new)

Heather | 8385 comments Mona Lisa’s eyes are full of letters and numbers

Debates regarding the Mona Lisa demonstrate that secretive codes are not limited only to paintings that feature Biblical figures.

The most famous of Leonardo Da Vinci’s works has been closely examined for cryptic messages left there on purpose.

In 2010, Italian researcher Silvano Vinceti reported that he saw more than an enigmatic smile when he zoomed in on hi-resolution photographs of the Mona Lisa.

Alphabetical symbols and numbers, specifically the letters LV, appear to be embedded in the woman’s right eye, perhaps the initials of Da Vinci’s own name. The symbols contained in the left eye were allegedly more difficult to pin down, but Vinceti spotted either the letters CE or just the letter B.

Scrutinizing the background, he found more numbers and letters. These include the number 72, or alternatively L2, and on the back of the painting, the number 149_, with a blurred fourth symbol. One explanation for 149 is that Da Vinci worked on this portrait in Milan during the 1490s, albeit it’s generally agreed the portrait was created between 1503 and 1506.

Not everyone is enthusiastic about Vinceti’s efforts, who also wants to exhume the remains of the great painter from his grave in in Amboise, France.

“The ‘discovery’ of initials in Mona Lisa’s eyes” is just a “crackpot idea,” Stephen Bayley writes in the Telegraph. He also refers to Vinceti as “a rather sensationalist television presenter.”
Mona Lisa: Hidden Secrets You Never Noticed

message 11: by Heather, Moderator (new)

Heather | 8385 comments Portrait of the Devil? Hidden Image in Vosper’s Famous Painting “Salem”
by Larissa Harris

Vosper’s 1908 watercolor ‘Salem’ is one of the most recognized images of traditional Welsh costume.

.....Among these examples is also the popular artwork “Salem,” painted in 1908 by English artist Sydney Curnow Vosper. The picture presents a scene in Capel Salem, a Baptist chapel in the hamlet of Pentre Gwynfryn near Gwynedd, North Wales.

According to the WalesOnline, this painting has become a Welsh icon that depicted Welsh piety and the significance of Welsh tradition and religious customs. Despite its sacred symbolism, “Salem” is a notorious artwork because it is believed to have the devil hidden in the shawl of its central character.

The painting depicts a traditionally dressed woman in the center and a few figures in the background. The main figure is modeled on a real-life character, Siân Owen, who is shown “walking down the aisle towards her family pew.” When the painting was created, Siân Owen was a 71-year-old widow who lived alone in a farmhouse. She had lost her husband when their son was very young so she had to raise him as a single mother. Owen died in 1927 and was buried in Llanfair churchyard.

Vosper was born in 1866 in Stonehouse, Devon. He began his career in London as an illustrator and went on to study at the Académie Colarossi in France. His focus on Welsh life and tradition which would later become a central subject in a number of his paintings began after he married Constance James, from Merthyr Tydfil in South Wales.

In 1909, after “Salem” was first exhibited at the Royal Academy in London, it was purchased by Lord Leverhulme for 100 guineas.

An enlargement of the area of Siân Owen’s shawl purported to enshroud the face of the devil.

In the painting, Siân Owen is cloaked in a colorful and ornamented shawl which, it is said, depicts the face of the devil in its folds. Interestingly, when looked at closely, the wrinkled cloth indeed reveals the contours of a pair of eyes, a beard and a mouth.

One popular theory is that “Salem” represents the sin of vanity. According to the clock on the wall, Owen has arrived ten minutes late for the morning church service, which would invariably have started at 10 a.m. She carries the devil — her sin — on her elaborate clothing.

From 1908 when “Salem” first saw the light of the day until his death in 1942, Vosper denied any intention to depict the devil in the detail of Owen’s shawl.

He stated that his intention was to represent a completely religious atmosphere of a traditional church service. Siân Owen was included in another one of his artworks, “Market Day in Old Wales.”

Market Day in Old Wales (1910) a later Vosper painting also featuring Siân Owen

Today, the original is at the Lady Lever Art Gallery in Port Sunlight, England, while numerous Welsh museums and institutions hold a framed print of the painting. The painting has drawn many critics and theoreticians over the years to debate over different interpretations of the so-called hidden meaning in the central figure.

message 12: by Connie (new)

Connie G (connie_g) | 368 comments Interesting, Heather! "The Creation of Adam" does look like there is a brain in back of God.

I wonder about the ideas about the other paintings. It seems like people are looking too deeply trying to find something, but it's hard to tell on a computer screen. We all see different things if we look at clouds or an inkblot, and just use our imagination.

message 13: by Heather, Moderator (new)

Heather | 8385 comments I have a fiend who is really into Artificial Intelligence and aliens, and other life forms, etc. and he showed me a picture of a painting by Leonardo da Vinci when x-rayed and put together at a mirror image it makes an alien head. And I saw it in this picture he showed me. He texted the picture to me but not the link and I can’t figure out how to post it here. I really want you guys to see this! I don’t know what to think! It has to be a hoax...

message 14: by Heather, Moderator (new)

Heather | 8385 comments About the brain in the Creation of Adam, I have heard that, too. But I have studied a bit of the brain, a bit more than the general population due to particular interest in neuroscience, yand not just the shape is concurrent with a brain, but the cerebellum and the cerebrum, the hemispheres, and it seems in the folds one can even make out smaller parts like the hippocampus. It’s almost exact. In fact, when I get back to my PC, I’m going to do a Google search for a good anatomical pictograph of a brain so you can see how similar it really is! It’s incredible!

But as for all the rest, I agree with you, I think people try to see things that they want to see, and maybe make things be there that weren’t intentional, as in the bottom example of the devil in the cloak cloth. The artist said he had no intention of painting a head of a devil. People just saw that.

message 15: by Heather, Moderator (last edited Sep 07, 2019 02:17PM) (new)

Heather | 8385 comments

I don't know, what do you all think?

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