Why are there so many paintings with what appear to be UFOs? What do they mean?
I should start this by saying that I'm a skeptic about extraterrestrial life. When I first read about paintings that appear to include elements that have led ufologists to claim them as proof of the existence of UFOs in ancient times, I didn't really make much of it. However, the thing with these particular paintings is that they possess uncanny figures that are so similar to what we understand today as UFOs that it's not hard to see why they have caused a stir among believers.
Bear in mind the history behind these motifs in the original paintings. For Christianity, the birth of Jesus is the core of the religion and what differentiates it from other Abrahamic religions. If you remember the actual Christmas story, it all began when the three wise men saw a strange object in the sky that caught their attention. This, of course, was the star of Bethlehem, which announced the birth of a very special king. Now, this is the motif that appears in most of our examples, and with the passing of time, artists took many creative liberties to make it look as an uncommon and special event. However, the peculiarity and bizarreness of these episodes has been used to prove the existence of UFOs, since there’s no evidence of stars acting as the story and the imagery depicts. So, let’s take a look at these paintings that have shocked many people throughout history.
The Crucifixion - Unknown (1350)
Painted in the Visoki Decani Monastery in Kosovo (Serbia), this fresco has attracted the attention of ufologists, who are sure that the two strange objects placed in each of the upper corners of the painting are aliens in their aircrafts. According to Dennis Geronimus (Department of Art History at New York University), they might look strange for us and similar to the popular depictions of UFOs, but they are, in fact, representations of the sun and the moon. It's believed that the pilots might be angels (though ufologists claim that’s not the case, since they don’t have halos or any imagery to point out they're divine creatures). However, most likely they are nothing but a visual representation of the gospel accounts saying that the sky was becoming darker during Jesus’ crucifixion.
The Annunciation with Saint Emidius - Carlo Crivelli (1486)
Many have also turned to this painting when looking for answers regarding the existence of UFOs, and although it’s true that the object seen in the paintings does have a strange circular shape, there's a logical explanation behind this. As the biblical story tells, when the angel Gabriel appeared before Mary to announce her of her pregnancy, he explains that the Holy Spirit will appear in the form of golden light coming from the sky. So, yes, the artist might have given this a strange form, but it’s basically a common element in this art motif. Ufologists believe is that this disc object is evidence that Jesus was not divine at all, but a genetic creation made by aliens. The golden light is actually a representation of the abduction of Virgin Mary to be impregnated with the alien race. Yeah, I don’t know.
Madonna and Child with the Infant St. John - Unknown (15th century)
In this painting, we have the common motif in religious art depicting Virgin Mary with the infants Jesus and John the Baptist. However, this particular painting has something strange going on in the back of the scene. We can see a strange flying object that no one seems to notice but an old man in the back, who’s looking at it curiously while his dog seems to be barking nervously. Now, even when art historians have been unable to associate the painting to a particular artist, it’s believed it was made by Domenico Ghirlandaio, who is known for adding his signature in the form of symbols. According to Geronimus, these “dark blue, almond-shaped form, emitting golden rays, constitutes a symbol that was very common in the Renaissance, when this [circular panel, for private devotion] was painted." This alludes to the object the Three Wise Men saw in the heavens.
Baptism of Jesus - Arendt de Gelder (1710)
In this portrayal the baptism of Jesus by John the Baptist, there’s an object highlighting the scene that many can’t help but associate to the common depictions of alien spaceships. The theological explanation is that, then again, it’s the symbol of the Holy Spirit blessing the moment, since it can be seen the shape of the white dove at the center of what’s actually a strange cloud and not a UFO. Now, many believe that Arendt de Gelder had some access to the Vatican’s archives, and this was his way of unveiling the religious institutions' “secret knowledge” regarding one of the main religions and probably one of the main conspiracy theories.
Triumph of Summer Tapestry - Unknown (1538)
Not precisely a painting but a Renaissance tapestry, this Belgian work of art is one of the few that doesn’t actually depict a religious scene. This tapestry is a celebratory artwork depicting the ascension of a ruler to power in Belgium. Although it’s not clear who he is, it could be referring to Emperor Charles V, who also governed West Flanders. Anyway, what caught the attention in this intricate tapestry is the fact that in the upper-left part of the image you can see many creatures and objects that match our modern perception of extraterrestrial imagery, to which there’s no religious association at all. However, it’s believed it was the artisan’s way of showing this monarchs' divine right to rule, which doesn’t sound that far-fetched at all.
The Miracle of the Snow - Masolino da Panicale (1428–32)
In this painting, Da Panicale decided to portray the legendary and mysterious snow that allegedly took place in Rome on a hot August day during the fourth century. We can see Jesus and Mary over a cloud in the top of the scene while civilians and religious characters look at the snow in the ground. Now, those strange flying objects that ufologists have taken to be UFOs in the painting represent clouds or the snow falling from the sky thanks to this miracle. Now, this one is a painting that has carried more believers in UFOS, since there was a case in 1954 when many people in Florence allegedly witnessed some egg-shaped crafts flying in the sky while disposing of some “silver glitter” that seemed like gray snowflakes and that was naturally associated to extraterrestrial evidence.
What is important to bear in mind is that, as the ufologist and former astronomer Jacques Vallée explains, it’s obvious that these paintings don’t really "represent actual sightings by the artist or contemporary events of the scene." So, what’s the deal with other ufologists believing that these are evidence showing that extraterrestrial presence has always been around us? Well, it would seem that Vallée belongs to a small group of UFO scholars that want to add a more rational and scientifically-based discourse to the subject, which is the study of unidentified flying objects and attempt to determine what they are. Just as people in the past didn’t have full knowledge on comets, meteors, and other natural phenomena in the space, it’s evident that we don’t really know everything regarding the vast universe around us, and these paintings can be seen as great examples of it.
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