Do you think you're a real art buff? Let's see if you already knew about these hidden messages.
The world of art is so rich, not only in visual terms, but also in terms of the stories and characters that are portrayed. Art can be the best historical mirror when documents and evidence fail to give a broader picture of a determined society. Even when the artist’s subjectivity shapes their work, each piece tells us about particular historical events, society’s fears, beliefs, and even scientific advancements. Each story is conveyed not precisely through the most objective lens. There’s always a subjective part that, in my opinion, actually gives depth and makes of each artwork a more interesting and honest piece. Yes, I know that might not sound so logical, but if you think about it, history isn’t as objective as it sounds, and the way each artist decides to portray a story can give us more information than many historical documents. These messages have become one of art critics' favorite activities. They can become detectives looking for new messages and hidden meanings in the most important works of art in history.
Take for instance important works like the Sistine Chapel's ceiling painted by Michelangelo. In the past centuries, people have studied each millimeter of this humongous masterpiece, so there are literally hundreds of re-readings and interpretations. For instance, many agree that the surface where God is lying is shaped as the human brain, which means that he’s giving Adam the gift of knowledge. This has been practically proven, since in another part of the ceiling you can see another depiction of God looking up, and right close to his neck, there’s another brain shape. Like these, there are endless theories, and specialists have been studying Michelangelo's masterpiece over and over to prove that it actually has a hidden code. This has happened with so many important artworks that we would have to stay months or years discussing them. However, we can have an idea of those secrets just by looking at a few of these intriguing works of art.
Sistine Chapel Ceiling -Michelangelo (1508-1512)
Talking about Michelangelo, one of the things that have kept critics and art historians arguing is the portrayal of Prophet Zechariah. It’s believed that this part of the painting was Michelangelo’s way to criticize and attack Pope Julius II, the one who actually commissioned the work. It’s believed that he was sick of the Vatican’s corruption, and he wanted to say something about it. So, Michelangelo painted Pope Julius representing the prophet, something that was seen as a homage to his patron. However, the good part of the gossip lies in the two angels behind him. One of them is hugging the other, and you can see that his right index finger seems to point out something. Now, for me, that’s just a normal position, but the story says that if you look closer at it, the thumb is right between the index and middle finger, which was supposedly a discrete and subtle obscene sign back during the Renaissance.
The Last Supper - Leonardo da Vinci (1490s)
Going to another important art piece, The Last Supper has been studied and analyzed endlessly. No, I’m not going to talk about the hidden meaning shown in The Da Vinci Code. According to musician Giovanni Maria Pala, the pieces of bread set on the table actually form a 40-second requiem. Da Vinci was a real genius capable of doing basically everything and mastering it like no one. Among his many talents, music was one in which he excelled. He even invented some unique instruments, so this theory isn’t that far-fetched at all.
Café Terrace at Night - Vincent van Gogh (1888)
Talking about last suppers, apparently Da Vinci wasn’t the only famous artist to depict this iconic religious scene. Art critics are pretty sure that van Gogh’s Terrace is, in fact, a modern portrayal of Jesus Christ and the Apostles. If you look at the tables in the Cafe, there are exactly twelve shadows. Ten sitting on tables and one in white, which is thought to represent Jesus. The one that’s going inside is thought to be Judas separating himself from the party, showing his betrayal. The analysis goes further than that. Right above the character that’s supposed to represent Jesus, there’s a cross hidden in what looks like a window or door. But what has made this theory something more serious than just an idle supposition was the fact that Van Gogh’s father was an actual Protestant minister and that he included a lot of Christian imagery in his work. Looking back at the many letters he wrote to his brother, there are some about this particular painting in which he stated that the world had a “tremendous need” for religion and faith.
Man, Controller of the Universe - Diego Rivera (1935)
I actually like this one a lot! Diego Rivera was commissioned by Nelson Rockefeller to create a mural in the Rockefeller Center. He starts working, but in one of the routine revisions, the heir notices the figure of Lenin, something that wasn’t that well seen back in the States. Rockefeller nicely asked Rivera to remove him from the mural that went originally by the name of Man at the Crossroads. However, the artist wasn’t willing to do so. After asking him so many times without any success, Nelson Rockefeller sent a set of workers to cover with white all the work Rivera had done. However, things weren’t going to be left like that, and he patiently worked his revenge. Back in Mexico, he decided to paint the mural with all the freedom he wanted, so besides putting a bigger Lenin, he decided to include J.D. Rockefeller Jr., Nelson’s father, and not in a nice way. The painting represents the many advancements and discoveries human beings have made, and right where he portrayed a set of close-ups bacteria and viruses, he placed Mr. Rockefeller. Now, the bacteria that’s right above his head is actually that of syphilis, and not content with associating him with the disease, he portrayed him dancing with what critics assure is a prostitute.
Isabella - John Everett Millais (1849)
Finally, let’s go back a bit in time to the awesome Pre-Raphaelite movement of the nineteenth century. One of the most prominent artists of this movement was John Everett Millais, and his most famous painting is his Ophelia floating in the river. Well, we’re not going to talk about that one, but another of his takes in literature classics. His painting Isabella is one of the scenes from the emblematic Decameron by Boccaccio, and the painting is as kinky and sexually explicit as the book. If you take a look at the man sitting on the chair right in the front, you’ll notice that his leg is awkwardly lifted. Well, the theory says that if you look right at the corner of the table, you can see a shadow with a phallic shape, so this man’s leg is actually trying to conceal a massive erection. To make things even more explicit, they claim that the spilled salt right next to it symbolizes the semen. Yikes!
As you can see, these are theories that can’t be proven nor shattered. However, they're so amazing because they're full of so many elements that keep us mesmerized by the endless possibilities to explain the story they’re portraying.
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