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Historical paintings are attractive and they convey meaning in some way. But there are paintings with mysteries that are hard to understand.

There are a few famous paintings where you can still discover new symbols and hidden details. They remain a mystery for many years. Some of the artists of these paintings intentionally add secret messages in their paintings to reveal something and challenge the audiences. 

historical paintings with mysteries

Although they were not able to discover it in the past, due to the advancement of technology, some of the secret messages are discovered while some remain a mystery. If you are curious, then to pique your curiosity, we’ve compiled a list of 10 historical paintings whose mysteries remain unsolved despite endless research. 

The mystery behind the famous paintings

Madonna with Saint Giovannino 

This is a historical painting including Madonna and Child with the infant St john and it is known as “Madonna dell’UFO” or “our lady of the flying saucer”. This painting was from the 16th century, located in the hall of Hercules in Palazza Vecchio and it depicts the madonna with infant Christ and St John the Baptist, who is the patron of Florence.

In the background there is a man, a shepherd with a dog, having his hands on his forehead and his head turns towards the sky. 

The controversy in this painting is that there is an object in the sky that is drawn behind the shoulder of Madonna and it is similar to the modern descriptions of UFOs. The man is painted as he stares at the object with wonder and his dog barks at it.

It raises the question that why is the flying object dealing with the subject of scared. 

Some believe that in paintings of adorations, the shepherd holds his hand and gazes in wonder at the luminous cloud, and similarly, art historians believe that it’s the same cloud. This cloud depicts the presence of an angel or a brilliant star. Another assumption is based on the theory of aliens. 

The concept of aliens is believed because when considering building the pyramids, it is hard to build them with modern technology and equipment, but in the ancient times of no equipment and technologies, they were able to build such strong pyramids and this makes us doubt that aliens have made it. And so they believe that the aliens’ presence existed during that period and Madonna is trying to protect the child from the aliens. 

Starry night 

starry night hidden details

Vincent van Gogh’s Starry Night is one of the world’s most beloved and well-known works of art. It was painted in 1889, a year before the artist passed.

In 2004 scientists discovered a resemblance between the swirling patterns in the painting and through various observations, it captured the spiraling clouds of gas and dust around a distant star.

It was found that while the artist was living in an asylum, he had captured one of the most complex concepts of science which are known as turbulence. The appearance of turbulence can be seen in the formation of clouds. 

The stylized cypress tree in the foreground is believed to be a symbol that the painting emphasizes linking it to death and Van Gogh’s eventual suicide. The tree reaches into the sky having a direct connection between the earth and the heavens. 

John dee painting 

This painting was created during the 16th century in the victorian era by the artist called Henry Gillard Glindoni. This historical painting includes the enigmatic figures of Queen Elizabeth I, sitting in an elevated chair surrounded by courtiers and a tall man with a black-robed holding a vial over a small fire in a brazier by his feet. 

This man is John Dee, known as a mathematician and astronomer. 

When the painting was analyzed with an X-ray, it revealed the dark and terrifying secrets behind the painting. It shows that john Dee is performing an experiment for Queen Elizabeth I and he is surrounded by a halo of skulls. 

It is believed that the X-ray reveals that Dee was originally surrounded by human skulls and as it was too odd for the buyer, the ghoulish image was painted over, and this becomes confusing making us whether to remember dee as a brilliant pioneering scientist or as an occultist who could talk to angels.  

It is also believed that during the period of Queen Elizabeth I, they believed in black magic and sacrificed human life to it, and to reveal them secretly the artist had indirectly shown it in his paintings. 

Adam and god 

Adam and god mystery painting

The creation of Adam is one of the world’s most famous paintings by Michelangelo, and it is a fresco painting. It is painted based on the biblical creation narrative that depicts the god giving life to adam. 

God is portrayed as an elderly white-bearded man in a white cloak and adam is in a naked position. God is supported by angels without wings and it reminds us that man is created in the image and likeness of God. 

After the dark era, came the renaissance, and it was celebrated in the form of arts. The important artists were keen to know about the functioning of the human body but it was kept a secret. Michael Angelo has hidden his study on anatomy in the figure of the god. 

In the creation of adam it can recognize the anatomical brain in the cross-sectional view to show that apart from life, the human was also given supreme intelligence. 

It is also believed that Michael Angelo came into conflict with the church and took up spiritualism and his works became controversial. And he had interests in science and in dissecting the human body to see how it is formed. And so it is believed that he portrayed that God is in the brain of humans. 

Monalisa 

This is one of the famous paintings also known as La Gioconda and was painted using oil on wood. It is located on the wall in the louver in Paris, France. This painting is about a woman dressed in the florentine and seated in a visionary in a landscape of mountainous. Leonardo da Vinci used the sfumato technique to create this painting. The enigmatic expression of the Mona Lisa has given the portrait universal fame. 

When zooming in on the painting, letters are found where letters L and V are in the right eye, and it is doubted that L represents Leonardo Da Vinci’s initial, and in the left eye the letter C, E, and B are found. And this letter can be found using a microscopic crack. There is a number 72, under the arched bridge and it is still hard to find but it is suspected to be the lead to identify the dating of paint, model, and religion and mysticism interest. 

Read to know more hidden details found in Monalisa

Moz art

Mozart painting by Pietro Antonio Lorenzo depicts a young  Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, a gray-haired man, and an Austrian composer.   

The famous paintings consist of men hiding one of their hands when posing for portraits.  

Most of the people who use this method of posing is symbolizing and proves to be a member of the Freemasons which indicates a hierarchical rank in the secret society, which is similar to the secret society of the Illuminati. 

Rembrandt’s The Night Watch

Rembrandt's The Night Watch

In 1669, Rembrandt van Rijn died at the age of 63.  In a plot owned by the church, he was buried in an unmarked grave. But after 20 years, as was customary for those who had died in poverty, his remains were dug up and discarded. 

Around Rembrandt’s apparent fall from favor, for many years, a myth has grown connected to The Night Watch. The painting Night watch has even inspired conspiracy theories courtesy of film director Peter Greenaway. His 2007 picture Night Watching argues that the painting’s complex iconography reveals a murder plot that leads to members of the civic militia, and it is said to portray the threat to Rembrandt’s life and leading to his ruin.

The painting was coated with a dark varnish and dirt, for hundreds of years. This misled the scholars into thinking that it depicted a nocturnal scene. Throughout the centuries the layer of varnish grew so thick that it was able to protect the canvas from a knife attack in 1911. The varnish was eventually removed in the 1940s, but the title remained. 

La Primavera

This was painted around 1480 by Sandro Botticelli. After Birth of Venus, which he created a few years later, La Primavera is his second most popular piece. The origin story of La Primavera was believed to have been commissioned by Lorenzo di Pierfrancesco de Medici, who was a member of one of Florence, Italy’s wealthiest families, as a wedding gift for his wife.

The true meaning behind this painting remains a mystery. In the painting, nine mythological figures are appearing in an orange grove. Hundreds of varieties of plants blossom all around them. The picture has myriad references to classical and Renaissance poetry and literature. 

Although scholars assume it to be created around the 1470s or early 1480s, the exact year of the creation of the painting remains unknown as well as the reason for why he created this. 

Even the painting’s name, Spring, was not the idea of Botticelli. Instead, it was given to the work by Giorgio Vasari when he saw it some 70 years after it was created.

The old guitarist

The old guitarist by pablo picaso

The Old Guitarist is one of the most famous paintings by Pablo Picasso. And it is hiding a big secret. It was painted from late 1903 to early 1904 during the artist’s famed Blue Period. This painting portrays an old, blind, man who is wearing torn, threadbare clothing and playing the guitar on the streets of Barcelona.

The meaning behind the work is not much of a mystery, but the things that physically remain behind the painting are doubtful. The Art Institute of Chicago performed technical examinations and found the outline of a ghostly woman found just above the neck of the guitarist. 

Who was she? The X-Ray examinations revealed several figures in the underpainting of Picasso’s Old Guitarist, including another woman and child, and two bulls. It is known that the Spanish artist during the time in his life was low on funds when this painting was created, so it is said that the reason for the mystery figures is that he painted over a previous canvas when creating this haunting portrait.

But this theory does not explain why there are three not necessarily connected figures on the same canvas. It is also confusing why Picasso left the first female visible to the naked eye. This brings out an answered question. 

The last supper 

The Last Supper is one of these pieces of historical paintings with mysteries created by Leonardo Da Vince. In this painting, Leonardo made the apostles very expressive by portraying the exact moment when Jesus told them he would be betrayed by one of them. 

He groups the apostles in a way that breaks down the narrative and emotions in the room. The painting consists of so many mysteries including hidden meanings and secret codes. The figures in the painting are said to be mysterious. 

There is a woman in the picture, and the figure is confused as Mary. Many of the figures on the right side of the table seem to be talking to or at Mary, while Jesus appears to be engaged with those on the left, who reflect the concern the disciples must have felt when told one among them would betray Christ. 

Taking a close look at “John” will resemble Mona Lisa, which was painted five years later.

Read to know more about mysterious paintings the Last Supper painting

Final thoughts 

There are many other historical paintings with mysteries involved. The mystery behind many of them is still unknown. The artists have tried to convey their messages through their paintings. Although advanced technology has helped to find out them, the message that they are trying to convey is still a question. 

What kind of mystery brings out your curiosity the most? 

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