We'll take a closer look at some well-known paintings and reveal their amazing secrets hidden in plain sight for hundreds of years. Read on to hear music hidden in a 500-year-old picture, speculate on what a medieval UFO may have looked like, and see if you can find the self-portrait hidden inside a painting.
Is This A Medieval UFO Sighting?
Domenico di Tommaso Curradi di Doffo Bigordi (1448 – 1494), professionally known as Domenico Ghirlandaio, was an Italian Renaissance painter. He was a popular painter who earned many commissions and ran a busy workshop (where a young Michelangelo had a very short lived turbulent apprenticeship.) His work was characterised by depicting contemporary life and people within the context of religious narratives.
The Madonna with Saint Giovannino shows a typical religious scene. In the foreground, we see the Madonna and Christ child. However - take a closer look at the object in the sky over her shoulder. Some people think this could be a UFO. The man and his dog in the background look up at a flying circular object emitting light rays. This work is a religious painting, so the artist could have meant it to represent an angel, but it doesn't look like the traditional winged humanoid angels he painted in his other works. What do you think it could be?
The possibility of alien life was discussed in the 15th century (and before!), as illustrated by this excerpt by Nicolas of Cusa, a German Catholic cardinal, philosopher, theologian, jurist, mathematician, and astronomer.
Tim O'Neill writes more about this topic on Slate.
"Of the inhabitants then of worlds other than our own, we can know still less, having no standards by which to appraise them.
It may be conjectured that in the area of the sun there exist solar beings, bright and enlightened denizens, and by nature more spiritual than such as may inhabit the moon."
- Nicolas of Cusa
Uncovering A 500-Year-Old Song Hidden In A Painting of Hell
The Garden of Earthly Delights is the modern title given to a triptych oil painting on an oak panel painted by the Early Netherlandish master Hieronymus Bosch between 1490 and 1510. Bosch's artwork presents a complex narrative subject of much analysis and interpretation by scholars over the centuries. It is believed to convey a moral warning on indulgence and excess. At the same time, Bosch also incorporates elements from religious traditions, classical mythology, and contemporary allegories in his painting.
Critics think the left panel depicts the creation of the world, the garden of Eden and the innocence before the fall.
The centre painting depicts a paradise garden filled with lush flora and fauna and nude figures engaged in various activities, including dining, music-making, and sexual pleasures. It shows a broad landscape with a vast array of fantastical creatures like unicorns and giant ducks amidst bizarre scenarios, such as nude couples sitting in a transparent globe or a group of people emerging from a lake into an eggshell. It is thought to represent a life lived without consequences.
The right panel shows the fall of man and the torments of hell, a grim and grotesque scene where the colour and natural beauty of the previous panels are replaced by a dark and disturbing narrative of torture, grief and horror. One of the scenes includes a group of musicians. They have been tortured and injured by their instruments, and one person has had a musical score transcribed on their buttocks. In 2014, Amelia Hamrick decided to transcribe the score. Click here to listen to an interpretation of that melody by James Spalink, using a lute, harp and hurdy-gurdy, the instruments featured in the painting.
Is Caravaggio Hiding Inside A (Previously) Hidden Caravaggio?
Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio (1571 – 1610), also known as simply 'Caravaggio', was an Italian painter whose work is distinguished by his realistic portrayal of the darker side of the human experience. He depicts his subjects against bright lights or darkening shadows in a technique known as chiaroscuro to create atmosphere and drama. Today, we're going to look at his work Bacchus.
He painted this when he was a young man as a commission for Cardinal Del Monte, who gifted it to Ferdinando I de' Medici, the Grand Duke of Tuscany.
In mythology, Bacchus (Roman) or Dionysus (Greek) is the god of wine, pleasure, fertility, agriculture, theatre and festivity. Caravaggio's painting depicts a young Bacchus suggestively proffering a rippling glass of wine with one hand while the other loosely holds the drawstrings of his robe, which is tumbling off his shoulder.
Caravaggio didn't idealise his divine subjects and painted them as ordinary people. Some aspects of this character are distinctly mortal, such as flushed cheeks and dirty fingernails. Some critics think Caravaggio was trying to depict both Bacchus himself and a young man dressed up as Bacchus. This model could be his pupil and possibly his lover Mario Minniti, who modelled for him in several paintings. Or it could be a self-portrait reflected in a mirror.
Bacchus has a bowl of fruit close to hand; at first glance, we see beautiful green leaves and juicy grapes, but a closer inspection reveals a burst pomegranate surrounded by pieces of rotting fruit. This subject is a vanitas (check our article about vanitas paintings), which reminds the viewer that youth and earthly pleasures are fleeting.
What makes this magnificent picture of Bacchus extra special? Despite being painted at the end of the 16th century, the painting was unknown to the public until 1913. It was hidden from view and hung in the private quarters of its owners for hundreds of years before being discovered in the Uffizi Gallery, home of the art collection of the Medici family. Restoration began on the piece, and art researchers found what they think is a tiny self-portrait of Caravaggio hidden in the wine carafe! Image above via Insider. Click here for the 2009 report by Roberta Lapucci, which includes a large link to the image. What do you think? For additional reading and speculation, visit Art Majeur, Toscana Inside and Italy Magazine.