Uncovering the secrets of five mysterious works of art

There is more to many iconic paintings than meets the eye


Entertainment Desk May 14, 2020

There is more to many iconic paintings than meets the eye. From a mysterious musical notation found in a Da Vinci piece to figures hidden among layers of paint, these masterworks, compiled from DW, have unique stories to tell.

1) 'Girl with the Pearl Earring' by Johannes Vermee

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Scientists who started analysing the painting by the Dutch artist in 2018 found that the background hadn't always been black: Vermeer painted a green curtain that had darkened over time. They also discovered that the girl has thin eyelashes that cannot be seen with the naked eye. Unfortunately, the researchers could not solve the mystery of the women's identity.

2) 'The Last Supper' by Leonardo da Vinci

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According to Vatican researcher Sabrina Sforza Galitzia, there's a secret puzzle in the famous painting, predicting that the end of the world will happen in 4006. What's more, composer Giovanni Maria Pala says he found musical notation encoded in the work, with the hands of Jesus and the apostles and the loaves of bread representing different notes. Da Vinci was known to write musical riddles.

3) 'Self-portrait' by Johannes Gumpp

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Although the technique of looking into a mirror while painting a self-portrait was common, it was highly unusual for an artist to actively paint the mirror into the painting. Why Gumpp did this is unknown. Scholars have also pondered a significance between his decisions to include three images of himself. Could it, perhaps, be a reference to the Holy Trinity?

4) 'Las Meninas' by Diego Velazquez

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In this scene in the Spanish court it is unclear who is the subject, object, spectator and model. Although they stand together, the figures appear isolated in their own worlds. Many mysteries remain: Does the mirror in the background reflect the image of the Spanish royal couple who have come to observe or is it simply a reflection of what is on the artist's easel?

5) 'The Old Guitarist' by Pablo Picasso

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If you look closely, you will discover another silhouette above the head of the man playing guitar in the painting. Researchers found that it is part of a painting underneath the one that meets the eye. Presumably, Picasso painted over an old canvas, but did not completely cover the woman's head. The work hails from Picasso's Blue Period in the early 20th century.

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