There Are Actual Hidden Messages in These Famous Works of Art
There Are Actual Hidden Messages in These Famous Works of Art

There Are Actual Hidden Messages in These Famous Works of Art

Shannon Quinn - October 29, 2022

There Are Actual Hidden Messages in These Famous Works of Art
“The Blue Room” (right) with the hidden message underneath. (left) Credit: Articonog

“The Blue Room” by Pablo Picasso

When he was just 19 years old living in Paris, Pablo Picasso painted “The Blue Room”. It’s considered to be one of his earliest great masterpieces. In 2014, scientists used an X-ray to examine the painting, and found a hidden portrait of a man wearing a bowtie and resting his chin on his hand. No one knows who this man is, but we know that it is not a self-portrait. Some people speculate that it could be an art dealer named Ambroise Vollard, who was the host of Picasso’s first art show. Since he was young and impoverished, it’s really not surprising that he would reuse a canvas for a new project.

There Are Actual Hidden Messages in These Famous Works of Art
One of the many self-portraits by Rembrandt. Credit: Wikimedia Commons

“Self Portraits” by Rembrandt van Rijn

The idea that artist used mirrors for their self-portraits seems pretty obvious. But in 2001, an artist named David Hockney worked together with a physicist named Charles Falso to “discover” that Rembrandt and many of the other Old Masters used curved mirrors and lenses to create their self-portraits. In 2016, the Journal of Optics explained even further how this could have been achieved. These mirror and lenses could be used to project the image onto the canvas, so Rembrandt could literally trace the real-life image. If this is true, it sort of takes away from the “genius” behind his incredibly life-like self portraits. However, many artists use tracing to help create their works of art, and very few actually work freehand in the way you would imagine.

There Are Actual Hidden Messages in These Famous Works of Art
Portrait of a Woman had a hidden painting underneath. Credit: NPR

“Portrait of a Woman” by Edgar Degas

Like many other artists we have mentioned already on this list, Edgar Degas was yet another painter who was forced to paint over old canvases when money was tight. In 2016, Australian researchers discovered a hidden painting behind “Portrait of a Woman”. Through x-ray technology, they were able to uncover a secret portrait of a woman named Emma Dobigny, who frequently sat as a model for Degas’ portraits as well as other artists at the time. Her face was flipped upside-down when it was re-used for his new painting. It’s honestly stunning, and a shame that he decided to paint over it. The painting of “Portrait of a Woman” still hangs in the Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery in Australia.

There Are Actual Hidden Messages in These Famous Works of Art
“The Scream” by Edvard Munch. Credit: BBC

“The Scream” by Edvard Munch

One of the most famous paintings in the world is “The Scream” by Edvard Munch from 1893. It features a man with his hands on his face, screaming into oblivion. In the painting itself, Munch wrote a secret message that said, “Can only have been painted by a madman.”in the upper left hand corner. Art scholars believe that he wrote that on his painting after his first exhibit, which was scrutinized by critics very harshly. This actually may have been a quote from one of the nasty comments he received for his work. And it’s true that Edvard Munch suffered from mental illness, because he was hospitalized for a nervous breakdown several years later, in 1908. Munch once wrote, “For as long as I can remember I have suffered from a deep feeling of anxiety, which I have tried to express in my art.”

There Are Actual Hidden Messages in These Famous Works of Art
“The Head of a Peasant Woman” on the left, and the hidden self-portrait on the right. Credit: The Art Newspaper

“Head of a Peasant Woman” by Vincent Van Gogh

Originally created in 1885, “Head of a Peasant Woman” was set to premiere in an exhibit at the ​​Royal Scottish Academy in Edinburgh, Scotland in 2022. They noticed that the back of the painting was covered by layers of cardboard and glue. Using x-ray technology, they were able to find a hidden painting, which they believe to be one of Van Gogh’s earliest self portraits. When this painting went up for its exhibit, they used a special light box to help people see the x-ray so that they could experience the hidden painting for themselves. The museum is considering trying to remove the cardboard and glue to get a better view of the portrait, but it’s a delicate and time-consuming process.


How did we find this stuff? Here are our sources:

“25 Mind-Blowing Secrets Hidden in Famous Works of Art”. Best Life. 2019

Mona Lisa’s Hidden Symbols? Researcher Says Yes“. CBS News. 2011

“Hidden Meanings and Secret Codes Buried in Da Vinci’s ‘The Last Supper'”. The Vintage News. 2019

Italian musician uncovers hidden music in Da Vinci’s ‘Last Supper’. Associated Press. YouTube. 2015.

The Meaning Of Jan Van Eyck’s The Arnolfini Portrait. The Culture Trip. 2018

“Bacchus” by Caravaggio – Analyzing the Famous Painting of Dionysus. Art in Context. 2022

​​450-Year-Old Painting Contains Over 100 Proverbs We Still Use Today. The Modern Met. 2022.

Whale of a Discovery Hidden in Dutch Masterpiece. NBC News.

The Supper at Emmaus: A coded symbol hidden in a masterpiece. BBC. 2021.

The Mirrors Behind Rembrandt’s Self-Portraits. The New York Times. 2016.

A hidden self-portrait has been discovered by X-ray on the back of a Van Gogh painting. CBS News. 2022.