Did Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code actually stumble onto one of the art world’s best-kept secrets? Researchers claim codes are embedded in Leonardo Da Vinci’s paintings - and they are not the only artworks hiding secrets revealed through technology and careful examination.
Supper at Emmaus
Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio may have hidden an underground Christain symbol in Supper at Emmaus in the form of a loose twig sticking out from the woven fruit bowl.
The frayed ends curve up and down to form the shape of a stylized fish, or ‘Ichthys’.
The emblem dates back to the second century where it was a covert sign of Christian belief, used by followers who feared they would be persecuted by non-believers.
Still not convinced? Cast your eyes to the right of the bowl where you will see a shadow in the form of a fish.
Edvard Munch wrote a secret message on The Scream, the first in the series he went on to create. Tests conducted by the National Museum of Norway - using technology to analyze the handwriting - confirmed that Munch wrote: “Can only have been painted by a madman.” The barely visible sentence is written in pencil in the top left-hand corner. “The writing is without a doubt Munch's own,” museum curator Mai Britt Guleng said. Munch is believed to have added the words after his first, heavily criticized exhibit. He was hospitalized after a nervous breakdown in 1908.
The Da Vinci Code?
Are the Mona Lisa’s eyes the key to unlocking her mysterious charm? An Italian art expert believes her left eye holds the letter ‘L’ and right eye has an ‘S’ but what’s it all mean? The ‘L’ may stand for Leonardo. ‘S’ may be a clue to the subject’s identity - a woman in the Sforza dynasty that ruled Milan. The letters ‘LV’ have also been spotted in her right eye, however, so have ‘C’, ‘E,’ and ‘B’. In 2015 a French scientist found a portrait of a woman underneath the painting by using light technology. It seems the Mona Lisa’s smile is not her only mystery.
The Last Supper
In Dan Brown’s movie The Da Vinci Code, British historian Sir Leigh Teabing believes the Holy Grail is encoded in Leonardo da Vinci's The Last Supper. A real-life computer technician believes the painting is actually encoded with musical notes. Giovanni Maria Pala claims to have found clues leading to a 40-second musical composition - with each loaf of bread on the table representing a note of a requiem. Alessandro Vezzosi, of Tuscany's Da Vinci museum, calls the theory ‘plausible’.
Café Terrace at Night
Was Vincent Van Gogh creating his own portrayal of the Last Supper with this painting? Many art researchers think so. There are 12 people seated and - if you look hard enough - you’ll find hidden crosses scattered around the painting, including one above the standing figure. A shadowy figure slipping through the doorway may be Judas, according to da Vinci scholar Jared Baxter.
The Garden of Earthly Delights
Dutch artist Hieronymus Bosch’s painting of heaven, hell, and (in the middle panel) something in between is notorious for many reasons - not least the image of sheet music painted on a character’s derriere.
The musical flourish in The Garden of Earthly Delights (c. 1490-1510) inspired a student to transcribe the music using modern notation and post it on Tumblr. Another musician adapted the score - complete with lute and harp - for YouTube so everyone can enjoy the 600-year-old music from hell, called, simply: “Butt Song”.
The Creation of Adam
Michelangelo’s The Creation of Adam is a world-renowned masterpiece, a fresco painting on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel depicting God giving life to Adam in one of a series of panels. The scene is so well known that tattoo artists recreate it (albeit sometimes with Adam accepting a beer bottle). There’s a scientific secret hidden in Michelangelo’s panel that isn’t so well known, however. The reddish cloak behind the angels is the same shape as a human brain with researchers now able to recognize certain parts like the pituitary gland.
The Arnolfini Portrait
Like Alfred Hitchcock, some artists just can’t resist a cameo appearance in their work. The Netherland’s Jan van Eyck is one of them, sneaking into his famous 1434 oil painting. Van Eyck is believed to be the man with his hand raised in the mirror, and - if that’s not enough to make his point - the artist wrote on the wall in Latin: “Jan van Eyck was here 1434”.
Hans Holbein the Younger's 1533 painting contains an illusion. The lopsided image at the bottom of the painting (looking right to left) appears to be a skull. Historians who’ve examined every inch of the painting believe the artwork may have originally been positioned beside a doorway so viewers walking past from the side would be confronted with the grinning skull, a reminder that death is around the corner.
Art experts used reflectography technology to examine Caravaggio's 1595 painting Bacchus and found an image of a man hidden in the bottom left of the wine carafe. Is it Caravaggio? They’re not certain but it is a man in an upright position holding his arm out to an easel, so it may well be a self-portrait, Mina Gregori told The Telegraph.