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Famous Artworks: Hidden Meanings And Stories You May Have Missed

For hundreds of years, people have been fascinated by arts, the messages and the stories they tell. But not many are privy to the inspiration or hidden meanings behind some of these artworks.

Below are some famous paintings and the hidden meanings or inspiration behind them:


The Creation of Adam

Creation of Adam – fresco painted by Michelangelo (1475-1564) – Wikipedia

The Creation of Adam is a fresco painting by Italian artist Michelangelo, which forms part of the Sistine Chapel’s ceiling, painted c. 1508–1512. It illustrates the Biblical creation narrative from the Book of Genesis in which God gives life to Adam, the first man.

Michelangelo’s Creation of Adam is one of the most replicated religious paintings of all time.

God is depicted as an elderly white-bearded Caucasian man, wrapped in a swirling cloak while Adam, on the lower left, is completely naked. God’s right arm is outstretched to impart the spark of life from his own finger into that of Adam, whose left arm is extended in a pose mirroring God’s, a reminder that man is created in the image and likeness of God.

Concealed within the robes and the faces of the figure of God, is a representation of the human brain – which many believe was the artist’s attempt at a covert attack on the church’s contempt for science!

The Beheading of Saint John the Baptist

The Beheading of Saint John the Baptist – Wikipedia

The Beheading of Saint John the Baptist is an oil painting by the Italian artist Caravaggio. Measuring 12 ft (3.7 m) by 17 ft (5.2 m), it depicts the execution of John the Baptist.

The image depicts the execution of John the Baptist while nearby a servant girl stands with a golden platter to receive his head. Another woman, who has been identified as Herodias or simply a bystander who realizes that the execution is wrong, stands by in shock while a jailer issues instructions and the executioner draws his dagger to finish the beheading.

It is the only work by Caravaggio to bear the artist’s signature, which he placed in red blood spilling from the Baptist’s cut throat.

The painting is almost biographical. Caravaggio had come to Malta to escape justice after he had killed a man in Italy. And in those days the punishment for murder was death by beheading. He was a wanted man.

The signature is a matter of some dispute. The work is signed f. Michelang.o (the f to indicate his brotherhood in the order), but it is popularly claimed that Caravaggio signed “I, Caravaggio, did this”

Portrait of Bill Clinton

Bill Clinton Portrait – National Portrait Galler – Nelson Shanks-AP

In 2006, former U.S President Bill Clinton unveiled a portrait of himself painted by American artist John Nelson Shanks. It shows the President standing beside a mantel in the Oval Office.

At first glance, the painting does not reveal much. However, Nelson Shanks himself admitted that the painting hinted at the infamous Monica Lewinsky scandal.

Since he could never get the scandal completely out of his mind, Shanks subtly incorporated a shadow from a dress into the painting – the same stained blue dress of Monica Lewinsky that became a symbol of the scandal during the 1990s.

The Starry Night

The Starry Night by Vincent van Gogh – Wikipedia

The Starry Night is an oil on canvas painting by Dutch Post-Impressionist painter Vincent van Gogh.

This painting of Van Gogh consists of an enchanting colour palette that makes up the beautiful swirls. The Starry Night painting is truly captivating, so does the story behind it.

The inspiration for the painting came from an actual view of a mental institution where Van Gogh was a patient. The scenery was a view from an east-facing window of his asylum bedroom in Saint-Paul-de-Mausole just before sunrise. This was painted in the winter of June 1889 while he was in the institution.

The brightest star in the painting is Venus which was said to be visible in Provence during dawn in the spring of 1889. The moon painted in the picture was also visible through the iron-barred window and is a waning gibbous moon. The only element in the painting that was not visible from his bedroom window was the village. The village was said to have come from a sketch drawn from a hillside above the village of Saint-Rémy de-Provence.

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