In order to understand any work of art, it is necessary to have a broad knowledge in the fields of history, religion, mythology, and literature. It is this knowledge that helps decode things that hide insignificant details and helps you understand why some artists continued to perfect their canvases for many years, while others created new paintings over other ones.

We spent many hours looking at the websites of various museums to talk about masterpieces that are not as simple as they seem.

The Mystery of Famous Paintings

7. Unknown artist, The portrait of Isabella de’Medici

7 Mysteries That World-Famous Paintings Are Hiding
© CarnegieMuseumofArt / facebook© CarnegieMuseumofArt / facebook

A Renaissance portrait of an unknown artist was discovered by accident. Initially, art critics believed this was a very good fake of medieval painting, but it turned out that the portrait was repainted in the 19th century.

A prominent nose, a high forehead, and a large chin were hidden under layers of paint: the face of the medieval aristocratic girl was transformed into the beautiful face of a young coquette to sell the canvas.

It was discovered, with the help of X-rays, how the woman was initially represented in the portrait. The restorers removed the paint layer by layer, returning the image to its original shape.

6. Ilya Repin, Ivan the Terrible and His Son Ivan on 16 November 1581

7 Mysteries That World-Famous Paintings Are Hiding
© Ilya Repin Ivan the Terrible and His Son Ivan on November 16th, 1581 / commons.wikimedia

Repin created this painting based on his feelings about the things that happened around him. It was the assassination of Tsar Alexander II and the suite composed by Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov that inspired him to create this canvas.

The scene of killing the prince fully reflected Repin’s internal condition. He had been concocting this idea for 3 years.

For a long time, he couldn’t put the images in his head on a single idea until he left for Spain and participated in a bullfight there. The painter saw the arena covered in blood and the appearance of bulls, full of hatred and pain.

It was then that the idea was finally born. Repin was obsessed with his work, saw the murder scenes in his dreams, and was tortured by various visions. It was his friends who saved him from going crazy.

5. Francisco de Goya Portrait of Don Ramón Satué

7 Mysteries That World-Famous Paintings Are Hiding
© Francisco José de Goya y Lucientes Portret van Don Ramón Satué / commons.wikimedia© rijksmuseum / facebook

Ramón Satué was a friend of Francisco de Goya. He was a member of the Madrid court and a high official in Madrid. The portrait was painted in gratitude for the fact that the Satué family hid the artist during the repressions.

During an X-ray study, the scientists found an insufficient painting: the image of a man in his uniform. It was not finished, making it impossible to say who was portrayed. It was suggested that Goya painted the King of Spain, Joseph Bonaparte, brother of Napoleon Bonaparte.

After the government lost power, the painter decided not to finish the painting and created a new one.

4. Vasili Pukirev The Unequal Marriage

7 Mysteries That World-Famous Paintings Are Hiding
© Vassili Pukiryov The Unequal Marriage / wikimedia.commons

According to one version of the story behind this painting, the painter depicted the drama of his own life. The bride is Pukirev’s beloved bride, Praskovia Varentsova, while the older groom is the leader of the Tver nobility, Alexey Markovich Poltoratskiy.

If you look closer, there is a lady standing behind the groom. But why is she wearing a white dress and a flower crown on her head?

This outfit is typical of the bride. Scientists suggest that this is the soul of his first wife who appeared at the wedding.

3. Pablo Picasso The Blue Room

7 Mysteries That World-Famous Paintings Are Hiding

In 2008, after careful X-ray study, art critics found another painting hidden behind Picasso’s blue room. It was a portrait of an old man in a suit and bow tie.

Picasso had many ideas, but he did not always have the money to buy new canvases, so he painted new images on old ones.

2. Sandro Botticelli Primavera

7 Mysteries That World-Famous Paintings Are Hiding

The painting was created by order of Lorenzo de ‘Medici and should become a wedding gift. It is not just a representation of an old plot, but a secret and sophisticated message for the next wedding.

Venus here is a shy and married woman and her veil proves it. Once the groom has chosen to marry a noble girl and a goddess, his life will be sweet and happy.

The Three Graces represent three things: pleasure, chastity, and beauty. Mercury represents the main masculine characteristics of sensitivity and eloquence. Cupid’s blindfold says love is blind.

1. Paul Gauguin Be Be (The Nativity)

7 Mysteries That World-Famous Paintings Are Hiding

How are Tahitian women linked to the Nativity? Paul Gauguin was never religious; Furthermore, he was more agnostic than atheist.

While living in Tahiti, the painter became interested in biblical storylines. He even released a manuscript called The Modern Spirit and Catholicism.

During this period, Gauguin’s beloved wife, Pahura, from the Maori tribe, gave birth to a son.

Here he captured the moment of his son’s birth. Soon after, the son of Pahura and Gauguin dies and this tragic event took place at Christmas.

What other hidden details of famous paintings do you know? Tell us about them in the comments.