5 Leonardo da Vinci, Mona Lisa
Steeped in mystery, this enigmatic masterpiece has been baffling researchers and art historians for centuries. Now Italian scholars have added another layer of intrigue by announcing that Da Vinci left a series of very small letters and numbers. Viewed under a microscope, it’s possible to make out the letters LV in Mona Lisa’s right eye.
There are some more symbols in her left eye, but not as visible as the others. They resemble the letters CE, or the letter B.
The arch of the bridge in the background of the painting has an inscription that is either the number 72 or the letter L and the number 2. Behind the painting, there is the number 149 and a fourth number in the sequence that is erased.
Researchers speculate that this was probably the year when the painting was made (when Da Vinci was in Milan during the 1490s). What these numbers and letters really stand for is something that only Da Vinci knew.
6 Sandro Botticelli, Primavera
This Botticelli masterpiece has a lot to offer the curious eyes of those who indulge in the searching of hidden symbols and meaning in artworks.
The origin of the painting is a little bit unclear. It was either commissioned by Lorenzo de’ Medici, or it may have been commissioned somewhat later by his cousin, Lorenzo di Pierfrancesco de’ Medici. Either way and perhaps more importantly, it was created in the court of one of the most progressive families of the time.
The painting, which is full of characters from Roman mythology, is according to scholars (Cunningham and Reich) an “elaborate mythological allegory of the burgeoning fertility of the world.” Besides this obvious mythical explanation and representation of Springtime, there are many interpretations of the scene depicted in the painting. Some people think that it provides clues to a plot against the Medici family and some who think that it is connected with the Pagan Renaissance Revival and Neoplatonic philosophy.
Marsilio Ficino, who spoke about this idea, was Florence’s foremost philosopher. He believed that man possessed a spark of divinity, which contrasted with the medieval view of man’s guilt and culpability.
This is probably why the painting looks like a 1960s hippie gathering. Besides all the controversy, there is something else that makes it very special – the painting is a botanical heaven. In the imaginary meadow depicted in Primavera (Spring), Botticelli painted an astonishing number of plants with an amazing degree of detail.
According to botanists that did research on the painting, there are at least 500 individual plants that can be classified as over 200 different species. One theory suggests that they are all the plants that grew around Florence during springtime in the 15th century.
7 Giorgione, The Tempest
In Giorgione’s “The Tempest,” we see two figures, one male, and the other female. They are both outside the walls of an unknown city, and it looks like a storm is coming.
The painting looks very simple and straightforward, but throughout the years, many scholars have analyzed it and tried to find the best interpretation. The young man standing on the right has been described as a soldier, shepherd, gypsy, or young aristocrat. The woman, sitting opposite him, is either a gypsy, a prostitute, Eve, or Mary, mother of Jesus, on the Flight into Egypt. There is also a stork on one of the rooftops, which according to some is a symbol of the love of the parents for their children.
Everything around seems to be silent, in expectation of the upcoming storm. According to an Italian scholar called Salvatore Settis, the city in the background is a representation of Paradise, while the two characters are Adam and Eve with their son Cain. In ancient Greek and Hebrew mythology, the lightning in the sky is a representation of God.
Settis thinks that the painting shows the moment when God chased Adam and Eve from Eden. This is just one of the explanations of “The Tempest,” a painting that many scholars consider as one of the most enigmatic works of art. Some go so far as to believe that it is haunted by the spirit of its author who resides inside of it.