In order to understand any piece of art, one needs to have extensive knowledge in the fields of history, religion, mythology, and literature. It’s this knowledge that helps to decode the things that insignificant details hide and helps you get to know why some artists continued to perfect their canvases for many years, while others created new paintings over other ones.
Unknown artist, The portrait of Isabella de’Medici
A Renaissance portrait by an unknown artist was discovered by accident. Initially, art critics believed that this was a very good fake of a 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 turned into the cute face of a young coquette to sell the canvas.
It was found out, with the help of x-rays, how the woman was depicted in the portrait initially. Restorers removed the paint layer by layer, bringing the picture back to its original form.
Ilya Repin, Ivan the Terrible and His Son Ivan on 16 November 1581
Repin created this painting based on his feelings about the things happening 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 inner condition. He had been concocting this idea for 3 years.
For a long time, he couldn’t put the images in his head into one idea until he left for Spain and attended a bullfight there. The painter saw sand covered in blood and the look of bulls, full of hatred and pain. That’s when the idea was finally born. Repin was obsessed with his work, he would see the scenes of the assassination in his dreams, and was tortured by various visions. It was his friends who saved him from going crazy.
Francisco de Goya Portrait of Don Ramón Satué
Ramón Satué was Francisco de Goya’s friend. He was a member of the Madrid court and a senior 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, scientists found an under painting — the image of a man in his uniform. It was not finished, which makes it impossible to say who was depicted in it. It was suggested that Goya painted the king of Spain, Joseph Bonaparte, Napoleon Bonaparte’s brother. After the government lost its power, the painter decided to not finish the painting and created a new one over top of it.
Vasili Pukirev The Unequal Marriage
According to one of the versions of the story behind this painting, the painter depicted the drama of his own life. The bride is Pukirev’s longed-for bride Praskovia Varentsova, while the elderly groom is the leader of the Tver nobility, Alexey Markovich Poltoratskiy.
If you look closer, there is an old lady standing behind the groom. But why is she wearing a white dress and a wreath on her head? This outfit is typical for the bride. Scientists suggest that this is the soul of his first wife who appeared at the wedding.
Pablo Picasso The Blue Room
In 2008, after a careful x-ray study, art critics found another hidden underpainting behind Picasso’s The Blue Room. It was the portrait of an old man wearing a suit with a bow tie. Picasso had many ideas, but he didn’t always have money to buy new canvasses and that’s why he would paint new pictures over the old ones.
Sandro Botticelli Primavera
The painting was created at the order of Lorenzo de’ Medici and was supposed to become a wedding gift. Not only is it a depiction of an antique plot, but a covert and sophisticated message for the upcoming marriage.
Venus here is a shy married woman and her veil proves it. Since the groom has chosen to marry a noble, goddess-like girl, his life will be sweet and happy. The Three Graces represent 3 things: pleasure, chastity, and beauty. Mercury represents the main male features of sensibility and eloquence. The Cupid’s blindfolded eyes say that love is blind.