To err is human, and even undisputed geniuses make mistakes sometimes.
Bright Side took a fresh look at eight world-famous art masterpieces and discovered some inaccuracies, intentional or not. Don’t miss a small test for art connoisseurs at the end!
8. David by Michelangelo
The statue of the biblical hero was carved from a single block of Carrara marble. Michelangelo’s sculptures are usually very anatomically accurate, but David has a small flaw: there is a missing muscle between the spine and the right scapula. The sculptor couldn’t carve it because of a defect in the marble block.
7. The Ninth Wave by Ivan Aivazovsky
This painting depicts waves with curving crests. Aivazovsky observed this kind of wave from the shore, believing them to be the same anywhere in the sea. But the waves that arise during storms in the open sea are cone-shaped and look different to those in the shallows.
6. Moses by Michelangelo
A mistranslation in the Book of Exodus led to the biblical prophet having horns. The Hebrew word karnayim can be translated as “rays“ or ”horns,” and the description of Moses having rays of light coming from his head was wrongly interpreted.
5. A Bar at the Folies-Bergère by Édouard Manet
If you look closely at the mirror, you can spot that the reflection is not true to the reality: the bottles on the counter are placed differently, and the bartender seems to be looking in another direction. As is often the case in art, experts can’t agree on whether Manet did that on purpose.
4. The Night Watch by Rembrandt
This painting is full of unsolved riddles. A lot of debate arose over the gloves of Captain Frans Banning Cocq: in his right, gloved hand he is holding another right-hand glove. Many art historians think that this was a way to give the painting a touch of humor. Others believe that the glove is a left-hand one, and the captain is just holding it by the ring finger while the thumb is pointed at the viewer.
3. The Supper at Emmaus by Caravaggio
A careful viewer may notice that the basket with fruit is sticking out over the edge of the table but doesn’t fall, defying the laws of physics. Art experts, in their turn, notice that the fruit doesn’t match the season: the painting is set on the eve of Easter, before the fall harvesting. All these mistakes are intentional: apples and grapes, as well as the fish-shaped shadow from the basket, carry Christian symbolism and evangelical references.
2. The Birth of Venus by Botticelli
Even though Renaissance art is characterized by anatomical accuracy, the works of Botticelli diverge from realism. His goddess of love has conspicuous defects: a swollen foot and an excessively long neck. According to one version, these mistakes are a deliberate attempt to avoid depicting a perfect female body.
1. The Sistine Madonna by Raphael
At first glance, you might get the impression that Pope Sixtus II has six fingers on his right hand. After a more careful inspection, though, you realize that what you had taken for the sixth finger is a part of his palm. The outgrowth next to Madonna’s little toe, however, can be a sign of polydactyly — an anomaly characterized by an extra number of digits.
Bonus: check your knowledge of a famous work of art
Few people know that there is another version of La Gioconda — the Isleworth Mona Lisa that is believed to belong to Da Vinci’s brush as well, although it had been painted years earlier. The picture was found in a private collection more than a century ago, and it’s now exhibited in the Prado Museum, Madrid. Maybe one day it’ll help find answers to the questions posed by Mona Lisa.