More Than Meets the Eye

In the earliest days of my art journey, I wrote about Telling Stories Through Art. It was a fun concept for me as a beginning artist. As we all know, pictures do tell stories, and at the time I wrote that post, I thought that was all there was to know about narrative in art.

Now, a little over three years later, I’m beginning to realize how much more there is to the entire concept of narrative. I’ve had quite a good time exploring this idea and coming to my own understanding of it.

Where before I saw art narrative only in visual terms, I now see it through thoughts and feelings, moods and emotions. I see it not only in the subject of a painting, but also through the techniques the artist has used, through the colors, through the values, and through symbolism.

Today, I intended to write a thoughtful post about narrative in art — where it comes from, how we develop it, how we use our artistic knowledge to express it — but then, as so often happens, I got side-tracked.

So, today’s post is only quasi-thoughtful. It is Friday, so let’s just call it a “Fun Friday” and not take ourselves too seriously.

What I stumbled across was a list of paintings with hidden meanings. These paintings tell unexpected stories, and it was interesting to read about them.

10 Paintings With Hidden Meanings

Primavera (Spring) 1477-1478 by Sandro Botticelli (1445-1510). Italian painter. Tempera on panel.
Primavera (Spring) 1477-1478 by Sandro Botticelli (1445-1510). Italian painter. Tempera on panel.

“A joyous celebration of female beauty and gaiety? An exuberant pagan ode to the season of renewal? Nothing so simple. Botticelli’s masterpiece is not only a botanist’s dream, with 500 identifiable plant species, but has been variously interpreted as containing the clues to a plot against the Medici and an attempt to reconcile the ideals of Christianity, Judaism and Islam, a pet project of Neo-Platonist intellectuals at the Medici court. If that seems far-fetched, Renaissance Florence rivalled Sixties California for wacky theories and spurious gurus. Botticelli attached himself to one of them, the hellfire preacher Savonarola, and his work took on a more austere and mystical turn, before his spiritual guide was burned in the city’s main square in 1498.” – From 10 Paintings with Hidden Meanings

Included on this list are the Sistine Chapel Ceiling, The Last Supper, and Francisco de Goya’s Naked Maja. All in all, it’s an interesting — and amusing — read. I came away with a deeper understanding and appreciation for narrative in art, and an awareness that sometimes art is about far more than meets the eye.

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