Though instantly recognizable, many contain secret meanings, unsolved riddles, and even hidden images in their many layers of oil and varnish. Read on for 11 paintings worth a closer look.
Among Michelangelo’s venerable ceiling murals inside the Vatican’s Sistine Chapel is arguably the most iconic depiction of man’s relationship to God. In The Creation of Adam, an indifferent Adam, lounging languidly on Earth, offers a drooping hand to God, who stretches his own arm from the sky, surrounded by an entourage of angels and a red cloak forming a peculiarly familiar shape: a near perfect resemblance to the human brain, complete with the cerebellum and vertebral artery. One interpretation is that God is attempting to impart divine knowledge to man; another is a covert attack by the artist at the church for its rejection of science. It may come as no surprise that the master of anatomy himself, Michelangelo, counted cadaver dissecting as a hobby.