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Fascinating Facts About Ten Famous Paintings

Updated on April 23, 2015
An Italian Renaissance painting by Raphael: The School of Athens.
An Italian Renaissance painting by Raphael: The School of Athens. | Source

When we say painting, the first thing that comes into our mind is a mixture of colors placed beautifully in a canvass. It has become the most common form of art that has captured the attention of many through the years. Through it, artists all over the world can freely express their thoughts, ideas and emotions in a very aesthetic quality. Its two-dimensional visual language is composed of elements namely: shapes, lines, colors, tones, and textures. All these elements are put together to create impressions of volume, space, movement, and light on a flat surface. Painters or artists use different mediums for their masterpiece: tempera, fresco, oil, acrylic, watercolor or other water-based paints, ink, gouache, encaustic, or casein.

Furthermore, painting can be represented in different forms: mural, easel, panel, miniature, manuscript illumination, scroll, screen or fan, panorama. Through the years, the art of painting has evolved and has gone far since it was first put to practice in earlier cultural traditions. During renaissance period, a lot of painters have been popular in their own field of expertise and in fact, their masterpiece has quite become controversial. Yes, their work of art is superb and remarkable, though there are other things that were not revealed thus creating a fuss for centuries. Here are the top ten famous paintings of all time and the little-known facts about it.

1. Mona Lisa – Leonardo Da Vinci

We are all familiar with the most beautiful woman of all time – Mona Lisa. People often refer to her smile as “the perfect smile” or “Mona Lisa smile”, a smile unlike any other that was captured perfectly by Leonardo Da Vinci who is not only a painter but an inventor, scientist and doctor. Controversies spark along with the fame of this oil painting, like: why is it that she has no eyebrows? How was she related to Da Vinci? According to some, she is the female version of Da Vinci and others claim her to be Lisa Gherardini. Well, according to research, Mona Lisa is indeed Lisa Gherardini, a member of a prominent Florentine family and wife of a wealthy silk merchant and a mother of two sons. As for her eyebrows, Da Vinci was not able to finish the portrait because he was a supreme perfectionist.

The ethereal beauty of Mona Lisa has captured the hearts of many for centuries. Leonardo Da Vinci's masterpiece is truly captivating.
The ethereal beauty of Mona Lisa has captured the hearts of many for centuries. Leonardo Da Vinci's masterpiece is truly captivating. | Source

2. The Last Supper – Leonardo Da Vinci

This is another masterpiece of Leonardo Da Vinci in the 15th century that has been renowned for its biblical implications. This painting was done as per request by the Duke of Milan, Ludovico Sforza. The Duke specifically asked this particular religious scene of Jesus and the Apostles at the Last Supper painted, and Da Vinci followed the said request. The original mural is on a wall of the refectory (dining hall) in the Convent of Santa Maria delle Grazie in Milan, Italy. Originally, the painting included Jesus’ Feet, however, while setting up a doorway in the refectory where the painting is on view way back in 1952, builders cut into the bottom-center of the mural, cutting off the feet.

Leonardo Da Vinci's another masterpiece that depicts the biblical scene of Jesus and his disciples during The Last Supper.
Leonardo Da Vinci's another masterpiece that depicts the biblical scene of Jesus and his disciples during The Last Supper. | Source

3. The Creation of Adam – Michelangelo

At the fresco ceiling of Sistine Chapel, which was painted by Michelangelo, a panel called “Creation of Adam” is displayed. This masterpiece portrays God giving life to the first man. This painting has several interpretations especially that this painting has two dominant character: God and Man; aside from that, God is seen to be wrapped around with several other figures of a woman and a child randomly. It is said that the woman is the Virgin Mary, who takes this place of honor next to God and the child next to her was Jesus Christ. Generally, the Creation of Adam would be basically linked to the future coming of Christ, who comes to reconcile man after the sin of Adam.

The marvel of Sistine Chapel - The Creation of Adam.
The marvel of Sistine Chapel - The Creation of Adam. | Source

4. Starry Night – Vincent Van Gogh

Probably you have heard the song entitled “Vincent van Gogh” which depicts the famous painting of Starry Night. This painting was completed in 1889 with oil paint on a canvas. Van Gogh painted this while he was admitted for mental illness at Saint Remy de Provence. It is a view of the night sky right at his window and he actually painted it during day time to see what it looked like.

A beautiful scene of the stars in the vast sky. The masterpiece of Vincent Van Gogh that made us love the stars at night.
A beautiful scene of the stars in the vast sky. The masterpiece of Vincent Van Gogh that made us love the stars at night. | Source

5. The Scream – Edvard Munch

Edvard Munch’s most famous work, The Scream has technically five versions painted through the years. The first two, from 1893 were created with tempera and crayon on cardboard which are located in the National Gallery in Oslo and the Munch Museum. The third version was made with pastels in 1895. Another version was released during the same year, however the version was made with black and white lithograph. In 1910, Edvard Munich did the final version due to the success of the previous paintings. The painting made the headlines when it was stolen in 2004 and was found in 2006.

Expressionist artist Edvard Munch's work of art in 1893 has given remarkable versions of paintings and pastels.
Expressionist artist Edvard Munch's work of art in 1893 has given remarkable versions of paintings and pastels. | Source

6. The Persistence of Memory – Salvador Dali

Salvador Dali’s surrealism piece of art painted in 1931. Just like any other paintings, this painting has various interpretations which differ from the view of the painter himself. Dawn Ades, a well-known critic interpreted the painting as an allusion to the Theory of Relativity and Time by Albert Einstein. However, for Dali, it was a surrealist vision of Camembert cheese melting in the heat of the sun.

Salvador Dali's most recognizable work that portrays surrealism.
Salvador Dali's most recognizable work that portrays surrealism. | Source

7. The Girl With The Pearl Earring – Johannes Vermeer

This famous Vermeer’s work of art is also known as the “Dutch Mona Lisa” or “Mona Lisa of the North”. It has caused remarkable sensation in the US, specifically in Washington, back in 1995. Originally, this piece was named “The Girl with a Turban” and in the second half of the 20th century, the name was changed to what it’s currently called. The beautiful girl in the painting was believed to be Maria, Vermeer’s eldest daughter who was about twelve or thirteen years old by the time his father made the portrait.

17th century Dutch painter Johannes Vermeer painted her daughter Maria wearing blue headscarf and pearl earrings, using oil and canvas.
17th century Dutch painter Johannes Vermeer painted her daughter Maria wearing blue headscarf and pearl earrings, using oil and canvas. | Source

8. The Night Watch – Rembrandt Van Rijn

The Night Watch painting was a very famous masterpiece of Rembrandt in 1642 which can be found in Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam. It was originally named “The Company of Frans Banning Cocq and Willem van Ruytenburchwhich means a company being a militia guard. In search for answers for centuries, people haven’t got a clue who were the people depicted in the painting. Until Dutch historian Bas Dudok van Heel discovered and found answers to the mysteries of who’s who in March 2009. Aside from that, he was able to discover that there are 6 portraits of militia hanging in continuous series, they are not separate paintings. Instead, it was six group portraits by Rembrandt, Pickenoy, Bakker, Van der Helst, Van Sandrart, and Flinck that formed an unbroken wall painting each matching the other.

The most famous painting work by Rembrandt known as The Night Watch which portrays a group portrait of a militia company.
The most famous painting work by Rembrandt known as The Night Watch which portrays a group portrait of a militia company. | Source

9. Guernica – Pablo Picasso

Pablo Picasso was a Spanish cubic painter who painted the renowned “Guernica” – city that was bombed by Nazi planes during the Spanish Civil War. However, Picasso didn’t know or witnessed the bombing firsthand, the inspiration for this painting was an article written by South African-British journalist George Steer for The Times. Aside from that, Guernica was a commissioned painting by Picasso and members of Spain’s democratic government. Little-known facts about Guernica are gradually being recognized worldwide.

The beautiful mural-sized oil painting on canvas by Spanish artist Pablo Picasso in 1937.
The beautiful mural-sized oil painting on canvas by Spanish artist Pablo Picasso in 1937. | Source

10. American Gothic – Grant Wood

Grand Wood’s American Gothic is a very popular American painting, not only within the country but as well as worldwide. The painting is a depiction of the ideals of rural America. Others interpret the people in the picture as husband and wife, but the truth is, it portrays a father and daughter. The girl in the picture was Wood’s sister named Hattie, but initially it was supposed to be his mother. Wood though of her mother’s age that it would be too exhausting for her to stand too long, that’s why he asked his sister to do it and she wore their mother’s apron and pin. The man in the picture is not his father or brother; he was Wood’s 62-year old dentist.

American Gothic is a painting by American artist Grant Wood in 1930 which illustrates ideals of rural areas.
American Gothic is a painting by American artist Grant Wood in 1930 which illustrates ideals of rural areas. | Source

Centuries Of Art

No matter what century these paintings were created and what century we live in today, we can’t deny the fact that these are priceless treasures. These paintings have been the inspiration to modern art and have served as motivation for artists everywhere. Modern day paintings are most often found in homes, hotels and other establishments. When you look at a canvas with splashing bright colors, you just have to think about the history that has been made through centuries of art.


A modern art painting with gloss finish that portrays life's journey.
A modern art painting with gloss finish that portrays life's journey. | Source

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    • aprilsemogan profile image
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      aprilsemogan 2 years ago

      Hi Mel Carriere,

      Good day! It's great to know that you enjoyed reading this hub. I'm glad that you took the time to post a comment.

      Have a great day! :)

    • Mel Carriere profile image

      Mel Carriere 2 years ago from San Diego California

      Fascinating facts on some beautiful paintings, all of which I enjoy immensely. Great hub.

    • aprilsemogan profile image
      Author

      aprilsemogan 2 years ago

      Thanks for taking the time to read this hub SouradipSinha. Yeah, everyone knows Mona Lisa, and i would be surprised if someone doesn't. I find the melting clocks and Scream pretty unique as well. :)

    • SouradipSinha profile image

      Souradip Sinha 2 years ago from Calcutta

      Whole World knows of Mona Lisa! The picture of melting clocks by Dali and the Scream, both of them are so very unique!

      Great list! :)

    • aprilsemogan profile image
      Author

      aprilsemogan 2 years ago

      Hi Lee,

      It's so nice to know that we're both big fans of Da Vinci. I have always been captivated by Mona Lisa and how i wish i could see the real painting. Thanks a lot for voting this up. Have a great day! :)

    • profile image

      Lee Cloak 2 years ago

      A really great hub, I am a big Da Vinci fan, I had not heard of Grant Wood so its fantastic to learn of another really interesting artist, thanks for sharing your knowledge, voted up, best wishes, Lee