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Set in stone

Set in stone
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A breathtaking – or just cool and funky – sculpture can leave a lasting impression, even on those who aren’t big art enthusiasts. Sculptures and statues can provide a fascinating insight into the time they were made. And sometimes, they contain little ‘secrets’ – details that can reveal the mind of the creator. From Christ the Redeemer to David and beyond, here are some little fun facts that’ll make you view these works of art differently.

Christ the Redeemer

Christ the Redeemer
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This massive statue of Christ in Rio de Janeiro, one of the New Wonders of the World, is filled with fun secrets and messages. In fact, it likely literally contains many hidden messages. The statue itself is concrete, but the exterior is made of millions of soapstone tiles. Some of the volunteers who helped attach them wrote little notes, signed their names, or even made wishes on the back, according to the BBC. Just as cool, the statue actually has a trapdoor in it! The statue has an access tunnel for maintenance workers, where stairs go all the way up through the centre of the statue. On Christ’s right shoulder, there is a trapdoor where workers can climb out to abseil down and inspect lightning damage.

David

David
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One of the most famous statues in the world, David resides in Florence’s Galleria dell’Accademia. He stands ready to take on Goliath, and the consensus is that he was sculpted to be a ‘perfect male specimen’. And yet close observers have noticed that the statue has what seems to be a flaw: his eyes look in two slightly different directions. (It’s virtually impossible to spot when he’s on his pedestal.) While the left one looks directly at the viewer, the right one seems to gaze at a distance beyond the viewer. It’s been debated whether or not it’s a mistake, but plenty of scholars think it’s because you can’t see both eyes at a time as you walk around the statue. So, Michelangelo made sure that David’s gaze was as impactful as possible from either side. That Michelangelo; he thought of everything.

Pietà

Pietà
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OK, this is more like the opposite of a secret message – it’s the only piece of his artwork that Michelangelo actually signed! He reportedly heard that the depiction of Mary holding the body of Jesus was being attributed to a rival artist. Unable to stand for that, he added his name to the strap across Mary’s torso. The inscription says ‘Michala(n)gelus Bonarotus Florentin(us) Facieba(t)’, or ‘Michelangelo Buonarotti, the Florentine, made this’.

The Kiss

The Kiss
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This statue by Auguste Rodin is actually a misnomer! The Kiss was inspired by a tale from Dante’s Inferno in which a noblewoman falls in love with her husband’s brother; the lovers are killed by the cheated husband. In 1882, Rodin chose to depict the lovers in their moment of passion. Though it’s basically imperceptible, the lovers’ lips aren’t actually touching in the statue, suggesting that they never actually committed an act of adultery before being caught. (Because that would really make this statue scandalous!)

Need a little help in the intimacy department? Take this quiz that can make you fall in love with anyone.

Fallen Astronaut

Fallen Astronaut
SPACE FRONTIERS/GETTY IMAGES

This is less a ‘hidden message’ than a dispute of authorial intent. In 1971, Belgian artist Paul van Hoeydonck created a work that would be the first piece of art placed on the moon. It was a 9cm-tall aluminium sculpture, representing an astronaut. The astronauts of Apollo 15 would bring it on their mission and put it on the moon. And they did – but not the way van Hoeydonck had envisioned. They laid a plaque, carved with the names of 14 astronauts who had died during space missions, on the lunar surface. They placed van Hoeydonck’s sculpture by it, also lying flat, and dubbed it ‘Fallen Astronaut’. But van Hoeydonck has not been shy about the fact that that was not what he intended for his creation to symbolise at all. He wanted his miniature spaceman to stand up straight and be called ‘Space Traveller’, representing all astronauts, past, present and future – not specifically a memorial to fallen ones.

While your head’s in outta space, check out these spooky facts about the moon.

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Nefertiti Bust

Nefertiti Bust
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This bust, a depiction of the wife of the Pharaoh Akhenaten, was likely created by the sculptor Thutmose around 1345 BCE. (It was discovered in a workshop in 1912.) In addition to its striking colours and fastidious detail, another thing viewers instantly notice about the bust is its missing left eye. Her left eye socket is just blank and empty. Many scholars have puzzled over the reason why, but one thing they know for sure is that the eye isn’t missing; it was never there in the first place. Despite conducting a major search, researchers were never able to find a lost eye, and, in fact, there are no traces of any adhesive that would’ve held it in place, leaving them with one conclusion: There was never any left eye to begin with. The reason why is anyone’s guess, but we do know it’s not because the real Nefertiti was missing an eye or had any ocular conditions. Plenty of other depictions of her show her with both eyes.

While you’re in the vicinity of the Middle East, discover facts about the glittering Persian empire to modern Iran.

The Genius of Evil

The Genius of Evil
VIA WIKIMEDIA.ORG, GETTY IMAGES

In the mid-1800s, sculptor Joseph Geefs got the gig of a lifetime. He was to create a statue of the fallen angel Lucifer (aka the Devil) for St Paul’s Cathedral in Liège, Belgium. And he did – but his depiction, called The Angel of Death, ruffled some feathers. Sure, Lucifer had wings and a serpentine companion, but the powers that be found him too alluring. And that was not a message the church could be promoting.

So after just a year on display in the cathedral, Joseph Geefs’s sculpture was removed, and the church turned to none other than his brother, Guillaume, to make another. Guillaume’s version of Lucifer, finished in 1848, looks decidedly more tormented, and the sculpture contains more overt references to suffering. These hidden messages include a broken sceptre, chains, and an apple sans one bite. Though The Genius of Evil – which still resides in the cathedral to this day – is far from devoid of sensuality, it did appease the church officials.

Now read about a modern-day genius of evil.

Moses

Moses
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You can’t win ’em all, Michelangelo. The 16th-century Florentine’s depiction of Moses has a pretty noticeable quirk: Moses has horns. This is because of a tricky Biblical translation: The Hebrew word that describes Moses’ face as he descended Mount Sinai is now known to mean “radiance” or “rays of light”, but it’s very similar to a word that translates to “horns.” So instead of emitting radiance, this version of Moses has horns on top of his head. Oops. (Hey, at least Michelangelo didn’t sign that one…?) In fairness to Michelangelo, many people at that time accepted the errant translation as fact; it wasn’t a mistake he himself made.

Kryptos

Kryptos
Getty Images

And now for something a little more modern. This 1990 sculpture by Jim Sanborn sits at the CIA campus in Langley, Virginia, USA and contains four different codes within its array of jumbled letters – much more literal hidden messages! Within the decade after the sculpture’s debut, multiple people, including a California computer scientist and an analyst of the CIA itself, announced that they’d solved three of the coded passages – the same three passages. The three passages that have been solved are, unfortunately, not the most mind-blowing. One is a line of poetry by the sculptor; another references something that has been buried, complete with coordinates; and the third is the words of the archaeologist who discovered King Tut’s tomb. The fourth, though, remains unsolved, as far as anyone knows, and presents an alluring challenge to codebreakers.

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Source: RD.com

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