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Mystery Hidden Message In The Scream May Have Finally Been Solved

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Mystery Hidden Message In The Scream May Have Finally Been Solved

It has been revealed that graffiti which was scribbled on one of the world's most well-known paintings was put there by the artist himself.

Scans were carried out on Edvard Munch's painting known as 'The Scream', showing that the graffiti - which is barely visible - was in fact written by him.

The words 'Can only have been painted by a madman', can be found written in pencil in the top left-hand corner.

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They were first spotted (or at least spoken about) in 1904 - 11 years after Munch completed the painting, which was originally titled 'Der Schrei der Natur' ('The Scream of Nature').

It was a Danish art critic that noted the sentence and blamed it on a member of the public... but that wasn't the case.

New research at the National Museum of Norway - which will open in 2022 - reveals that the handwriting belonged to Edvard Munch himself.

Credit: National Museum of Norway
Credit: National Museum of Norway
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Among other things, the painting was photographed using an infrared camera, making the writing clearly stand out from the painted background and thereby adding a new twist to the story.

Mai Britt Guleng, curator at the National Museum, has worked extensively on Munch's works.

She said: "You have to get quite close to see the inscription. We seldom find such inscriptions on paintings, particularly not on one of the world's most famous ones.

"Given that it's such an important work in the history of international art, the inscription has received remarkably little attention."

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Credit: National Museum of Norway
Credit: National Museum of Norway

Thierry Ford, paintings conservator at the National Museum, added: "The writing has always been visible to the naked eye, but it's been very difficult to interpret.

"Through a microscope, you can see that the pencil lines are physically on top of the paint and have been applied after the painting was finished.

"We chose to photograph it with an infrared camera to get a clearer picture of the inscription. In an infrared photo, the carbon from the pencil stands out more clearly and makes handwriting analysis easier. And you don't have to impact the painting itself."

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It is believed that Munch may have written the sentence after his mental health was questioned.

Guleng explained: "The theory is that Munch wrote this after hearing [medical student Johan] Scharffenberg's judgment on his mental health, sometime in or after 1895. It is reasonable to assume that he did it quite soon after, either during or following the exhibition in Kristiania.

"Munch was also generally concerned about the idea of hereditary disease in the family. Both his father and grandfather suffered from what was then referred to as melancholy and his sister Laura Munch had been admitted to Gaustad Psychiatric Hospital.

"The inscription can be read as an ironic comment, but at the same time as an expression of the artist's vulnerability. Writing on the finished painting shows that creating for Munch was a continuous process."

Featured Image Credit: National Museum of Norway

Topics: News, Painting, Art, Weird

Rebecca Shepherd
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