There are certain works of art and architecture that are famous the world over. But if you study the history of some of them a little more intently, you’ll find that many of them contain a great deal of mysteries.
The top-floor apartment of the Eiffel Tower
Gustave Eiffel, the man who designed France’s most famous monument, built and fitted out an apartment for himself on its topmost floor. He often used it to rest and receive guests. On one occasion, he had a long conversation there with Thomas Edison. The apartment contains a kitchen, bathroom, two bedrooms, and a living room, and, of course, boasts spectacular views. Today it serves as a museum, complete with waxworks of Eiffel and Edison.
The broken chain at the feet of the Statue of Liberty
The Statue of Liberty was given to the USA by the people of France in honor of the 100th anniversary of the American Revolution. It symbolizes freedom, democracy, and the repeal of slavery. It is for this reason that a broken chain lies at the feet of the statue — something often overlooked by the many thousands of tourists who go to see it.
The Isleworth Mona Lisa
It’s a well-known fact that many artists have reproduced the famous Mona Lisa. But it’s believed that there is one other portrait painted by da Vinci himself, and this one is no copy. Interestingly, the second version is painted from a slightly different perspective. It’s possible that it was made by a different artist, or maybe several of them. According to experts, however, it’s more likely that this is simply an earlier version of da Vinci’s masterpiece.
The time capsule in Mount Rushmore
During the construction of this famous monument, architect Gutzon Borglum wanted to create a Hall of Chronicles inside the cliff face — a secret room where future generations would find the fundamental records of and information about the USA’s history. For this purpose, he excavated a cave behind the head of Abraham Lincoln. Soon after, however, Borglum died, and his plan was not completed. In 1998, more than 50 years after his death, copies of important documents and the memoirs of various presidents were placed inside the unfinished hall, which now serves as a time capsule.
The Matterhorn at Disneyland
The Matterhorn at Disneyland that’s modelled and named after a mountain in the Alps on the border with Switzerland and Italy is the first tubular steel continuous track roller coaster. That’s not it though. Inside the very top there is a small attic-like structure used as a staging and break area for climbers: a basketball hoop, complete with backboard and net, which has been attached to a flight of wooden stairs. Climbers and Cast Members used the basketball court and staging area to prepare for scheduled climbs or to pass time when there was bad weather.
The Sphinx’s original appearance
The Great Sphinx of Giza is the oldest statue in the world. Originally, it was decorated with bright paint, only fragments of which remain today behind one of its ears. It also had a nose and a ceremonial beard. The remains of these can be seen in British and Egyptian museums. Some experts believe that the Sphinx may originally have had the head of a lion or a dog, and a human face was only carved over this much later. This would explain the large difference between the proportions of the gigantic body and the small head.
The creation of the Leaning Tower of Pisa
The famous tower contains many secrets. Everyone knows about its inclination, but no one knows who actually built the bell tower for Pisa’s cathedral. One of the reasons for this mystery is the fact that it was built over the course of nearly 200 years. Historians are used to assuming the construction plan was developed by Bonanno Pizano, but a more likely candidate was Diotisalvi, who designed the baptistery located next to the tower which is built in the same style.
The face of Rembrandt’s Danaë
Rembrandt started painting Danaë two years after his marriage to Saskia van Uylenburgh. The artist depicted his wife in many of his paintings, and it long remained a mystery why the similarity with Saskia was not so clear in this image as it was in his other works of the 1630s. Moreover, the style of this particular painting was closer to many of his later works. It is only recently that explanations have been found for this mystery. When examined using x-rays, the similarity of the figure in the painting with Rembrandt’s wife is much clearer. It seems the painting was redone after his spouse’s death, at a time when he was infatuated with another woman, Geertje Dircx. The facial features of Danaë were changed in such a way that they combined both of his lovers’ features.
The name of the most famous tourist attraction in Britain
Strictly speaking, “Big Ben“ doesn’t refer to the whole tower in the British Houses of Parliament but instead only the large bell within it. Until September 2012, the official name for the structure was ”The Bell Tower of the Palace of Westminster.” Now its official name is “The Elizabeth Tower.” At present, no one knows for certain in whose honor the bell was named Big Ben. One theory goes that it was the nickname of a powerfully built man who managed the bell foundry where it was made. Another theory suggests it was named after Benjamin Count, a heavyweight boxing champion.
The color of the Golden Gate Bridge
The Golden Gate Bridge is one of the most photographed landmarks in the world. It took a long time to agree its construction with the United States Navy. When permission was finally obtained, the Navy wanted it to be painted in black and yellow stripes so that it would be visible in fog. In the end, the architect of the bridge, Irving Morrow, convinced the military to paint it a dark orange color. This not only made sure it was visible in all weather conditions but also gave it an attractive appearance.
The sky in the painting The Scream
The initial name of the legendary painting by Edvard Munch was The Scream of Nature. The artist wrote in his diary:
“…suddenly the sky became blood-red; I stopped, feeling exhausted, and leaning against a fence, saw blood and tongues of flame over bluish-black fjord and a city…”
In 2003, a group of astronomers put forth the theory that the bright scarlet color of the sky that so astounded the artist was caused by the eruption of the Krakatoa volcano in 1883. A huge quantity of volcanic dust was thrown up into the atmosphere, because of which extremely bright flamelike sunsets were observed all around the world over the following few years.