We tend to think of classic art as being all dignified and serious, if perhaps a little stuffy. But that's only because we're not looking closely enough. As we've pointed out before, a lot of classical art is like a "Where's Waldo?" picture, but with more bare breasts and less mockery from your peers if they catch you puzzling over it.
#7. The Ambassadors
The Ambassadors by Hans Holbein the Younger is an enigmatic masterpiece loaded with enough strategic placements and hidden meanings to frustrate Stanley Kubrick. The portrait is a masterwork of perspective study, delving so deeply into the subject that it seemingly contains the 16th century equivalent of a Photoshop error.
Shoulder poofiness = 300%
The Easter Egg:
But that's actually a nifty trick called anamorphosis. Why, all you have to do is turn the picture sideways ...
And boom! Holo-skull.
See? This 3-D bullshit has been going on for centuries.
The whole thing was Holbein's elaborate way of illustrating that no matter what, everybody dies. But considering that this crazy pseudo-hologram was painted by hand all the way back in 1533, we're assuming that maxim didn't apply to Holbein himself, who just hopped onto his hover-farthing and warped back to his home dimension when his time was up.
#6. Raphael's The School of Athens
The School of Athens by Raffaello is perhaps the single most iconic image of the High Renaissance that is also the cover of Use Your Illusion I and II.
Coincidentally, the Renaissance was also when Chinese Democracy was first announced.
The Easter Egg:
While we could spend all day talking about the cameos Raphael slipped into the fresco ...
That's Socrates, all four of the ninja turtles and many, many others. It's like the Ocean's 11 of paintings.
... they're nothing compared to the Easter Egg Renaissance master Donato Bramante contributed to the project. According to Giorgio Vasari's Lives of the Most Excellent Painters, Sculptors, and Architects, Raphael had Bramante design "the architecture" for the fresco and, sure enough, Bramante's contribution was a carbon copy of the floor plans for the new St. Peter's Basilica he was working on just down the street. The School of Athens wound up offering a ground-level glimpse at the completed work more than a century before it would be finished.
It's a nice enough church, but the glare will literally melt your corneas.
Bramante already had the enormous cathedral completed in his head, and thanks to Raphael he was able to slip a sneak peak of the structure within the fresco, just like a Renaissance Pixar film. Well, if Pixar was slipping in references to movies that wouldn't be released until 2126, that is. We just feel bad for all the hardcore church fans out there who caught the teaser and got super stoked for this new blockbuster cathedral, only to see the release date and realize they'd be passing on those pre-ordered tickets to their grandkids.
Let us pray!
It was basically Duke Nukem Forever: The Church.
#5. All of Al Hirschfeld's Drawings from 1945 Onward
Al Hirschfeld was an American illustrator and caricaturist best known for his black-and-white portraits of celebrities and political figures all throughout the 20th century. Think of those '80s posters in Asian hair salons, but, y'know, classy:
And without flecks of blood on the frames.
The Easter Egg:
Hirschfeld also managed to hide his daughter Nina's name in damn near every single one of his thousands of artworks.
"This will always be a good idea."
Hirschfeld decided to push this concept to a level he later described as "harmless insanity." And while we agree with the "insanity," we don't know about that "harmless" part: Presumably his other daughter, Xernophystoles Mernozence Hirschfeld, felt a little hurt and neglected when her name turned up conspicuously absent ...
"I worked her name into a caterpillar once, but doing so gave me carpal tunnel syndrome."
The man became so adept and prolific that the Pentagon eventually approved a $60,000 grant to train the eyes of bomber pilots by having them spot the "hidden Ninas" in Hirschfeld's drawings.
"HEY ASSHOLES, I ALSO DRAW GREAT CARTOONS, TOO, YOU KNOW."
#4. Pieter Bruegel the Elder's Continuing Fetish
Pieter Bruegel the Elder warranted a previous appearance in recognition for his fantastically exhaustive catalog of asses. But it wasn't all butts and brews for old Bruegel -- he also created some pretty cool, surreal stuff like this:
... is that bored satyr getting a blowjob?
But betwixt all the booty and David Lynch fan art, Pieter was still a classically trained artist. The Magpie on the Gallows, for example, is a spectacular example of one of his landscapes. Look at it: Serene. Pastoral. Beautiful.
"The hangin's at noon."
The Easter Egg:
All that lush foliage and subtle color work make it so easy to overlook the man in the bottom-left corner shitting his guts out in the bushes.
Note his use of shadow to tastefully hide the sphincter.
Yeah ... Bruegel didn't really know how to stop painting asses and the things that come out of asses. Take The Fair at Hoboken for example:
Let's go poopin' now...
Everybody's learning how ...
Come on a poop safari with meeee!
He had his own artistic reasons for this obsession, of course: In many of his works, defecation was used to showcase "the worst excesses of human folly."
All the best parties begin and end with public pooping.
But somewhere around the time you find yourself spending days painstakingly rendering a diarrhea waterfall, you have to stop and consider that this whole "human folly" thing might just be the spin you're putting on the fact that you're "really into poop these days."
"It's good to finally be out of my 'Phlegm Phase,' though."