The Mysterious Smudge On Edvard Munch's "The Scream" Is Actually Candle Wax

Though it's one of the most well known and widely recognized pieces of art in history, Edvard Munch's painting "The Scream" spent decades shrouded in mystery. Just to the left of the figure in the painting, near its shoulder, is a small white smudge of a mysterious substance. For years, it was rumored that this splatter was bird poop (Munch was known to paint outdoors and store his paintings outside). In August 2016, scientists at the University of Antwerp in Belgium analyzed the mysterious mark on the 1890 painting and determined that it is actually candle wax.

The smudged painting is the first of four versions Munch painted of this scene. The researchers used a system they developed called a Macro-X-ray fluorescence scanner in order to analyze the splatter. This non-invasive technology has been used to solve other art mysteries in the works of artists Jan Van Eyck, Peter Paul Rubens, and Vincent van Gogh. Learn about the history and inspiration of "The Scream" in the video below.

A Quick Explanation Of "The Scream"

You know Edvard Munch's seminal work, but what does it mean?

Edvard Munch's Expressionist Painting

Learn about a painting Munch did shortly after "The Scream."

Written by Curiosity Staff September 19, 2016

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