Urban Legends of Art

Sponge-Throwing Painters of the Ancient World

An ancient legend described the role of chance in art — a sponge flung in anger at a canvas accidentally produced the exact effect a painter had been striving for. The same story was told of three different painters, suggesting the tale was an urban legend. more…

Posted: Tue May 19, 2015.   Comments (1)

The Mona Lisa Suicide

A young French artist, Luc Maspero, supposedly threw himself from the fourth floor window of his Paris hotel in 1852. He left behind a note saying that he had struggled to solve the mystery of the Mona Lisa's smile, but having failed, he preferred to die. We find versions of this story circulating since the 1960s, but there's no evidence that any such artist ever lived (or committed suicide). more…

Posted: Thu Nov 27, 2008.   Comments (4)

Hands Resist Him - The eBay Haunted Painting

Before the Ghost in a Jar, before the possessed Coke can, there was the eBay haunted painting. This genuinely creepy painting, titled Hands Resist Him, appeared for sale on eBay in February 2000, accompanied by claims that it was haunted. Disturbing things happened to those who owned it, and the figures in the painting itself supposedly moved. Even people who simply viewed it online were said to be gripped by terror attacks and fainting spells. It ended up selling for $1050, and I believe it might have originated the haunted-items-are-worth-more phenomenon on eBay. The BBC has a…

Posted: Tue Jun 22, 2004.   Comments (35)