Curators Find Disturbing Hidden Message On The Scream

The famous painting depicting the expression we've all made during shock or distress continues to keep giving. The Scream (or The Scream of a Nature) is the world-famous work of art by Norwegian artist Edvard Munch from 1893. The New York Post reports that curators in Norway recently discovered a hidden message within the painting.

The 19th century expressionist painting depicts a man experiencing sudden bout of anxiety while on a walk with two friends. The main focus of the piece is a skeletal figure with widened-eyes, holding both hands against their cheeks in shock, and his mouth wide. Apparently, Munch is said to have experienced what the figure in his artwork is feeling, per Khan Academy.

It is a widely recognized painting that's been studied by many all over the world, and earned icon status thanks to two thefts (in 1994 and 2004), and got pop culture standing when the popular '90s slasher film Scream helped popularize the ghost face Halloween mask, which similarly depicts Munch's subject.

The message within The Scream

Norwegian curators at the National Museum of Norway say written on the painting are the words, "Can only have been painted by a madman." For decades people assumed that the mysterious writing located near the upper left corner of the The Scream, was probably added by a vandal and critic of Munch. But the revelation now is that Munch vandalized his own work, and the long-debated inscription was his own doing.

By using infrared light technology, curators and experts compared the handwriting on the painting and writings from Munch's journal. The researchers determined that the words are indeed his — identical to other handwriting samples, said the museum's curator. "The writing is without a doubt Munch's own," said Mai Britt Guleng (via CNN). 

This finding comes after The Scream undergoes conservation to go on exhibit sometime soon. Since the painting was recovered in 2006 — it had been missing after it was stolen in 2004 — it hasn't been on display much.