Edvard Munch’s 1893 painting “The Scream” is so famous it has its own emoji. Few works of art are so enshrined in popular culture. From The Simpsons and
The words, “Can only have been painted by a madman,” are scrawled in pencil in the top left-hand corner of the painting and until now, no one has been sure who wrote it. Now, new tests made by The National Museum of Norway have confirmed they were made by Munch himself.
There are numerous rumors about the inscription. Many believed the work was vandalized while on show in a gallery; others maintained that it was the artist himself who wrote the cryptic epitaph.
Now, the mystery has come to an end. Curators at
Considering the painting is so iconic — it’s dubbed the
To study it, researchers used infrared photography to make it more legible. “He didn’t write it in big letters for everyone to see,” Guleng said. “You really have to look hard to see it. Had it been an act of vandalism, it would have been larger.”
An 1895 exhibition could hold some answers. Guleng suggests that during a debate about the exhibition at the University of Oslo’s Students Association one night, a medical student named Johan Scharffenberg said the artwork “gave him reason to question the artist’s mental state, calling Munch abnormal and a ‘madman.’”
According to Lasse Jacobsen, a research librarian at the Munch Museum in Oslo, Munch was deeply offended by critique and wrote about the “madman” review for decades to come.
Guleng told NYT that, “by writing this inscription in the clouds, he took possession, in a way, or he took control of how he was to be perceived and understood.”