Why do some paintings from the Renaissance seem to depict UFOs?

The Renaissance was a period of incredible creativity in many fields, but none more so than art, with works from Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, and Raphael that serve as touchstones for artists to this very day.

But while Renaissance painters were especially interested in the human form and depictions of religious events, some of the work from the time period also contains what seem to be references to UFOs.

As HuffPost noted in a 2015 article:

“Many unusual aerial objects depicted in paintings between the 14th to the early 18th century look, at first glance, like modern-day UFO sightings.

“It’s easy to wonder why artists of those long-ago centuries seemed obsessed with including these curious objects in scenes surrounding the stories of the birth and death of Jesus Christ.”

Take, for example, this fresco done in 1350 and located at the  Visoki Decani Monestary in Kosovo, Serbia. Be sure and note the two objects on either side of Jesus that seem be controlled by pilots:

Fresco at the Visoki Decani Monestary in Kosovo, Serbia. Photo via HuffPost

Dennis Geronimus, associate professor of Italian Renaissance art and chair of the Department of Art History at New York University, says there’s an easy explanation for the piloted objects:

“As odd as the details in the upper left and right sections of the Kosovo fresco may seem to modern eyes, they, in fact, refer to something readily familiar: the sun and the moon.

“The strangeness, to our sensibilities, no doubt lies in the fact that the two celestial bodies are personified by two crouching figures that are shown as inhabiting them: producing a kind of ‘man in the moon’ effect.”

Here’s another one that catches the eye. It’s The Miracle of the Snow by Masolino da Panicale:

The Miracle of the Snow. (Public Domain)

The story behind this particular work is also somewhat strange, according to Ancient Origins:

“One day in early August in the fourth century AD, something strange happened in Rome.  Those who were outside braving the heat, walking on the Esquiline Hill would have glanced at the sky to notice a curious cloud formation – very different certainly from the compact cloud cover typical of snowfall – and would have been astonished to see snowflakes drifting down to earth – in the heat of summer!”

Related: Mysterious sightings of ‘angel hair,’ an ethereal substance associated with UFOs and apparitions

But the clouds in the painting look more like disks than they do what we normally see when he look into the sky. And snow in summer? How often does that happen?

Or perhaps you prefer The Annunciation with Saint Emidius by Carlo Crivelli, which clearly shows a circular object shooting a beam of light down upon the Virgin Mary:

The Annunciation with Saint Emidius by Carlo Crivelli (Wikipedia)

Related: Does This 15th Century Painting Depict A UFO With The Virgin Mary?

But according to Professor Geronimus, the apparent UFO is just the Holy Spirit:

“The golden beam descending from a cloud bank through an opening in Mary’s bedroom wall, and reaching its destination at the Virgin’s head, carries along its path the Holy Spirit. Characteristically, here it assumes the form of a white dove and symbolizes the incarnation.”

So are we trying to find something so badly that we’re seeing what we want to? That seems to be the overall consensus of most art historians. But computer scientist Jacques Vallee suggests that the very fact such images are found in so much art of the Renaissance period still has meaning beyond what we can understand with mere logic:

“It’s certainly true that these paintings do not represent actual sightings by the artist or contemporary events of the scene.

“You cannot simply say that, because somebody saw something round in the sky in medieval times, it’s the same phenomenon that people see today. We are not making that statement. We’re simply describing what people saw and the phenomena associated with it as a contribution to the overall study of the history of the phenomenon.”

Valeee, who was a principal speaker in 1978 at the only major United Nations UFO presentation in history, adds:

“We don’t go into ideology. We’re not saying it’s proof of alien anything. We’re saying there is a phenomenon and it has some of the characteristics of the modern phenomenon, and we let it go at that. You still have to account for differential descriptions because of the changes in the cultures and the changes in the media, through which the data has arrived to us.”

In other words, we may never know, but then again, that’s true about many of the things in this world that most intrigue us.

Here’s more on UFOs in artwork:

Featured Image: The Miracle of the Snow by Masolino da Panicale. Christ and the Blessed Virgin Mary observe Pope Liberius, who marks in the legendary snowfall the outline of the basilica via Wikimedia Commons, Public Domain.

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