10 Works of Art We Can’t Believe They Got Away With

In the context of our post last week on French yé-yé pop, we touched on France Gall’s “Les Sucettes,” an ostensibly innocent ditty written for her by Serge Gainsbourg, which came stuffed full of allusions to oral sex. The song’s questionable enough, but the video is all kinds of wrong — giant dancing phalluses, nubile teens sucking on very suggestive lollipops, and poor little France Gall, oblivious to it all. We still can’t quite believe Gainsbourg got away with it, but then, he made a career out of getting away with it. Anyway, the whole thing got us thinking about similar works of art with hidden meanings that somehow managed to slip under the radar — history is full of them, and we’ve put together a rather eclectic selection after the jump. We’re sure there must be heaps more, so let us have your suggestions in the comments section.

The Sistine Chapel

Michelangelo’s sublime ceiling to the Sistine Chapel in Rome has been fascinating scholars for centuries, both because of its artistic merit and because of the plentiful hidden messages that the painter appears to have embedded within it. For a start, there’s the theory that the depiction of God reaching out to Adam doubles as a cross-section of the human brain. Even better, though, is the depiction of the prophet Zechariah, to whom Michelangelo gave the face of the Pope of the time, Julius II. The thing is, however, that the angelic cherub behind the prophet is making a rude gesture at him — and thus, by insinuation, insulting the pope. Clearly, doing such a thing in the 16th century wasn’t good for your long-term health, which is probably why Michelangelo made the gesture so subtle. And he got away with it. Nicely done.