Barely visible in the top left-hand corner of one of the world’s most famous paintings are the words, “Could only have been painted by a madman!” For years, curators and art historians have wondered who wrote it.
After decades of debate, experts confirmed this week that the artist himself, Edvard Munch, is responsible for the inscription on his most famous work, “The Scream.”
According to The National Museum of Norway, a Danish art critic first noticed the inscription during an exhibition in Copenhagen in 1904 — thinking that a member of the public had written it as an act of vandalism.
New infrared scans, which don’t impact the painting, have shown that Munch left the tiny sentence on the corner of the painting, written in pencil after the work was already complete. The museum analyzed the handwriting and compared it to Munch’s diaries and letters from the time.
“The writing is without a doubt Munch’s own,” said Mai Britt Guleng, curator at the National Museum. “The handwriting itself, as well as events that happened in 1895, when Munch showed the painting in Norway for the first time, all point in the same direction.”
The museum confirmed the inscription’s origins while the painting is undergoing extensive conservation in preparation for its installation in Oslo, Munch’s home city, next year.