At first glance, it appears a baffling anachronism – a woman in 19th century dress walking head down through the countryside, with her eyes glued to a smartphone.
The bizarre scene was spotted in an 1850s Waldmüller painting at the Neue Pinakothek museum in Munich by retired Glasgow local government officer Peter Russell.
While the true explanation behind the painting may be far more time-appropriate, the century-old piece bears remarkable similarity to a scene that’s become all too familiar today, as ‘distracted walkers’ dominate the sidewalks with phone in hand.
The piece, titled The Expected One, was painted by Austrian artist Ferdinand Georg Waldmüller around 1850-60.
It shows a woman walking down a rocky dirt path, as a kneeling man awaits her approach not far ahead, with a pink flower in his hand.
With her attention focused on the small rectangular object she’s clutching, the similarity to modern distracted walkers is striking.
But, the object in her hands is not a smartphone, but a hymnbook.
‘What strikes me most is how much a change in technology has changed the interpretation of the painting, and in a way has leveraged its entire context,’ Russell told Motherboard.
‘The big change is that in 1850 or 1860, every single viewer would have identified the item that the girl is absorbed in as a hymnal or prayer book.
‘Today, no one could fail to see the resemblance to the scene of a teenage girl absorbed in social media on their smartphone.’
Russell first pointed out the strange scene in response to a similar story, in which a mural of colonial America appeared to show a Native American man holding a smartphone.
In a tweet replying to the Motherboard article, Russell shared an image of the Waldmüller painting, writing: ‘Just like her on the dating app in Waldmüller’s Die Erwartete (c. 1850)’.
These bizarre likenesses have, in the past, sparked countless conspiracy theories about time travel and other strange phenomena.
But, there’s no question that the woman in the painting is holding a prayer book, and not a 21st century device.
According to the gallery, the painting is also known as ‘Sunday Morning,’ and shows the two characters dressed in their Sunday clothes.
As the boy awaits the arrival of ‘his love,’ the girl appears engrossed in her hymnbook, leaving the viewer wondering if his feelings will be reciprocated.
Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk