At any given moment, you can look around a public setting and see at least a handful of people with their heads angled down to their hands, immersed in the phone that is in their hand. Nowadays, this is a very common thing to see, as we are a technologically savvy society. But, this wasn’t always the case. Before we were swept away by personal devices, we engaged in other things that surrounded us while we walked in nature or in a vibrant city.
Ironically enough, an 1850s Waldmuller painting at the Neue Pinakothek Museum in Munich showcases a woman in 19th-century clothing, walking through the countryside with her head down. And it looks an awful lot like what you would see today, as if the woman has just experienced a case of time travel and she landed in the midst of our cell phone obsessed society.
The ironic image was spotted by retired Glasgow local government officer Peter Russell.
It’s obvious that the painting does actually take place in the 19th century and we can be certain that there is no way she is holding a cell phone, but it certainly puts things in perspective. We are a busy society, distracted by technology and sometimes so trapped in our own worlds that we have no idea what is going on around us.
This piece, titled The Expected One, was created by Austrian artist Ferdinand Georg Waldmüller around 1850-60.
The painting shows a woman walking alone down a rocky dirt path in nature. A man with a pink flower in his hand is kneeling ahead of her on the path, awaiting for her to approach. Considering she has her attention focused on whatever is in her hand, she doesn’t seen the man ahead. Instead of being a cell phone, the object in her hand is actually 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,” said Russell. “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 noticed the peculiar scene in the painting after he heard about a similar story in which a mural of colonial America appeared to show a Native American man clutching a smartphone.
Russell shared a tweet of the painting and included the following comment…
“Just like her on the dating app in Waldmüller’s Die Erwartete (c. 1850).”
In the past there have been other similarities like this one that has caused conspiracy theories about time travel and other bizarre phenomena.
This particular painting has also been recognized as ‘Sunday Morning,’ as the two characters are dressed in their Sunday clothes and the boy awaits for his love who is walking down the path while engrossed in her hymnbook.