Think back to 20 years ago, when your friends would call you up after school on the landline. For anyone young enough not to remember, that’s a phone attached to a wall. So how could it be even remotely possible for someone in the 1850s to have something that we didn’t start using until 10 years ago?
Well, imagine Glaswegian Peter Russell’s surprise when he spotted a woman seemingly zoning out on an iPhone in a rustic 1850’s painting.
The retired local government officer and policy specialist spotted the piece, entitled The Expected One, while visiting the Neue Pinakothek museum in Munich with his partner.
Others on Twitter have also made comments on the familiar item in the image.
1850s Waldmüller painting called The Expected One, at the Neue Pinakothek museum.
Woman clearly on an #iPhone
Therefore a time traveller pic.twitter.com/pkhWx8Ycz2
— FKA – Jon Donnis 💙🇨🇾🇬🇷🇬🇧 (@JonDonnis) November 13, 2017
— James Gurney (@GurneyJourney) November 12, 2017
The painting is by prominent Austrian artist Ferdinand Georg Waldmüller and depicts a young man on his knees, offering a pink flower to the approaching girl; hoping to catch her attention and perhaps even her affection.
However, his Victorian-style efforts at flirting are going completely unnoticed. With her head lowered as she strolls along, her eyes are completely locked onto what appears to be an iPhone.
One Twitter user, hilariously points out that perhaps her interests lie with men elsewhere.
This painting was done in the 1850s! Look at what she's holding 🤔
My guess is she on tinder and the guy waiting doesn't have a chance. pic.twitter.com/StuoLatFLs
— Jack anderson (@Mamapaws6) November 14, 2017
The device even seems to be illuminating her face, and her distracted, hunched body language reflects the stooped ‘text neck’ bod we are all used to seeing and experiencing.
But nope. No time traveling was involved to create this picturesque, yet puzzling countryside scene.
The girl is actually engrossed in a hymnbook. Boring, right? It was just our tech-obsessed 21st-century minds messing with our perceptions.
And this isn’t the first time it’s happened.
Another painting by Italian muralist Umberto Romano from 1937, entitled Mr. Pynchon and the Settling of Springfield, shows an indigenous man who also appears to be absorbed in an iPhone.
But alas, he probably isn’t in a fierce Twitter battle, but instead using an old-fashioned hand-held mirror.
Russell told Motherboard that, “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.
“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 brook.
“Today, no one could fail to see the resemblance to the scene of a teenage girl absorbed in social media on their smartphone.”
And it’s not hard to see why we would see that resemblance. After all, you’re reading this on your phone right now, just like that, aren’t you?