So the internet thinks there's an iPhone in this 19th century painting

Detail from a painting showing a woman looking at something in her hands
(Image credit: Ferdinand Georg Waldmüller/Future owns)

It can be hard to remember a time before smartphones – and in particular the model that started it all. Apple's iPhone, which has probably replaced your computer, music player, calculator and approximately a billion other devices, first launched in 2007. Or is that 1860? 

A nineteenth century painting has resurfaced featuring what very much appears to be a woman holding an iPhone. And while that obviously isn't what we're looking at, it's fun to imagine, right? (Check out the best iPhone 14 deals if you want to look as contemporary as her.)

"The Expected One" painting

Let's hope she doesn't leave him on Read (Image credit: Ferdinand Georg Waldmüller)

“The Expected One" by Austrian painter Ferdinand Georg Waldmüller is doing the rounds right now, with social media users going wild for the hilarious illusion. The lady in 162 year-old painting is displaying all the hallmarks of a modern day smartphone user: both hands clutching the device, presumably messaging a suitor, eyes down, oblivious to the beautiful landscape around her – and to the slightly creepy guy brandishing a flower in the foreground.  There even appears to be a faint glow emanating from the 'screen' – this must be an OLED model.

A photo of the iPhone 14 Pro

Perhaps she's browsing Creative Bloq? (Image credit: Basil Kronfli)

But of course, she isn't holding a prehistoric iPhone. According to Vice (opens in new tab), the painting was spotted at Munich's Neue Pinakothek museum earlier this year. "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,” he said.

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So what's she holding? A prayer book, of course. “The girl in this Waldmüller painting is not playing with her new iPhone X, but is off to church holding a little prayer book in her hands,” Gerald Weinpolter, CEO of the art agency austrian-paintings.at, told Vice.

Still, it's not the first time we've seen iPhones pop up in unusual places. Last year, the internet went wild when a supposedly unreleased model appeared in an Apple TV series – but just like the lady looking at Tinder her prayer book, all was not quite as it seemed there either.

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Daniel Piper
Senior News Editor

Daniel Piper is Creative Bloq’s Senior News Editor. As the brand’s Apple authority, he covers all things Mac, iPhone, iPad and the rest. He also reports on the worlds of design, branding and tech. Daniel joined Future in 2020 (an eventful year, to say the least) after working in copywriting and digital marketing with brands including ITV, NBC, Channel 4 and more. Outside of Future, Daniel is a global poetry slam champion and has performed at festivals including Latitude, Bestival and more. He is the author of Arbitrary and Unnecessary: The Selected Works of Daniel Piper (Selected by Daniel Piper).