Sorry, but this 17th-century painting does not contain Nike sneakers

Painting with Nike logo overlaid on it
(Image credit: Nike/Future)

Nike is one of the most popular sportswear brands today, but some people are starting to believe the company was in fashion a lot further back in history. And it's all because of an uncanny likeness of the Nike logo on a pair of shoes in a painting from 400 years ago.

The baffling discovery was made while the painting was on loan to London's National Gallery, and it's causing some to wonder if the young boy depicted may have travelled in time. He's elegantly dressed in the fashions of his day, with a grey suit and matching cloak, but what does he have on his feet? (See our guide to the best art supplies if you want to paint your own masterpieces).

Portrait of a boy by Ferdinand Bol

Portrait of Frederick Sluysken by Ferdinand Bol (Image credit: Ferdinand Bol (private collection))

One unexpected benefit of having such a simple and widely known logo turns out to be that people see it everywhere. Even in 17th-century paintings. A large portion of the internet is currently convinced that the young gentleman in this painting by the Dutch master Ferdinand Bol is wearing a pair of Nike shoes.

Bol is considered one of Rembrandt’s most talented apprentices. This painting, which is in a private collection, was initially thought to depict his own son but is now believed to show Frederick Sluysken, the son of a wealthy Dutch wine merchant. Look closely at his feet, and there does seem to be something of a likeness to the Nike tick on the black shoes.

Portrait of a boy by Ferdinand Bol

(Image credit: Ferdinand Bol (private collection))

We recently saw a campaign that detected potential glasses of Stella Artois in historic paintings. But, of course, it's impossible that Bol drew Nike shoes since the sportswear brand only began life in 1964. The apparent similarity has drawn newfound interest in the painting, however. Apparently, it was a mother and daughter who noticed the detail when the painting was on loan to London's National Gallery. The gallery took up their comment and asked people on Twitter if they could spot the "modern detail".

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So is it just an optical illusion like the iPhone in that Ferdinand Georg Waldmüller painting? So far, we've not come across anyone with a theory about what the white mark on young Frederick's shoes might be – it appears to be only on the inside of the left shoe – but I'm sure more theories will be forthcoming.

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Joseph Foley

Joe is a regular freelance journalist and editor at Creative Bloq. He writes news and features, updates buying guides and keeps track of the best equipment for creatives, from monitors to accessories and office supplies. A writer and translator, he also works as a project manager at London and Buenos Aires-based design, production and branding agency Hermana Creatives, where he manages a team of designers, photographers and video editors who specialise in producing photography, video content, graphic design and collaterals for the hospitality sector. He enjoys photography, particularly nature photography, wellness and he dances Argentine tango.