80yo painting appears to show Native American man using a smartphone

'Mr Pynchon and the Settling of Springfield'
A man using what appears to be a phone in 'Mr Pynchon and the Settling of Springfield'. Photo credit: File

An 80-year-old painting has taken the internet by storm by appearing to show a Native American man using an iPhone.

The painting, 'Mr Pynchon and the Settling of Springfield', was committed to canvas in 1937 by Italian painter Umberto Romano. It depicts two Native American tribes and British settlers meeting for the first time in Massachusetts around the year 1630.

Neither then, nor in the 1930s, were smartphones around - but that's exactly what one of the several men depicted in the artwork seems to be gazing at.

Another man, tied to a pole, appears to be leaning over to try and get a look at the Native American's latest Snapchats.

The anomaly was noticed two days ago by Brian Anderson, a writer for online magazine Vice.

"It's not clear exactly who this man is, but he might as well be popping off a selfie or thumbing through his news feed," Anderson wrote.

"He seems to gaze into the handheld device in such a way that renders all-too-familiar today, as if he's just read a bad tweet or recoiling from a Trump-related push notification from the Times. He would almost look unremarkable, if only he and the world around him existed at any point in the past decade."

'Mr Pynchon and the Settling of Springfield'
'Mr Pynchon and the Settling of Springfield' Photo credit: File

Cellphones didn't exist until the 1970s, and smartphones as we know them now first appeared about a decade ago.

Historians have suggested it's probably a blade or a mirror - both far more likely than a time-travelling Galaxy Note.