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Vincent Van Gogh’s self-portrait discovered hidden behind another one of his works

A new Van Gogh painting was found behind a canvas, a priceless discovery for the art world.

The art world has just made a once-in-a-lifetime discovery: an unpublished self-portrait by Vincent Van Gogh was found on the back of his 1885 work Portrait of a Peasant Girl in a White Bonnet, thanks to an X-ray study carried out by the National Gallery of Scotland in Edinburgh. It is in that city where the work has lived since 1960.

The self-portrait shows Van Gogh himself seated, wearing a hat and a scarf around his neck. His left ear, which the painter cut off in 1888, can also be seen.

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“When we first saw the X-ray, of course, we were very excited. This kind of discovery only happens once or twice in a curator’s life,” said Lesley Stevenson, senior curator at the National Gallery of Scotland.

Researchers explain that Vincent Van Gogh used whatever materials he had at hand to paint, especially in times when money was scarce (sent to him by his brother and patron, Theo). He painted on tablecloths, kitchen towels, and even on the back of canvases.

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All indications are that Van Gogh painted this new self-portrait two years after he finished Portrait of a Peasant Girl in a White Bonnet. The painting is hidden under a thick layer of glue and cardboard, placed in 1905. It was discovered thanks to a study of the work as part of an exhibition called A Taste for Impressionism.

Researcher Louis Van Tilborgh explained that this self-portrait is part of a series, because “Van Gogh has at least eight paintings in which he painted himself from behind the canvas”. The Dutch painter prepared his canvases before working on them, which allowed him to paint them from behind and “gives them added value” from an art point of view. “Paintings like this one, found in Scotland, belong to public collections, so it is not for me to talk about monetary value,” Van Tilborgh said.

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Specialists are now studying how to separate the two paintings, without damaging either the self-portrait or the Portrait of a Peasant Girl in a White Bonnet in the process.

Story originally published in Spanish in Cultura Colectiva

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