A hidden self-portrait by Vincent van Gogh, with his ear intact, was found behind another canvas by the Dutch painter, the National Galleries Scotland in Edinburgh announced in early July. The work was discovered thanks to an X-ray study of the canvas “Portrait of a Peasant Girl”, painted by van Gogh in 1885. The study was conducted prior to an exhibition on Impressionism at the Scottish museum.
“When we first saw the X-ray, we were of course very excited,” said Lesley Stevenson, senior curator at the National Gallery of Scotland. The portrait was found on the back of the canvas, covered by layers of glue and cardboard, which had apparently been placed before an exhibition in the early 20th century, reported AFP news agency.
Moments like this are incredibly rareFrances Fowle, curator of the National Gallery of Scotland
Van Gogh (1853-1890) is known to have reused canvases to save money and to have made approximately 40 self-portraits in ten years, because he often had no money to pay models. This self-portrait shows a bearded man seated with a hat and a scarf around his neck, and his left ear-which the painter cut off in 1888-is perfectly visible.
“Portrait of a Peasant Woman” entered the collection of the National Galleries Scotland (NGS) in 1960 as part of a gift from a prominent Edinburgh lawyer, and depicts a woman from the village of Nuenen in the southern Netherlands, where the artist lived from December 1883 to November 1885, according to BBC.
We have discovered a previously unpublished work by Vincent van Gogh, one of the world’s most important and best-known artistsFrances Fowle, curator of the National Gallery of Scotland
Van Gogh scholars believe the artist painted the self-portrait on the other side of the canvas later and at a key moment in his career, after moving to Paris and being exposed to the work of the French Impressionists.
This discovery came about thanks to advances in science and technology and improved conservation methods that allow experts to evaluate works of art without damaging them. Experts must now assess how to remove the glue to separate the two paintings without damaging them.
Van Gogh’s work was almost never sold during the artist’s lifetime and his fame came after his early death in 1890, when he was only 37 years old. The discovered work will be on public display at the exhibition in Edinburgh from July 30th to November 13th, where visitors will be able to see the painting, reproduced by X-ray.