Hidden Vincent Van Gogh Self-Portrait Discovered by X-Ray

Experts at the National Galleries of Scotland (NGS) have discovered a previously unknown self-portrait of Dutch artist Vincent Van Gogh hidden in the back of another painting after more than a century.

NGS staff found the self-portrait when they took an X-ray of van Gogh’s 1885 “Head of a Peasant Woman,” which has been part of its collection since 1960.

The portrait is covered by layers of glue and cardboard on the back of the earlier work.

The discovery is believed to be a first for an institution in the United Kingdom.

“When we saw the x-ray for the first time of course, we were hugely excited,” Lesley Stevenson, senior paintings conservator at NGS, said.

“This is a significant discovery because it adds to what we already know about Van Gogh’s life,” Stevenson also said.

Van Gogh often re-used canvases by turning them around and working on the opposite side to save money.

The hidden portrait shows a bearded sitter wearing a brimmed hat and a neckerchief loosely tied at his throat. His left ear, which he famously cut off in 1888, is clearly visible, while the right side of his face is in shadow.

The portrait is thought to have been made during a key moment in van Gogh’s career when he moved to Paris and was exposed to the work of French Impressionists.

Research is ongoing on how to uncover the hidden portrait, but the process will require delicate conservation work to not damage the 1885 painting, according to the NGS experts.

Museum visitors will be able to see the X-ray image of the portrait through a specially crafted lightbox as part of the “A Taste for Impressionism” exhibition, due to open at the Royal Scottish Academy in Edinburgh on July 30.

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