A portrait of a mystery bow-tied man beneath Picasso's The Blue Room painting has been discovered with infrared imagery. Scientists have long suspected the canvas's surface might be hiding something and now wonder if it is the artist’s own earlier work.
An unknown man with bearded face resting on his hand with three
rings on his fingers, wearing a jacket and a bow-tie was
discovered under Pablo Picasso's The Blue Room masterpiece. Dated
1901, the painting was created in Paris, while Picasso was at the
start of his distinctive blue period of melancholy subjects.
The under-portrait might be the artist's own earlier work.
"When he had an idea, you know, he just had to get it down and realize it," curator Susan Behrends Frank told the AP, revealing Picasso had hurriedly painted over another complete picture. "He could not afford to acquire new canvases every time he had an idea that he wanted to pursue. He worked sometimes on cardboard because canvas was so much more expensive."
Conservators long suspected there might be something under the surface of The Blue Room, judging by the way it was painted. Brushstrokes on the piece clearly do not match the composition that depicts a woman bathing in Picasso's studio. The odd brush work was noted by a conservator back in 1954, but it was not until the 1990s that an x-ray of the painting first revealed a fuzzy image of something under the picture.
Over the past five years, experts from the Phillips Collection,
National Gallery of Art, Cornell University and Delaware's
Winterthur Museum have developed a clearer image of the
underneath mysterious picture using a special technical analysis.
The finding has fueled new research of the man's identity. Experts have ruled out the possibility of a self-portrait, and are now looking for answers who this man might be and why Picasso painted him.
The Blue Room has been part of the Phillips Collection museum in Washington since 1927. For now the painting is on tour in South Korea until early 2015.
The revelation of the man's portrait beneath the painting is not
the first finding in Picasso's works. Hidden pictures have been
found under some of the artist's other creations, including a
portrait of a moustached man beneath the painting Woman Ironing,
at the Guggenheim Museum in Manhattan.
It's not just Pablo Picasso who saved on canvases, drawing over his previous works. Art historians have long known that Vincent van Gogh painted over many of his canvases. By using conventional x-ray technology, scientists were able to reveal the portrait of a woman hidden beneath van Gogh's 1887 Patch of Grass.
The same method helped investigate "a confusing area of greater density" in one of Rembrandt's portraits, Old Man in Military Costume of 1630. In the 1980s conservators discovered that there was another figure hidden beneath.