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Never-Before-Seen Van Gogh Artwork Discovered Hidden Behind Earlier Painting

Aisha Nozari

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Never-Before-Seen Van Gogh Artwork Discovered Hidden Behind Earlier Painting

Featured Image Credit: National Galleries of Scotland

Impressionist fans prepare to geek out: a new Vincent Van Gogh self-portrait has been discovered etched onto the back of one of his famous paintings, which is basically the highbrow version of finding a quid stuffed under the sofa.

The newly-discovered painting is ‘almost certainly’ Van Gogh’s portraiture and was discovered when an x-ray was taken of Head of a Peasant Woman, Van Gogh’s 1885 painting of a local woman from the the town of Nuenen in the Netherlands.

Head of a Peasant Woman has been on display at the National Gallery of Scotland since 1960, however, Van Gogh’s self-portrait was hidden for more than a century. 

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A new Vincent Van Gogh self-portrait has been discovered etched onto the back of one of his famous paintings. Credit: National Galleries of Scotland
A new Vincent Van Gogh self-portrait has been discovered etched onto the back of one of his famous paintings. Credit: National Galleries of Scotland

The x-ray was taken ahead of the Taste for Impressionism exhibition at the Royal Scottish Academy in Edinburgh and unexpectedly unearthed Van Gogh’s painting, which was hidden beneath layers of cardboard and glue.

Van Gogh, who is one of the most famed figures in art history, was known for repurposing canvas by working on both sides in a bid to save money.

The painting captures a bearded man wearing a hat and neckerchief and the sitter’s left ear is notably intact. Van Gogh famously cut off his left ear in 1888.

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The never-before-seen work is likely one of Van Gogh’s earlier pieces and can be viewed at the upcoming exhibition in Edinburgh through a specially designed lightbox. 

It’s currently unclear whether the self portrait can be extracted from Head of a Peasant Woman as the process of removing the cardboard and glue will be incredibly intricate.

Professor Frances Fowle, senior curator of French art at the National Galleries of Scotland, called the discovery ‘thrilling’. 

The newly-discovered painting was discovered behind Head of a Peasant Woman. Credit: National Galleries of Scotland
The newly-discovered painting was discovered behind Head of a Peasant Woman. Credit: National Galleries of Scotland
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Fowle gushed: “Moments like this are incredibly rare. We have discovered an unknown work by Vincent Van Gogh, one of the most important and popular artists in the world.”

She added: “What an incredible gift for Scotland, and one that will forever be in the care of the National Galleries. We are very excited to share this thrilling discovery in our big summer exhibition A Taste for Impressionism, where the x-ray image of the self-portrait will be on view for all to see.”

Lesley Stevenson, senior paintings conservator at the National Galleries, also expressed her excitement, saying: “When we saw the x-ray for the first time of course we were hugely excited.

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

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Stevenson continued: “There is lots to think about with regards to the next steps, but for us it is another little nugget to get us a little bit closer to an incredible artist.

“Knowing that it’s there in a painting that’s in the National Galleries of Scotland in a collection that belongs to the people of Scotland is incredibly important and significant. Hopefully it will encourage people to come along and have a look.”

If you have a story you want to tell, send it to UNILAD via [email protected] 

Topics: News, Art

Aisha Nozari
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