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Scotland. Unknown self-portrait of Van Gogh found under the painting “Head of a Peasant Woman”

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The staff of the National Gallery of Scotland made a unique discovery. Under the canvas on which Vincent Van Gogh painted “The Peasant’s Head” in 1885, a hitherto unknown self-portrait of the painter has been found.

The X-ray image of “Peasant’s Head” shows Vincent Van Gogh’s bearded face in a hat and scarf. The portrait was hidden on canvas under layers of glue and cardboard for over 100 years. “It was absolutely thrilling,” recalls Lesley Stevenson, senior painting restorer at the National Gallery Scotland, about the moment when an extraordinary discovery was made. She also added that the team did not expect much from a “modest little painting” when carrying out routine restoration work.

Van Gogh’s work was screened as part of the cataloging and preparation for the summer exhibition of French Impressionism at the Royal Scottish Academy. Research suggests that the discovery is one in a series of experimental self-portraits of the artist. There are five similar works that are on display at the Van Gogh Museum The Netherlands. They were painted on the back of other canvases.

Vincent Van GoghThe National Galleries of Scotland

A breakthrough discovery of the Van Gogh portrait

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Frances Fowle, Senior Curator of French Art, believes that the discovery at the National Gallery of Scotland will further understand a key period in Van Gogh’s artistic development. It was then that the painter first encountered the works of the French Impressionists after moving to Paris in 1886. “The period when he started producing self-portraits was crucial in the development of his mature style, when he began experimenting with his own distinctive brushstroke. Van Gogh was a very independent thinker and quickly developed his radical new style,” argues Fowle.

Now the conservators face another task. They want to completely reveal the self-portrait that lies beneath the layers of glue and cardboard, and yet they cannot damage the original painting. “It’s like stepping into the unknown,” said Lesley Stevenson, adding that the entire operation would be a huge challenge.

Main photo source: The National Galleries of Scotland

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