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X-rays reveal new van Gogh self-portraits, experts say

Amsterdam — There were 35 known self-portraits of Vincent van Gogh in the world. Looks like that has changed this week.

“To that number, we can now add another picture,” Louis van Tilborg, a senior curator at the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam, said on Thursday.

The National Gallery of Scotland in Edinburgh, with the support of the Van Gogh Museum, announced that it had discovered what appeared to be a new van Gogh self-portrait, hidden behind another work by the Dutch artist and covered with cardboard. Has happened .

That 1885 painting, “The Head of a Peasant Woman”, was part of a series of paintings painted in Nuenen, Netherlands by Van Gogh who was probably studying for his famous work, “The Potato Eaters”. The National Gallery X-rayed the work in preparation for the upcoming exhibition, and noticed that there was another image on the back.

“It’s extremely exciting,” said Frances Foul, a senior curator of French art at the National Galleries. “It’s like getting a new painting for the collection.”

The upcoming exhibition, “A Taste for Impressionism: Modern French Art from Millet to Matisse,” opens on July 30 and runs through November 13. Van Gogh was Dutch, but he developed his style in Paris and the south of France, and is considered by art historians to be part of the French Post-Impressionist movement.

Foul said that no one had actually seen the self-portrait, as it cannot be seen with the naked eye.

But Leslie Stevenson, an art restorer at the National Gallery, was the first to discover the hidden self-portrait via X-ray, and he sent Foley a text message with a photograph. When she received the message, she said, Fowl was standing in the line of the fisherman, and “she was astonished when she saw such a ghostly face.”

“We will not remove the cardboard immediately because it is a complicated process,” she said. “You have these layers of glue, so you have to remove it very carefully.”

The museum has had “the head of a peasant woman” since 1960, when it was donated by Edinburgh lawyer Alexander Maitland as part of a collection of Impressionist and Post-Impressionist works, including pieces by Paul Gauguin and Edgar Degas. were involved. There are already three Van Gogh paintings in the museum, and Foul said he saw Self-Portrait as a fourth.

Most of van Gogh’s self-portraits were painted during his stay in Paris, particularly from 1886 to 1888. He was short of money, so he reused the canvases he had used for other works in the Netherlands. Because he couldn’t even afford to hire a model, he often turned a mirror to his face.

The Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam has five double-sided paintings featuring Nuenen works on one side, and self-portraits on the other. So this painting fits right into that series, van Tilborg said. “We know of other cases of paintings in our museum that they were hidden under cardboard on the other side,” he said.

Sajar van Hagten, an independent expert on Van Gogh, said that, based on material about the new discovery posted online by the museum, he was convinced that the hidden picture was a real self-portrait by the artist.

He said it was very unlikely that anyone would find a real Van Gogh painting in their hands and a fake painting painted on the back. There’s a lot of evidence that this is the real thing.”

Yet was it possible to insist on the discovery of a new painting by van Gogh, which until now has only been seen as X-rays?

Rachel Esner, an associate professor of art history at the University of Amsterdam specializing in 19th-century art, said, “Scientifically, we can’t know that it’s a self-portrait because we obviously haven’t seen it yet. “

“But chances are it’s that great,” she said. “It’s probably a little premature, but looking at it objectively, with all the science behind it, it seems completely valid to me.”

Foul said the National Gallery of Scotland would wait to remove the cardboard until “the head of a peasant woman” is on display at the museum’s show, adding that she hopes to reveal the self-portrait to the public in 2023.

“I want to rip it from behind now,” she said. “But we have to be very careful.”

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