A painting that is “undoubtedly” a previously unknown self-portrait by Vincent Van Gogh has been discovered by the National Galleries of Scotland.
The extraordinary find is believed to be the first for a UK institution and was discovered by an X-ray taken of Van Gogh’s (1885) Peasant Woman’s Head ahead of the forthcoming A Taste for Impressionism exhibition at the Royal Scottish Academy. Edinburgh.
Hidden from view for over a century, the portrait was found on the back of the canvas bearing the head of a peasant woman, covered by layers of glue and cardboard believed to have been applied prior to an exhibition in the early 20th century. .
Van Gogh was known for reusing canvases to save money by turning them over and working on the opposite side.
The portrait shows a bearded nanny wearing a wide-brimmed hat and a loose scarf tied around her throat. Her left ear, which was cut off in 1888, is clearly visible.
It is believed to be one of his earliest works and his first exploration of self-portraits, for which he later became known.
Viewers will be able to see the sketch as an X-ray image through a specially designed light box.
While it is possible to separate the paintings, the process of removing the glue and cardboard will require some delicate conservation work. Research is being done on how that can be done without damaging a peasant woman’s head.
Professor Frances Fowle, Senior Curator of French Art at the Scottish National Galleries, said: “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.
“What an incredible gift to Scotland, and one that will forever be in the care of the National Galleries. We are very excited to share this exciting discovery in our major summer exhibition A Taste for Impressionism, where the X-ray image of the self -The portrait will be on display for all to see.
Lesley Stevenson, senior curator of paintings at the National Galleries, said the organization is “very excited” to have discovered the portrait.
“When we first saw the X-ray, of course we were very excited,” he said.
“This is a significant discovery because it adds to what we already know about Van Gogh’s life.
“There’s a lot to think about regarding the next steps, but for us it’s another little nugget to get a little closer to an incredible artist.
“Knowing that it is there in a painting that is in the Scottish National Galleries in a collection that belongs to the people of Scotland is incredibly important and meaningful.
“Hopefully it will encourage people to come and take a look.”
Art enthusiasts will be able to see the portrait as part of the exhibition that will take place between July 30 and November 13.