Secret Van Gogh self-portrait discovered by X-ray of another painting ~ The Washington Post

An X-ray image of a Vincent Van Gogh self-portrait; Van Gogh’s “Head of a Peasant Woman,” 1885. (Courtesy of National Galleries of Scotland)

Frances Fowle, the senior curator at the National Galleries of Scotland, got what was likely to be the most exciting text message of her career while waiting in line at a fish shop on a Friday afternoon. It was an image from an X-ray. Not of broken bones — but of a previously unknown self-portrait by Vincent Van Gogh.

“Look what I’ve discovered,” wrote her colleague Lesley Stevenson.

Stevenson, a conservator at the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, found the painting when she X-rayed another piece by Van Gogh, “Head of a Peasant Woman,” ahead of an exhibition — a routine step that normally does not reveal such a major find.

Hidden under layers of glue and cardboard was another painting on its reverse — a portrait of a man in a hat with a scarf tied around his throat.

“I saw it then and there: It was a self-portrait by Van Gogh, on the back of our painting,” Fowle said.

Senior conservator Lesley Stevenson with “Head of a Peasant Woman” and an X-ray image of the hidden self-portrait. (Courtesy of Neil Hanna)

The Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam has examined the X-ray of the newly uncovered painting, which is “almost certainly” a Van Gogh self-portrait, the National Galleries of Scotland said in a news release. Still, experts are searching for ways to uncover it without damaging the painting under whose canvas it sits so they can confirm its authenticity.


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