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Unseen self-portrait of Vincent Van Gogh discovered behind another painting

X-rays show the Dutch artist’s face with a hat and neckerchief
X-rays show the Dutch artist’s face with a hat and neckerchief Copyright Graeme Yule/National Galleries of Scotland
Copyright Graeme Yule/National Galleries of Scotland
By Theo Farrant with AP
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Conservators have found a self-portrait of Vincent Van Gogh behind his masterpeice 'Head of a Peasant Woman', but how was it discovered?


A hidden self-portrait of what experts believe is Vincent Van Gogh has been discovered behind one of his paintings.

The image was discovered by the National Galleries of Scotland during an X-ray scan of another work by the famous Dutch artist, 'Head of A Peasant Woman' from 1885. 

The newly found portrait shows a person with a beard and a complete left ear - which the artist famously cut off in 1888. However, the Vincent Van Gogh museum says it's "almost certainly" a self-portrait of the artist.

An incredible discovery

Neil Hanna/AP
Senior Conservator Lesley Stevenson views Head of a Peasant Woman alongside an x ray image of the hidden Van Gogh self portrait.Neil Hanna/AP

Lesley Stevenson, senior paintings conservator at the National Galleries of Scotland, was in the room when the X-ray was taken. 

She immediately shared the news with Professor Frances Fowle, senior curator of French Art, National Galleries of Scotland.

"She said she was absolutely bowled over when she saw it. She immediately recognised it was a self-portrait by Van Gogh. And so she sent me a text, and I was actually out shopping at the time and I received it on my phone, a tiny little image, but it was quite amazing. And I was very excited," says Fowle.

Conservators now aim to reveal the hidden portrait, which lies beneath layers of glue and cardboard. 

Before they do, the portrait and the X-ray, displayed in a lightbox, will be on show between 30 July and 13 November 2022 at the Royal Scottish Academy in Edinburgh.

Check out the video above for a closer look at this miraculous discovery

Video editor • Theo Farrant

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