When painters make corrections it’s called a pentimento (plural pentimenti). Pentimenti are fairly common, and have been used throughout history. Usually you cannot see pentimenti with the naked eye. You need an x-ray machine.
Most of the time pentimenti are only small adjustments, like changing the length of a tablecloth. However, pentimenti can sometimes change the meaning and/or history behind a piece entirely. Just take a look at these five famous paintings with big pentimenti.
1.) The Whale in Hendrick Van Anthonissen’s “Beach Scene.”
When this Dutch painting from the 17th century found its way into a public museum, the conservator who was restoring it thought there was something odd about it. Why would there be a crowd on the beach if nothing was going on? As he cleaned he found that originally on the beach was a whale carcass that had been painted over.
Researchers think it was painted over for purely aesthetic reasons. Not many people probably wanted a painting of a dead whale hanging in their house.
2.) The figure hidden behind Picasso’s “The Old Guitarist.”
Picasso had some lean years in his life. During those time he could not always afford art supplies. So he had to make due with what he had, and occasionally painted over and repurposed old canvasses.
Such was the case with his painting “The Old Guitarist.” Upon close inspection of the painting you can see the outline of another figure. X-Rays have revealed that it was a painting of a woman holding a child in some sort of rural setting.
3.) The mysterious disappearance of the King of Rome.
Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingre’s “Portrait of Jacques Marquet de Montbreton de Norvins” is one of the most famous examples of political pentimento. The portrait is of the chief of police of Rome after Napoleon had conquered the city.
Researchers suggest there is evidence that a bust of Napoleaon’s son (who had been named the King of Rome by his father) was originally in the background. However after Napoleon was defeated, it wasn’t safe to associated with him, and the bust was covered up.
4.) Dead child or basket of potatoes.
“L’Angelus” is a painting by French artist Jean-François Millet from 1859. On the surface it depicts two peasant farmers in a field looking down at a basket of potatoes. However when the painting was x-rayed it was revealed that the basket of potatoes was originally a small coffin.
The painting was only x-rayed after the artist, Salvador Dali, insisted that it was originally a funeral scene. Eventually the Louvre begrudgingly x-rayed it, vindicating Dali’s hunch.
5.) “Preparation of the Bride,”: It’s not what it seems.
The painting “Preparation of the Bride” is an unfinished painting that was part of a series depicting the traditions of French rural life by Gustave Courbet. It was painted in the mid 1800’s and acquired by a museum in 1929.
In 1960 the painting was x-rayed and what they found was shocking. Originally the scene depicted a funeral, and the woman in the painting was the deceased.
Very strange. I wonder what other hidden painting are lurking out there that have yet to be discovered. Share these amazing discoveries with your friends by clicking below.