A bearded man lurks beneath the surface of a famous Picasso painting. That’s the image brought to us by curators who used new technology to find details of a portrait the artist painted over when he created his famous The Blue Room in 1901.
The painting’s surface depicts a scene in Pablo Picasso’s studio in Paris, with a woman bathing between a window and a table. But a different scene lies underneath, as infrared and other analysis shows a man in a bow tie staring out from the canvas, his head propped on his hand.
The Blue Room is at The Phillips Collection in Washington, D.C. Researchers from the museum and other institutions recently showed the AP the newly uncovered details of what lies beneath the painting.
“It’s really one of those moments that really makes what you do special,” Phillips conservator Patricia Favero tells the AP. “The second reaction was, ‘Well, who is it?’ We’re still working on answering that question.”
The likely reason the canvas was reused, curators say, was that Picasso didn’t have the money to use a new canvas for each new work early in his career.
The AP says this isn’t the first time a different work has been found beneath a Picasso:
“A technical analysis of La Vie at the Cleveland Museum of Art revealed Picasso significantly reworked the painting’s composition. And conservators found a portrait of a mustached man beneath Picasso’s painting Woman Ironing at the Guggenheim Museum in Manhattan.”