One of Picasso’s first masterpieces, entitled “The Blue Room,” is hiding a century old secret: Underneath the painting is another drawing – a man, wearing a bow-tie, with a decidedly melancholy look, which appears to coincide with the famous 20th century painter’s “blue period” of downhearted subjects.
Writes The Associated Press today via MSN News: “Scientists and art experts have found a hidden painting beneath one of Pablo Picasso’s first masterpieces, The Blue Room, using advances in infrared imagery to reveal a bow-tied man with his face resting on his hand. Now the question that conservators at The Phillips Collection in Washington hope to answer is simply: Who is he?”
The discovery was made years ago, but after intense study by experts from The Phillips Collection in collaboration with the National Gallery of Art, Cornell University and Delaware’s Winterthur Museum, the image was enhanced and the finding is now ready to be released to the public, as seen in the video above.
“It’s really one of those moments that really makes what you do special,” said Patricia Favero, the conservator at The Phillips Collection. “The second reaction was, ‘well, who is it?’ We’re still working on answering that question.”
The AP report picks up the story:
In 2008, improved infrared imagery revealed for the first time a man’s bearded face resting on his hand with three rings on his fingers. He’s dressed in a jacket and bow tie. A technical analysis confirmed the hidden portrait is a work Picasso likely painted just before “The Blue Room,” curators said. After the portrait was discovered, conservators have been using other technology to scan the painting for further insights.
Conservators long suspected there might be something under the surface of “The Blue Room,” which has been part of The Phillips Collection in Washington since 1927. Brushstrokes on the piece clearly don’t match the composition that depicts a woman bathing in Picasso’s studio. A conservator noted the odd brushstrokes in a 1954 letter, but it wasn’t until the 1990s that an x-ray of the painting first revealed a fuzzy image of something under the picture. It wasn’t clear, though, that it was a portrait.
“When he had an idea, you know, he just had to get it down and realize it,” curator Susan Behrends Frank said. “He could not afford to acquire new canvasses every time he had an idea that he wanted to pursue. He worked sometimes on cardboard because canvass was so much more expensive.”