New X-Ray Technique Uncovers Hidden Portraits Beneath Famous Paintings


Kristen Gelineau | Courthouse News Service

A powerful X-ray technique has unveiled a hidden portrait beneath a famed painting by French impressionist artist Edgar Degas, helping solve a mystery that has stumped the art world for decades.

An article published this week in the online journal Scientific Reports reveals that the long-puzzled-over image concealed behind Degas’ “Portrait of a Woman” is, in fact, a portrait of another woman. Australian researchers believe she is Emma Dobigny, one of the painter’s favorite models.

For nearly a century, experts have known that Degas painted the famed portrait over another image sometime between 1876 and 1880. As the painting aged, the faint outline of what appeared to be another woman began leaking through the top layers of paint.

Staff at the National Gallery of Victoria in Melbourne, where the portrait is housed, wanted to see what was hidden underneath. But traditional X-ray techniques and infrared photography weren’t powerful enough to reveal any detail.

So the gallery teamed up with scientists from Australian Synchrotron, who spent 33 hours painstakingly scanning the painting with a high-definition X-ray beam produced by a particle accelerator called a synchrotron. Synchrotrons accelerate electrons to high speeds, creating a source of light a million times brighter than the sun.

The technique was so successful that the scientists could not only see the details of the entire hidden image, but its evolution. Degas, for example, appears to have originally given the woman pixie-like ears, but later reworked them to a more conventional shape.

The quality of the results stunned the scientists.

“We were expecting to image a woman beneath, but nowhere near the detail that we did get in the end,” said Daryl Howard, a scientist at Australian Synchrotron and one of the paper’s authors.

Howard is among those who believe the image is of Dobigny, a well-known French model in the 1800s.

“Degas has painted her several times before,” he said. “Some other people think it’s someone else and we’ll leave that for them to ultimately decide who it is.”

It was not uncommon for artists to paint over their previous work in the 1800s and Howard believes the X-ray technique used to solve the Degas portrait puzzle will be picked up by other museums wondering what lies beneath their paintings.

“I think in the near future we’re going to see a lot more of these results coming out,” he said.

Published by Courthouse News Service.

You might also like

Twitter CEO Pressured to Step Down as Studies Show Nearly 15% of Users are Bots

      The essence of propaganda is not to make you believe some proposition, but to make you believe that everybody else believes that proposition. Internet denizens have alleged

This Entrepreneur Just Created a New Device that Can Stop Drones Using Radio Signals

by RT US sci-tech contractor Battelle has developed a revolutionary gun that can target and stop UAVs dead at a range of just 400 meters using radio signals. It expects

Phone Shields May be a Wise Investment to Guard Against Spying

WASHINGTON, DC | March 9, 2017 State spying used to be called a “conspiracy theory,” but after the release of Vault 7, only the most naive would continue denying its reality. The

The CIA Can Hack Us and Make It Look Like It’s the “Russian Federation”

We are only a few hours into the release of #Vault7 and already there are scandals that may fundamentally restructure the political foundations of our nation. Among them is the

WikiLeaks: CIA Takes Over Your Phone “Factory Fresh” Before You Receive It

March 23, 2017 Wikileaks today continued its Vault 7 leaks exposing the CIA. It turns out that the CIA has had a tool called “NightSkies” since 2008. NightSkies, according to the

Edward Snowden Hints That the NSA Can Access Your ‘Thoughts & Feelings’

Anon News | Arjun Walia As most of you know, Edward Snowden is the former intelligence contractor who leaked the NSA’s mass surveillance program and discovered some of the most

China Just Revealed the Ultimate Solution to Traffic

Sean Duffy | Courthouse News Service A solution to traffic congestion in major metropolitan areas may be closer to becoming a reality, after a Chinese company showcased its new “flying”

Sci-Fi Becomes Reality: Autonomous ‘Dragonfly’ Drones Could Soon Be Spying on You

Jake Anderson | The Anti-Media (ANTIMEDIA) It seems DARPA, the ultra-secretive military research agency, may be getting a run for its money when it comes to developing advanced and alarming forms

Man Arrested For Microwaving His ID To Fry The Microchip And Protect His Privacy

John Vibes | True Activist This week, a 29-year old German man was arrested at Frankfurt Airport after police noticed that he had microwaved his ID to disable the microchip