9 Famous Paintings That Hide a Very Different Picture Under a Layer of Paint (Hint: the Original Gioconda Is Amazing)
Artists and writers often change their work so much during the creation process that the final result can end up looking very different from what it was originally. And sometimes, other artists or editors make their changes to someone else’s work. While we can easily look at drafts of novels to help us understand the creation process, paintings are a whole other story.
Bright Side has done the research and found ghost-paintings under famous works that nobody even knew existed.
1. Black Square by Kazimir Malevich
This painting has always been divisive. And a new wave of discussions started in 2015, exactly 100 years after it was created when under the layer of black paint, researchers found more than one hidden picture.
More than that, these pictures are of different styles of art. The first is in the style of Cubo-Futurism, and the second one that was right underneath the black square is proto-Suprematism. So, according to some researchers, the 3 images on top of one another symbolize the artist’s transition from one direction to the other.
Aside from that, scientists found and deciphered an inscription in the painting. It says, “Battle of negroes in a dark cave”. Experts believe that this is a reference to a now lost painting by Alphonse Allet that was of a black rectangle.
2. Young Woman with Unicorn by Raffaello Sanzio
The history of the changes that happened to this painting is still a mystery. But the restorers managed to find the original picture.
In the beginning, the artist painted a woman but later decided to make her a saint. This is what ultimately changed: a palm frond was added, as was the wheel, and a cloak appeared on her shoulders. Plus, the unicorn that didn’t really fit the concept anymore was removed. The painting was originally known as Saint Catherine of Alexandria.
When the restorers continued their research, they found out that at first, the woman was originally holding a small dog in her hands. And second, Raffaello himself only drew the woman, the sky, and the landscape but the details (like the columns and the dog) were added by a different artist.
By the way, researchers used X-rays to examine this painting.
3. L’Angelus by Jean-François Millet
The mystery of this painting was discovered thanks to a different famous artist — Salvador Dali. The painting never left him satisfied and he drew the figures in it more than 60 times. But he still could not understand why the man and the woman were so sad.
In the end, Dali asked the Louvre experts to study the painting. They agreed and as it turned out, they made the right decision. They found a hidden layer in the painting where there was a dead, unbaptized child that was buried in the field.
Later, it was revealed in Millet’s memoirs said the painting was originally called Funeral of a child in the Field, but it was renamed to help get it sold.
Dali commented on the discovery by saying, “I’ve always felt death in this painting.”
4. An Old Man in Military Costume by Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn
Rembrandt, just like other painters, sometimes drew his paintings over other ones. And researches are still discovering new ghost-paintings of his.
In 1968, scientists found a second portrait under the painting, An Old Man in Military Costume. But it was only possible to look at it in detail in 2015 thanks to new technology.
Experts believe that the painting shows the artist’s father. But they can’t identify the person the artist drew on the second layer.
5. Patch of grass by Vincent van Gogh
In 2008, Belgian and Dutch scientists found a hidden layer in one of the paintings by the famous artist, Vincent van Gogh. Patch of grass is drawn in green-blue shades and the hidden picture is in red-brown. More than that, it was a woman’s portrait.
She looks like a peasant but the identity of the person is unknown. Experts believe that because Van Gogh didn’t have enough money, he just drew one painting on top of the other to save on canvases.
6. Lady with an Ermine by Leonardo da Vinci
French engineer Pascal Cotte found out that the famous painting by Leonardo da Vinci, Lady with an Ermine, was not supposed to have the animal in it at all. The artist added it only later and experts don’t have an answer as to why. There are only a couple of theories that attempt to explain this change.
One theory is that the painting shows the lover of the Duke of Milan, and his sigil was the ermine. The second theory is that maybe the girl was pregnant and the animal covering her belly was a symbol of purity. And the third theory says that maybe the girl was very authoritative and controlled the duke.
Some people even believe that it’s not an ermine in the painting — it’s a white ferret.
7. The Enchanted Pose by René Magritte
In order to recreate this painting, experts had to complete a real-life quest. The painting could be seen in exhibitions during the early 20th century and then it disappeared. It was believed to have been destroyed by the artist.
The situation changed when in 2013, the employees of the Museum of Modern Art in New York suspected that under the painting of René Magritte, there was another picture. The painting was X-rayed and they found the body of the girl from the missing painting. This was when they started looking for the other 4 lost parts.
The search didn’t come to an end until 2017. The missing parts were found under other paintings in other museums. But it was impossible to complete the puzzle because, in order to accomplish that, they would’ve had to destroy other paintings. That’s why the painting was only restored digitally.
8. View of Scheveningen Sands by Hendrick van Anthonissen
Just like with many other paintings, nobody had any idea that there were some hidden pictures underneath the first layer of paint. And when it was time for restoration, experts removed a layer of the old polish and saw a silhouette of a man looking at something that resembled a sail.
As research continued, it was revealed that people were there on the shore for a reason. As it turned out, there was a huge whale and a person standing on it, and the sail was the flipper of the animal. The animal was painted over the original image during the 18th or 19th century in order to avoid the public outrage caused by the dead whale.
9. Mona Lisa by Leonardo da Vinci
One of the most famous and mysterious paintings in history still amazes the world with its secrets. Believe it or not, there are 2 other portraits under the Mona Lisa.
This was a divisive discovery. Some people think that the results of the study completely change people’s perception of the masterpiece. And others think that the experts only discovered the artist’s creative process and there are no additional portraits in the painting.
The Lourve representatives have not given any comments on this subject yet.
What secrets about famous paintings do you know?