LONDON — A previously unknown self-portrait of Vincent Van Gogh has been discovered behind another painting by the artist, the National Galleries of Scotland announced on Thursday.
The self-portrait was found on the back of Van Gogh’s ‘Peasant’s Head’ when experts at the Edinburgh gallery took an x-ray of the canvas ahead of an upcoming exhibition. The work is said to have been hidden away for over a century, covered in layers of glue and cardboard when it was framed in the early 20th century.
Van Gogh was known to flip canvases and paint on the other side to save money.
The portrait shows a bearded babysitter in a wide-brimmed hat. Experts said the subject was instantly recognizable as the artist himself and believed to belong to his earliest work. The left ear is clearly visible and Van Gogh cut off his in 1888.
Frances Fowle, senior curator at the National Galleries of Scotland, said the find was “exciting”.
“Moments like this are incredibly rare,” she said. “We have discovered an unknown work by Vincent Van Gogh, one of the most important and popular artists in the world.”
The gallery said experts are evaluating how to remove the glue and cardboard without harming “Peasant’s Head.”
Visitors to an upcoming Impressionist exhibition at the Royal Scottish Academy in Edinburgh can view an x-ray image of the self-portrait through a light box.
“A Taste for Impressionism” runs from July 30 to November 13.