A Hidden Work Beneath Picasso Painting

Ana B. Remos


The Guggenheim Museum in New York has discovered the existence of another painting beneath a work by Pablo Picasso. A portrait of a man is hidden behind Woman Ironing (La repasseuse, 1904).

After more than a year of intensive research, the Conservation Department of the Guggenheim released information about the finding last November.

Early indication appeared in 1989, when a study organized by the museum revealed the presence of a male portrait behind Woman Ironing. The study was conducted using an infrared camera; however, at that time the museum didn´t have the resources to make an in depth survey.

Now, with the help of an American bank, the museum has been able to further study and confirm what previous research had suggested. To obtain a clearer image of the underlying painting, researchers applied infrared image technology used for planetary remote sensing.

1. Woman Ironing (La repasseuse), 1904.
2. Optimized Infrared Image.

According to the statement issued by the Guggenheim, “while the infrared image makes it easier to see the brushstrokes and the profile of the male portrait, X rays, pigment analysis and final scrutiny of the picture with a surgical microscope, offer an even better understanding of the palette”.

Alongside the research, Julie Barten, the museum´s Head Curator, has completed a meticulous cleaning and stabilization of the painting in order to eliminate the residue deposited unevenly in much of the surface. The research, however, is not finished. Recently, the museum invited a group of scholars and experts in the work of the painter from Malaga to examine the clean image, and to show them the underlying portrait. The forum will analyze the man’s identity, the precise date of the portrait, and Picasso´s working methods.

In their web site, the museum has launched an application that allows visitors to move the image and explore the views obtained by X Ray. www.guggenheim.org

Woman Ironing belongs to Picasso´s blue period. German collector, Justin Thannhauser, donated it to the Guggenheim in 1978. It is part of the exhibition Picasso Black and White, on view until January 23, 2013.


Woman Ironing (La repasseuse).

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