X-Rays Help Find Two Van Gogh Paintings


For years, art historians debated on whether or not the painting above, entitled Still Life with Meadow Flowers and Roses, was the work of famed impressionist Van Gogh. Given that the size of the canvas and the gaudy palate of the flowers didn't seem to match up with the master's usual style, the Kröller-Müller Museum, which obtained the painting in 1974, finally declared it to be painted by an anonymous artist in 2003.

But a recent X-ray of the painting revealed that not only was it a Van Gogh, but it also held the secret to a lost painting by the artist that historians had been after for years. In 1885, Vincent wrote a letter to his brother mentioning a painting of two wrestlers he created as an art school homework assignment, so while everyone knew this painting existed, no one had ever seen it — at least, until this X-ray of Still Life with Meadow Flowers and Roses was released:

That's the X-ray/ultraviolet composite image above showing that the painting of the two wrestlers had been hiding in plain sight underneath a work that no one was sure was even a Van Gogh in the first place. The revelation also answered questions about why the floral painting was so drastically different from his other works. As New Scientist puts it:

The fact that the wrestlers were a homework assignment explains the floral painting's oddities: the canvas was unusually large because that was the school's standard, and the flowers in the foreground were so ostentatious because they had to cover an entire half-naked boy.

It makes you wonder how many other museum paintings are hiding other great works of art beneath their surfaces.