Hidden from History: Van Gogh Self-Portrait Discovered Through X Rays

Original Van Gogh

Every day we continue to live in an era of rediscovery. What used to be the 35 self portraits of Van Gogh has now turned into 36 after a piece was uncovered through an x-ray of one of Van Gogh’s study pieces. Untold for over a century, it is the first time the work has been shown to public eyes. Even still, it hasn’t seen the light of day since its creation.


National Galleries of Scotland, Edinburgh and the Van Gogh Museum teamed up for the effort. The work was discovered by National Galleries’ Lesley Stevenson while x- raying pieces in preparation for their upcoming expo A Taste for Impressionism: Modern French Art From Millet to Matise. While Gogh was Dutch, he developed his portraiture experience in France and his work was impressionable on the French movement towards post-Impressionism.

The newly discovered self portrait was hidden behind his 1884 piece Head of a Peasant Woman, concealed from history only by a piece of cardboard. The work was in a series crafted as a study in preparation for The Potato Eaters. Most of his portraits were crafted from 1886-1888, while he was short on money and could not afford models. In an effort to save money, he would reuse canvasses, especially from works he crafted while in the Netherlands. The portrait has not been verified yet, but independent Van Gogh experts expect its authenticity to be verified upon its recovery.


The work will not be uncovered quite yet, as the process of removing the cardboard from a centuries-old painting is extensive and precarious. While double-sided masterpieces are uncommon, the Van Gogh museum in Amsterdam holds five other pieces with these hidden treasures. Due to the extensive removal process, the portrait is expected to be released to the public in 2023.

Potato Eaters

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