In a letter Vincent van Gogh wrote to his brother Theo in 1886, he describes a work-in-progress depicting two half-nude male wrestlers. No such painting was known to exist — until now. The lost wrestlers have been discovered underneath the painting of a Van Gogh still life acquired in 1974 by the Kröller-Müller Museum in Otterlo, Holland. Thought to have been “uncharacteristically exuberant,” and of the wrong size, the Museum re-attributed the painting to “Anonymous” in 2003 and removed it from public view completely.
The painting, on a 100 centimetre by 80 centimetre (40x31in) canvas, had already been X-rayed five years previously but the tests showed only an indistinct image of the wrestlers. Now however, thanks to the latest advances in high-intensity x-ray technology, the wrestlers have been clearly revealed by detecting pigments in hidden layers of paint. One painting hidden beneath another surface painting can now be viewed in unprecedented detail. The discoveries have been made possible by researchers from the Delft University of Technology, the University of Antwerp, Deutsches Elektronen-Synchrotron (DESY) Hamburg, the Van Gogh Museum and the Kröller-Müller Museum. Their tests found further irrefutable evidence. They revealed that the pigments used in both paintings are a perfect match for Van Gogh’s palette. They also show that the brushstrokes on the wrestlers are typical of his hand.
Luuk Struick van der Loeff of the Kröller-Müller Museum said: “These and other arguments…leave no doubt that the wrestlers and the flower still life were painted by Van Gogh.”
The painting will once again be on display as of March 20 at the museum in Otterloo in the eastern Netherlands
- New Van Gogh Painting Discovered [Art] (gizmodo.com)
- Invisible Evidence Restores a van Gogh Attribution (artsbeat.blogs.nytimes.com)
- Museum confirms that a still life is by Van Gogh (independent.co.uk)
- Van Gogh’s still life runs deep (thehindu.com)
- Two Van Goghs Found On The Same Canvas (news.sky.com)
- Vincent Van Gogh work identified (telegraph.co.uk)
- Art historians discover new Van Gogh after testing piece previously attributed to unknown artist (and there’s a hidden painting underneath) (dailymail.co.uk)
- New Van Gogh Painting Discovered (gizmodo.com.au)
- Museum confirms still life it holds is by Van Gogh (foxnews.com)
- “A still life once thought to be by Vincent van Gogh but later downgraded to being the work of an anonymous artist…” (althouse.blogspot.com)