There’s a Van Gogh under that Van Gogh!

  • Chicago (IL) – European scientists have discovered a hidden painting behind Vincent Van Gogh’s 1887 Patch of Grass painting. Using synchrotron radiation induced X-ray fluorescence spectroscopy, a portrait of a mystery woman appeared.


    Many artists are believed to actually have painted over their original paintings and if the technology revealed can be generally applied to art without damaging it, then we could soon get much more insight in the history of art and the lives of artists.

    A research team including members from Delft University of Technology in The Netherlands and the University of Antwerp in Belgium claims to have successfully applied synchrotron radiation induced X-ray fluorescence spectroscopy for the first time to the painting entitled Patch of Grass by Vincent van Gogh. And what they found is simply stunning: A so far unknown portrait of an unknown woman.

    The hidden painting was revealed an X-ray bundle from a synchrotron radiation source, which enabled the scientists to measure the fluorescence of the layers of paint. According to the researchers, the measured fluorescence is specific to each chemical element, which means that each type of atom and  individual paint pigments can be charted individually.

    Previous research, which included the use of conventional X-ray radiography, led scientists to believe that Patch of Grass hides an earlier painting beneath. The technique apparently revealed vague outlines and the area of the painting, but the scientists did not know what it was. Over the course of two days, the area covering the image of a woman’s head was scanned, measuring about 6.9” x 6.9”. The result is impressive, especially if we consider that not only was the outline of the earlier painting discovered, but a detailed printing in full color.
    It is generally believed that about one third of Van Gogh’s paintings hide earlier paintings. The scientists said that they intend to use the technique to scan more pictures in the future.