Paul Cézanne hidden under a still life? Questions around a portrait found by chance under one of his paintings

Under the layers of paint on the board Bread and Eggsby Paul Cézanne, the Cincinnati Art Museum (CAM) team made a “exciting discovery”. The institution which exhibits the still life announced, Thursday, December 15, that between the canvas and the current work, dated 1865, is the portrait of a man, seated, wearing straight. Some imagine that it could be one of the first self-portraits of the French impressionist painter.

The presence of cracks concentrated in two specific areas and the flashes of white on the painting, noticed after the dismantling of an exhibition which took place last spring, aroused the curiosity of the curator of the CAM, Serena Urry. “I thought there might be something underneath that we should look into”said Urry in a video interview, covered by CNN. ” An intuition “, she says.

The canvas, which became part of the CAM collection in 1955, was then x-rayed by a medical team : by turning it 90 degrees, the curator notice that he “is the portrait of a man, perhaps a self-portrait by Cézanne”she wrote in a blog post from the Ohioain Museum, published Thursday, December 15.

The position of the portrait would confirm this hypothesis, calculates Mme Urry, since if it was the “portrait of someone else, it would surely have been full face”. “When Cézanne painted portraits of other people, the sitter was usually facing him. Here, the subject is seated at an angle »also considers, in an analysis, the art magazine Hyperallergic, based in New York.

X-ray mosaic of the still life

The underlying portrait was probably made the same year, or even earlier, when the French painter was in his twenties. “Which would make it one of the first known portraits of Cézanne”, concludes the museum. The reuse of fabrics was then a common practice allowing, among other things, to save money.

“We have three Cézanne instead of two”

The CAM wishes to continue the analyzes in the months and years to come, “by carrying out further imaging and analysis of the painting as well as research on the subject of the portrait, ideally in partnership with an institution well equipped for technical study and with leading Cézanne specialists”said, in a communiquéPeter Jonathan Bell, Curator of European Paintings, Sculptures and Drawings at CAM. “This will result in a publication and possibly an exhibition, as we seek to reveal as much information as possible about this important, long-hidden portrait,” he continued, before rejoicing:

“Thanks to this discovery, we have three Cézanne instead of two. »

The museum hopes to be able to reveal the colors of the hidden painting using advanced technologies, such as multispectral imaging and X-ray fluorescence mapping. In recent years, several paintings have been found hidden under other works, or even reconstructed using artificial intelligence.

Among them, The Blind Man’s Mealby Pablo Picasso, hid a nude discovered in 2010 and reconstructed in 2021 by researchers from theUniversity College London. Table Still life with wildflowers and roses, of Van Gogh, concealed two wrestlers who were recreated by an artist and doctoral students from the same institution. In 2015, corner of grassanother work by the Dutch painter, had also been combed through, revealing the presence of a face.

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