A team of European scientists have unveiled a new method of extracting images hidden under old masters' paintings without harming them, recreating a colour portrait of a woman's face unseen since Vincent van Gogh painted over it in 1887.
While not exact in every detail, the image produced shows a woman's head that a Van Gogh expert said may be that of the model in a series of portraits leading up to the 1885 masterpiece Potato Eaters. Van Gogh often reused canvas to save money, either painting on the back or over the top of existing paintings.
Joris Dik, a materials scientist from Delft University, and Koen Janssens, a chemist from the University of Antwerp in Belgium, combined science and art to engineer a new method of looking at hidden paintings, using high-intensity X-rays and an intimate knowledge of old pigments to reveal artworks that were painted over by Van Gogh.
Teio Meedendorp, an Amsterdam-based Van Gogh expert, said the woman pictured under the current painting was probably painted between November 1884 and March 1885, when Van Gogh lived in the Dutch village of Nuenen.
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