An unpublished self-portrait of Van Gogh discovered on the back of another painting by the artist

Curator Lesley Stevenson presents Van Gogh's painting and his x-rayed self-portrait. AP - Neil Hanna

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A Scottish museum has unveiled a previously unknown work by Dutch painter Vincent Van Gogh.

It was hidden, and well preserved, on the back of another painting by the artist.


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It was when they examined the

Portrait of a Peasant

 Woman by X-ray that the curators of the museum had the surprise: on the back of this well-known painting by the Dutch painter was hiding another.

It was a self-portrait of Vincent Van Gogh, covered and hidden by layers of glue and cardboard for more than a century.

He would have painted it shortly after his installation in Paris in 1886 and his discovery of the Impressionists. 


When we first saw the radio, of course we were super excited

 ,” says Lesley Stevenson, curator at the museum.

Such moments are incredibly rare

 ," said Frances Fowle, curator at the National Galleries of Scotland.


We have discovered an unknown work by Vincent Van Gogh, one of the most important and popular artists in the world


► To read also: Vincent Van Gogh, the secret of the unfinished work

The work shows the famous painter, bearded, seated with a hat and a scarf around his neck.

We also clearly see his left ear, which Vincent Van Gogh had cut off in 1888, after a violent argument with the painter Gauguin in Arles, France. 

Find a way to separate the two paintings

We know that in order to save money, Van Gogh often reused canvases.

He turned them over and painted on the other side.

It is precisely this technique that is now proving to be a real headache for curators: they would like to separate the two paintings, but first they will have to remove several layers of glue and cardboard - an extremely delicate job, because it is of course necessary to avoid damaging the other portrait, that of the peasant woman.  

The painter's self-portrait, reproduced on an X-ray, will be the star piece of an exhibition on Impressionism which opens July 30 until November 13 at the Scottish National Gallery in Edinburgh.

Van Gogh, a tormented painter suffering from mental illness in his later years, little recognized during his lifetime, died aged 37 in France after shooting himself in the chest.

His work consists of more than 2,000 paintings, drawings and sketches.

He regularly painted self-portraits, of which 37 were known so far, reflecting the evolution of his art.

In 2021, his famous canvas


 painted in Arles in 1888, reached $35.85 million at auction at Christie's in New York, an auction record for the artist.





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