Experts have authenticated a new painting by Pablo Picasso—hidden beneath an existing 1901 work, The Blue Room.
A team of scientists and conservators at the in Washington, DC, uncovered the lost masterpiece, which they had unwittingly owned since 1927, with the help of infrared technology. Like The Blue Room, the newly discovered work, a portrait of an unidentified man dressed in a bow-tie, resting his head on his hand, dates to the artist’s Blue Period (1900–04), when he was living in Paris.
Curator Susan Behrends Frank explained why the artist would have painted over a completed work: “He could not afford to acquire new canvasses every time he had an idea that he wanted to pursue. He worked sometimes on cardboard because canvas was so much more expensive.”
“It’s really one of those moments that really makes what you do special,” conservator Patricia Favero told the BBC, describing what it was like to first see the missing portrait.
In the 1990s, an X-ray confirmed these suspicions, but the resulting image was fuzzy and could not be clearly identified. Now, thanks to technological advances, the canvas’s previous vertical composition can be seen for the first time in over 110 years.
Other lost Picassos have been found under existing works over the years.
Though The Blue Room is still being analyzed, there are plans for the painting to travel to South Korea next year. Upon its return, the painting and the secret portrait beneath will be the subject of a 2017 exhibit.