X-Rays Reveal Hidden Sketches in Famous Painting

'Nude With a Hat' is one of Modigliani's best-known works
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Jul 13, 2022 2:27 PM CDT
3 Sketches Found Hidden in Modigliani Painting
Inna Berkowits, an art historian at the Haifa University's Hecht Museum, holds her mobile phone with an image of an X-ray of Amedeo Modigliani's painting "Nude With a Hat" in Haifa, Israel, June 28, 2022.   (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit)

Curators at an Israeli museum have discovered three previously unknown sketches by celebrated 20th-century artist Amedeo Modigliani hiding beneath the surface of one of his paintings. The unfinished works by Modigliani, an Italian-born artist who worked in Paris before his death in 1920, came to light after the canvas of Nude with a Hat at the University of Haifa’s Hecht Museum was X-rayed as part of a sweeping forensic study of his work for an upcoming exhibit in Philadelphia, the AP reports. Inna Berkowits, an art historian at the Hecht Museum, said it was "quite an amazing discovery."

"Through the X-rays, we are really able to make this inanimate object speak," Berkowits says. Modigliani’s 1908 Nude with a Hat is already an unusual painting. Both sides of the canvas have portraits that are painted in opposite directions. Visitors entering the Hecht Museum's galleries are met by an upside down nude portrait. A likeness of Maud Abrantes, a female friend of the artist, on the reverse side is right-side up. In 2010, the museum’s curator noticed the eyes of a third figure peeking from beneath Abrantes' collar. But only this year was the hidden image brought into focus.

"When we decided to do the X-ray, we were only looking to learn a little bit more about the hidden figure underneath Maud Abrantes," Berkowits says. In addition to a hidden woman wearing a hat, they found two more portraits on the opposite side that were completely invisible to the naked eye: one of a man, and another of a woman with her hair pulled up in a bun. Nude with a Hat dates from early in Modigliani’s career, not long after he moved to Paris from Italy, when he was struggling to find buyers for his art. He died penniless at 35 but his work is now in high demand: One of his paintings, Reclining Nude, fetched over $170 million when it was sold at auction in 2015. (Another Modigliani, which was declared obscene in 1917, sold for $157 million in 2018.)

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