A portrait has been found underneath 157-year-old Cézanne still life at Cincinnati Art Museum
The Cincinnati Art Museum has uncovered another hidden treasure. The chief conservator found a painting hidden behind another painting.
Serena Urry was cleaning a still life from Paul Cézanne when she noticed some cracks in the paint. "So I thought, 'We should probably x-ray this and see what that is. See if it's anything,' " she says. "And at the end of the day — really, at 4 o’clock — I was sitting in front of the easel with the painting and this print of the x-ray, trying to figure out what the heck it was. Suddenly I turned it 90 degrees and instantly you can see that it's a portrait."
Urry believes it may be a self-portrait. Cézanne was one of the late-19th century French impressionists.
The painting, Still Life with Bread and Eggs, was painted in 1865. It has been in the collection since 1955.
Curator of European Paintings, Sculpture and Drawings Peter Jonathan Bell says the discovery gives art historians another look at the artist.
"It takes us right back into his studio, in a way: A young artist struggling to find his way, and maybe he didn’t have a blank canvas when he wanted to paint this still life. And so he picked up the portrait that was in his studio," Bell says. "Maybe he picked this up and said 'Having a canvas to work on is more important to me than this painting.' "
Urry says such a discovery is not commonplace. "Often you find paintings that have been what we call re-worked, which means you can see the artist working up the composition that we end up with. You can see changes under the paint."
Bell says there's a lot of excitement in the art world over the discovery. "We are just really at the very beginning of a process of contacting international colleagues to really figure out who the sitter is, if it is a self-portrait, or if it's one of his young artist friends."
It will go back on display along with images of the x-rays Tuesday.
Earlier this year, another curator at the Cincinnati Art Museum discovered a rare "magic mirror" in the Asian collection.