Speed Reads


Hidden painting of mystery man found underneath Picasso's 'The Blue Room'

Art experts and conservators are on a mission to find out more about a painting discovered underneath Pablo Picasso's 1901 masterpiece "The Blue Room."

Curators and conservators tell The Associated Press that it took infrared imagery to see the painting of a bearded man wearing a bow tie with his face resting in his hand. Picasso often would paint on top of other pieces, because "he could not afford to acquire new canvasses every time he had an idea that he wanted to pursue," curator Susan Behrends Frank told the AP. "He worked sometimes on cardboard because canvas was much more expensive."

For decades, conservators suspected there might be something below "The Blue Room," as the brushstrokes didn't exactly match up on the painting. An X-ray was taken in the 1990s that revealed there was some sort of an image underneath, but it wasn't until 2008 when the infrared imagery showed the man and his jacket, bow tie, and rings.

Scholars are now trying to determine just who the mysterious man is; Picasso has been ruled out. The researchers think it might be Ambrose Villard, a Paris art dealer who hosted Picasso's first show in 1901. "It's really one of those moments that really makes what you do special," says Patricia Favero, conservator at The Phillips Collection. "The second reaction is, 'well, who is it?' We're still working on answering that question."