Detective work by art historians has led to them discovering a new Van Gogh painting.
Experts made the find after X-raying a piece that had been attributed to an unknown artist.
The scan of the canvas, ‘Still life with meadow flowers and roses’, pictured below, uncovered an image of two wrestlers painted underneath. Knowledge of the painter’s period at a Belgian art academy combined to lead a team of researchers to conclude it was a Van Gogh.
The X-ray shows the wrestlers wearing loin cloths. Having models pose was a defining characteristic of the Antwerp academy where Van Gogh studied in 1886. It is thought the wrestlers were a subject the artist grew tired of and painted over.
The painting hangs in Holland’s Kroeller-Mueller Museum.
|Masterpiece: The Van Gogh painting, known as 'Still life with meadow flowers and roses', which hung in a Dutch museum for more than three decades before the discovery, was thought to have been the work of another artist|
Experts say the wrestlers typify the artist's work of the period and form enough evidence to allow authentication.
Curators at the Kroeller-Mueller Museum bought the piece in 1974 believing it was a Van Gogh, but doubts were soon cast over its origin.
In 2003, it was attributed to an anonymous artist after experts said the canvas was too large and the composition too busy to be authentic. The signature was in an unusual position for Van Gogh - the top right hand corner.
But now the painting has been confirmed to be the work of the Dutch impressionist after all, thanks to new X-ray techniques allowing art historians to examine the canvas.
Underneath the still life is a depiction of two wrestlers, a piece the artist presumably grew tired of and painted over. Knowledge of the painter's period at a Belgian art academy combined to lead a team of researchers to conclude it was created by his hand.
The painting, on a 100 centimetre by 80 centimetre (40x31in) canvas, had already been X-rayed five years previously but it only revealed an indistinct image of the wrestlers.
The latest X-ray has shown the wrestlers in more detail, along with the brush strokes and pigments used. They all pointed back to Van Gogh. Louis van Tilborgh, a senior researcher at Amsterdam's Van Gogh Museum, said the X-ray allowed researchers to solve the riddle.
|Hidden treasure: X-ray techniques used to examine the canvas uncovered a second painting underneath of two wrestlers, which the artist presumably grew tired of and painted over|
He added: 'All the pieces just fell into place. You can see the wrestlers more clearly and the fact that they are wearing loin cloths.'
Having models pose was a defining characteristic of the Antwerp academy where Van Gogh studied in early 1886. So was the size of the canvas, the Kroeller-Mueller Museum said in a statement.
Vincent wrote to his brother Theo about needing the large canvas, new brushes and paint. Theo helped the penniless artist buy the materials and a week later Van Gogh wrote back that he was delighted with the painting of two wrestlers.
Van Tilborgh said the brush strokes and pigments in the wrestlers painting also corresponded with what experts now know about Van Gogh's work in Antwerp. The wrestlers also help explain the 'uncharacteristic exuberance' of the floral still life, the Kroeller-Mueller Museum statement said - Van Gogh had to cover up all of the old image with his new work.
The detective work is described in a new publication by the Van Gogh Museum titled 'Rehabilitation of a flower still life in the Kroeller-Mueller Museum and a lost Antwerp painting by Van Gogh.’