Art specialists at the Guggenheim Museum in New York have revealed an interesting discovery in one of the masterpieces of the Spanish painter Pablo Picasso. After years of observation and analysis using new technologies, a curator managed to find a dog hidden in the painting “Le Moulin de la Galette.”
The dog, possibly a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, a popular breed in Paris at the time, was found behind a thin layer of paint at the bottom of the work. Picasso painted this work during his stay in Paris when he was only 19 years old.
Julie Barten, senior painting conservator at the Guggenheim Museum, noticed hints of the presence of something beneath the surface of the painting. After years of close examination under a microscope and the use of X-ray technology, a process called “X-ray fluorescence imaging spectroscopy,” provided by the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the National Gallery in Washington, D.C., was used to reveal the hidden object.
This technique provided a false-color image of the dog in Picasso’s work, visualizing the iron, mercury, and zinc components in the pigments. However, it is not a real photograph of the dog, as it would be necessary to remove the top layer of paint to see it, which would damage the work and conflict with the artist’s intentions.
Megan Fontanella, Curator of Modern Art at the Guggenheim, was surprised to see the image of the dog in “Le Moulin de la Galette.” This revelation completely changes the way one encounters the image. The presence of the adorable dog in the foreground, with a red bow, used to capture the viewer’s attention, but now one can better appreciate all the wonderful figures in the composition.
Barten noted that Picasso often transformed elements within his works and that obscuring the dog’s presence with hasty brushstrokes was a common practice of the artist in later life. In addition to the scan that revealed the dog, Barten performed a complete restoration of the painting, brightening the colors and removing the old yellowed varnish to restore it to its original appearance when Picasso completed it in 1900.
“Le Moulin de la Galette” depicts a popular dance hall that was frequented and painted by other famous artists such as Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Vincent Van Gogh, and Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec. The painting, considered one of Picasso’s earliest masterpieces, has been in the collection of the Guggenheim Museum in New York for decades. It is now the focus of an exhibition called “The Young Picasso in Paris,” which chronicles the artist’s early years in the city beginning in 1900 through paintings, drawings, and photographs.
This exhibition is part of the many Picasso exhibitions that will be held around the world in 2023 as part of the celebration of the 50th anniversary of his death.
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