Degas' other woman: X-ray uncovers hidden portrait beneath famed painting


Degas’ other woman: X-ray uncovers hidden portrait beneath famed painting

A powerful X-ray technique has unveiled a hidden portrait beneath a famed painting by French impressionist artist Edgar Degas, helping solve a mystery that has stumped the art world for decades. An article published this week in the online journal Scientific Reports reveals that the long-puzzled-over image concealed behind Degas’ “Portrait of a Woman” is, in fact, a portrait of another woman. Australian researchers believe that she is Emma Dobigny, one of the painter’s favorite models.

Degas has painted [Emma Dobigny] several times before. Some other people think it’s someone else and we’ll leave that for them to ultimately decide who it is.

Daryl Howard, a scientist at Australian Synchrotron

For nearly a century, experts have known that Degas painted the famed portrait over another image sometime between 1876 and 1880. As the painting aged, the faint outline of what appeared to be another woman began leaking through the top layers of paint. Scientists spent 33 hours scanning the painting with a high-definition X-ray beam, a technique that was so successful that the scientists could not only see the details of the hidden image, but also its evolution. Degas, for example, appears to have originally given the woman pixie-like ears, but later reworked them into a more conventional shape.