We try to hide so much.  Maybe it is true, then, that time does not really heal all wounds.  It just uncovers them.

I think this discovery may prove just that.

X-Rays Expose N.C. Wyeth Painting Hidden Beneath Another
by Jenna Bryner

A new X-ray imaging technique has revealed colorful details of a painting hidden beneath another painting by famed American artist N.C. Wyeth, whose iconic work appeared in popular magazines like the Saturday Evening Post.

The so-called lost illustration depicts a dramatic fist fight, which was published in a 1919 article in Everybody’s Magazine, titled “The Mildest Mannered Man.” Previously, scientists had used X-rays to show the artist, Newell Convers Wyeth (1882-1945), had covered the fight scene with another painting called “Family Portrait.”

But that work only revealed the illustration in black-and-white. The scientists weren’t even sure the hidden artwork was in color.

“One of the surprises was that the painting was in color at all,” Jennifer Mass, senior scientist at the Winterthur Museum in Delaware, told LiveScience. “When N.C. Wyeth was making a painting for an illustration, if he knew it was going to be reproduced in black-and-white, sometimes he just did the paintings in shades of gray.”

Mass, who is also an adjunct professor at the University of Delaware, will present the findings today at the National Meeting of the American Chemical Society in Washington, D.C.

Mass and her colleagues shot intense X-ray beams at the painting using a so-called confocal X-ray fluorescence microscope. The instrument then collected the X-rays that were emitted by different chemical elements in the painting’s pigments. Each element gives off a certain intensity of X-rays. And since certain elements were used to make pigments, the researchers could translate the X-ray measurements into color. For instance, cobalt would indicate a blue pigment, while chromium would signal a yellow or green color, Mass said.

The result was a full-color representation of the hidden painting.

The non-destructive method could uncover other famous artwork veiled beneath second paintings by Wyeth and others, the researchers say.


Here are the Wyeth portraits.

Family Portrait by N.C. Wyeth

"Family Portrait" by N.C. Wyeth, the original painting

The Mildest Mannered Man

This untitled, full color portait, was discovered underneath "Family Portrait"

I wonder if you see the irony — a picture of a peaceful family, involved in the intricacies of life, is nothing more than a nice cover, a facade, for a much darker, portrait of a fight beneath.  A peaceful, public image, covering a private, brewing anger.

This is certainly an intriguing story of art.  But it may be a more truthful portrait of real life.


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