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Caravaggio's Secret Self-Portrait

Art Fortune | News

(ANSA) - Florence, October 29 - A tiny-self portrait of Caravaggio in his famous painting of Bacchus can be seen clearly for the first time, thanks to a new study by researchers and restorers. The image of the artist working at his easel, hidden in a reflection of the glass carafe in the young god's hand, was first spotted by a restorer cleaning the canvas in 1922. Detailed analyses using the most advanced scientific equipment in the world has confirmed the tiny portrait does indeed exist and revealed it clearly for the first time.


''After having finished processing the images using multispectral reflectography, we now have available a clear view of what the artist painted,'' explained one of the researchers, Roberta Lapucci.


''We are presenting this filtered, sharp image to the public. It clearly shows a very young Caravaggio at work, paintbrush in hand''. The ''reflected'' self-portrait shows the face of a person standing with one arm outstretched towards the viewer.


His face appears in detail, particularly his nose, eyes and the white collar around his neck. Although first spotted nine decades ago, there had been no further clear sighting of the self-portrait, which is nearly invisible to the naked eye.


Matteo Marangoni, who first saw the image, described the face in the carafe as having ''large eye sockets, a broad, slightly snub nose, and fleshy, slightly apart lips''. Since then, experts have at most been able to make out a mass of black hair, the faintest outline of a face and a dash of white indicating the collar. Lapucci believes the tiny portrait was once clearly visible but was nearly obscured by years of successive restorations. An additional layer of paint covering all the dark sections of the canvas during one particular intervention is thought to have been responsible for concealing the image permanently. The team used a technique called reflectography to ''look through'' theses layers of paint.


Reflectography uses wavelengths of infrared radiation penetrate paint layers of different thicknesses, making the upper layers appear transparent. Details of the discovery will be discussed in greater depth at a conference on Friday revealing other new discoveries about Caravaggio's work.


The 'Bacchus' normally hangs in Florence's Uffizi Gallery. 



Caravaggio Hidden Self Portrait





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