Conservators at the Guggenheim Museum in New York have uncovered a small dog hidden beneath the surface of a Pablo Picasso painting.
Experts from the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., revealed a dog wearing a red bow in the painting “Le Moulin de la Galette” which depicts a lively scene at the titular venue — a famous Parisian dance hall that was painted by other artists including Pierre-Auguste Renoir. A sea of couples are seen dancing in fine hats, rendered in quick brushwork, with three figures seated at a table in the foreground. The study used x-ray imaging technology to uncover a dog which was painted over by the artist.
The animal was hidden underneath a patch of dark paint in Le Moulin de la Galette, completed by the Spanish artist when he was 19 years old in 1900. It was discovered recently when experts used modern imaging technology on the painting, revealing a brown dog wearing a red bow around its neck.
The painting is on display at the Guggenheim Museum in New York, as part of an exhibition about the painter’s formative years in Paris.
Julie Barten, senior paintings conservator at the Guggenheim Museum, told Reuters she had always had “a strong feeling that there was something under there”.
“What we know is that in many instances, Picasso painted aspects of the composition and then subsequently obliterated them and transformed them into other compositional elements. This was really part of his practice,” she said.
“There’s red paint showing through in areas and if you look really closely you can see the eyes and the ears. You can see that, when concealing it, he actually left the contour of the head still visible,” she said.
Megan Fontanella, the museum’s modern art curator, said that she still found the discovery surprising.
“It completely changes how one would have encountered this picture,” she added. “You would have seen this really quite adorable dog in the foreground, looking almost directly at the visitor with this wonderful red bow. One can only speculate why Picasso would have concealed this. But certainly now my eye is drawn to all these wonderful figures in the composition.”
Over the years, researchers have discovered multiple hidden paintings in works from Picasso’s “blue period” between 1900 and 1904, including a woman’s face under The Old Guitarist, a nude portrait of a crouching woman underneath The Blind Man’s Meal and even a whole landscape underneath The Crouching Beggar.
Young Picasso in Paris
The painting is a part of an exhibition at the Guggenheim museum in New York which comprises of 10 paintings and drawings made by Picasso upon his arrival in the French capital in 1900.
Picasso’s life was full of dogs. He had many, of many different breeds, including terriers, Poodles, a Boxer, Dachshunds, a German Shepherd, Afghan Hounds, and numerous “random bred” dogs. Many of these were “borrowed” or “stolen” from friends and associates in the same way that many of his women were. The dogs were as much a part of his life as his female companions, and they went everywhere with him. He also gave dogs to his friends as gifts, in part to ensure that he would never be in their company without a dog.
Picasso’s dogs often worked their way into his art. One of his first pieces was a paper cutout of a boyhood terrier. Lump was drawn into several of Picasso’s interpretations of Velásquez’s painting Las Meninas. The artist replaced the massive hound in the foreground of the original with abstract renderings of Lump. Freaky, a mixed-breed, is the subject of many drawings as well, while Kabul, his Afghan Hound, appears in several paintings with one of his wives, Jacqueline.