Hidden Goya portrait discovered

An early portrait of a Spanish general was found under a Rijksmuseum painting using new x-ray technology

The Rijksmuseum's "Portrait of Ramon Satue", 1823, and right, a diagram of the underlying image compiled by the restorer Anna Krekeler

A hidden portrait by Goya has been discovered under one of the artist’s paintings at the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam. It lies beneath the Portrait of Ramón Satué, 1823, which depicts a judge. The original image was revealed using scanning macro x-ray fluorescence spectrometry, a new technique developed by the universities of Antwerp and Delft.

Who did Goya originally depict? The sitter wears a uniform, embellished with a medal, which has been identified as that of the highest level of the Royal Order, a chivalric order founded by Joseph Bonaparte, king of Spain. This means that the hidden portrait must date from 1809 to 1813. Only 15 generals, plus Joseph, were entitled to wear the uniform and medal, although so far it has proved impossible to pin down exactly which of them is depicted.

The original portrait was probably left with Goya when the French army was driven out of Spain in 1813. A detailed account of the discovery will be published in October’s Burlington magazine. The Portrait of Ramón Satué is on view at the Boijmans Van Beuningen Museum in Rotterdam until the reopening of the Rijksmuseum’s main building in 2013.

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