Haifa, Israel — Curators of an Israeli museum have discovered three previously unknown sketches hidden beneath the surface of one of his paintings by renowned 20th-century artist Amedeo Modigliani. The unfinished works of Modigliani, an Italian-born artist working in Paris before his death in 1920, came to light at the Hecht Museum of the University of Haifa after a canvas “Nude with a hat” was used as an extensive X-ray. it was done. A forensic study of his work for an upcoming exhibition in Philadelphia.
Ina Berkowitz, an art historian at the Hecht Museum, said it was “quite an amazing discovery.”
“Through X-rays, we’re able to actually speak to this inanimate object,” she told the Associated Press.
Modigliani is considered one of the great modernist artists of the 20th century. He had a short, turbulent, bohemian life in France, where his nude paintings were controversial.
His work has slender, elongated necks and faces, a signature style influenced by African and Cycladic Greek art that was beginning to arrive in France in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
The Jewish artist died at the age of 35, penury.
One of his paintings, “Reclining Nude,”When it was sold at auction in 2015, it was one of the most expensive paintings ever made. Another was sold at auction in 2018 for $157 million.
The high demand for authentic Modigliani works has created a thriving market for counterfeiting and counterfeiting.
The last time Italy staged a big Modigliani show at Genoa’s Palazzo Ducale was in 2017, museum officials quickly closed the show after experts alleged that many of the works on display were fake. The criminal trial has been going on for more than a year.
In 2018, X-ray technology revealed a previously unknown Modigliani portrait beneath one of his paintings at London’s Tate Gallery.
Modigliani’s 1908 “Nude with a Hat” is already an unusual painting. On both sides of the canvas are pictures painted in opposite directions. Visitors entering the galleries of the Hecht Museum receive an upside-down nude portrait. A likeness of Maude Abrantes, a female friend of the artist, is right-side up on the reverse side.
In 2010, the museum’s curator saw the eyes of a third figure peeking out from under Abrantes’ collar. But this year only the hidden image was brought to notice.
“When we decided to do the X-rays, we were just looking to learn a little more about the shape hidden beneath Maud Abrantes,” Berkowitz said. In addition to a disguised woman wearing a hat, they found two more images on the opposite side that were completely invisible to the naked eye: one of a man, and the other of a woman with hair drawn in a bun.
“Nude with a Hat” dates from the beginning of Modigliani’s career, shortly after moving from Italy to Paris, when he was struggling to find buyers for his art. The painting was bought by the museum’s founder in 1983.
The canvas is now known to contain five of his paintings, possibly one painted on top of the other to save money on new canvases. X-ray photography and other non-invasive techniques have yielded hidden works by other artists such as Degas and Rembrandt.
Berkowitz called the artwork “a sketchbook on canvas”, depicting Modigliani’s repeated attempts and “a never-ending quest for artistic expression”. She said that there is no doubt that the painting is authentic.
“He was one of the very first multicultural artists to draw inspiration from a variety of sources,” said Kenneth Wayne, director of the Modigliani Project, an organization working to compile a certified collection of the artist’s works. He cited Modigliani’s contemporaries Pablo Picasso and Henri Matisse as other examples.
Modigliani sought “an air of strangeness and beauty” and achieved that by incorporating those exotic styles into his art, Wayne said. Wayne and his colleagues use scientific methods and art expertise to weed out the fakes.
The X-ray photography was preceded by an extensive exhibition of Modigliani’s works at the Barnes Foundation in Philadelphia.
Wayne said the increasing number of such technical studies by the Barnes Foundation has increased confidence in confirming the real Modiglianis.
The Foundation Museum said the exhibition opens on October 16 and will explore the artist’s working methods and materials based on forensic studies of dozens of Modigliani’s paintings and sculptures borrowed from collections around the world.