The portrait of Modigliani's supposed ex-lover found underneath the artist's later picture
's girl’s portrait was found underneath his later also "Portrait of a girl', which was painted in 1917,
kept at the Tate Gallery,
London. Another portrait,
hidden underneath the Italian artist’s famous painting,
was revealed with x-ray technology. It has been concealed in plain sight for over a century.
The hidden portrait emerged during a technical research in the course of the preparation for the current exhibition
on Modigliani at Tate Modern,
While the identity of the 1917 sitter is unknown, the hidden portrait is believed to depict the artist’s former lover and muse, Beatrice Hastings, a free-spirited writer. One of the theories has it that, as their stormy two years' relationship ended by 1916, Modigliani may have wanted to airbrush her out of his life.
Hastings was a writer and she was the author of a surrealistic novella about her relationship with the artist, titled 'Minnie Pinnikin.' She read excerpts of it at a public event in 1916, but the manuscript was then lost for the rest of the century. Dr. Wayne discovered it again in 2001 buried in MOMA’s archives.
Theirs had been a two-year intensely passionate relationship, with rows fuelled by alcohol and drug use. He was a handsome bohemian Italian whom she once described as "a swine and a pearl", but she inspired him for several portraits.
Left: An x-ray reveals the previously unknown painting by Amedeo Modigliani emerging from behind one of his masterpieces.
Photograph: Mark Heathcote and Abbie Soanes/Tate Photography
According to Nancy Ireson,
's curator of international art,
said: "It’s a hypothesis, but I think it’s rather a nice one … It’s quite interesting to think that he might have painted her out. So often, when you see a canvas reworked, it’s impossible to actually read the image beneath. To be able to make out the figure is exciting. It’s almost a full-length figure."
At the same time Kenneth Wayne,
director of the Modigliani Project and a Modigliani scholar is not convinced. "It is hard to tell if the phantom image below is indeed Beatrice Hastings. It’s 50−50. She is usually depicted with a rounder face."
Both Hastings and Modigliani suffered from alcoholism and drug abuse, and their relationship has been described as passionate and combative. Beatrice Hastings is, beyond doubt, known primarily as Amedeo Modigliani’s muse. We could see her in 14 paintings of Modigliani and in his numerous drawings.
The Tate describes how, even within the bohemian milieu of Paris in the 1910s, they were "a feral, wayward pair". The gallery notes: "He lived in a haze of intoxication — absinthe, wine, hashish — and would dance on tabletops, howl out lines of Italian verse, and rampage through the streets at night. She had as many faces as voices. Modigliani’s portraits together convey a shape-shifting, highly volatile nature."
Left: Amedeo Modigliani in his studio with portraits of Beatrice Hastings and Raymond Radiguet, photographed by Paul Guillaume in 1915.
Both their lives came to tragic endings. Although the artist gained recognition during his lifetime, Modigliani spent much of his short life without much money, selling drawings for a few francs and, even famously tried to sell the entire contents of his studio for £100 ($138), in 1919. He was 35 when he died in 1920 of tubercular meningitis. Hastings’s health was ruined by alcohol, she was terminally ill when, in 1943, in England, she took her own life.
Modigliani is famous for his iconic elongated portraits and sensual nudes. Such is his popularity these days that his 1917−18 masterpiece,
was sold in 2015 for £113m,
making it at the time the second most expensive artwork sold at auction.
Modigliani has been described as one of the world’s most faked artists. Last year, an exhibition
at the Palazzo Ducale,
closed early after Italian prosecutors alleged that 21 of some 60 works were possible fakes.
Portrait of a Young Girl is on view at the Tate Modern, as a part of their current exhibition dedicated to the artist, until April 2, 2018.
Title illustration: Amedeo Modigliani. Portrait of a Girl, 1917.
Based on materials Art News, The Guardian.
Artists mentioned in the article