Modigliani Sketches Discovered Beneath Painting of Nude Woman

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Experts at a museum in Israel have uncovered three sketches by Amedeo Modigliani hidden beneath the surface of his 1908 painting of a nude woman.

The unfinished sketches by Modigliani were found under the canvas Nude with a Hat at the University of Haifa’s Hecht Museum during a forensic study of the work. They were discovered during an investigation into the artist’s process that involved the use of X-ray technology to study the painting.

The investigation was done in advance of an exhibition dedicated to Modigliani’s work at Philadelphia’s Barnes Collection that is set to open this October.

Before his death at age 35 in 1920, Modigliani moved in Bohemian circles in France. He became known for rendering nude models with elongated limbs and facial features, mixing styles drawn from African and Greek art.

It is not the first time an unknown sketch by the Italian modernist has been revealed using forensics. In 2018, X-ray technology brought to light a previously unseen portrait located under one of his paintings at London’s Tate Gallery.

Adding to the uniqueness of Nude with a Hat, which has been in the museum’s collection since 1983, is that on the back and front of the canvas are two portraits of women, oriented in opposite directions. A rendering of one of Modigliani’s female models, his friend Maud Abrantès, appears on one side, while an image of a shirtless woman appears upside-down on the other.

More than a decade ago, the museum’s curator spotted a pair of eyes that appeared to be rendered under Abrantès’s clothing in the portrait. The study revealed the image, along with two others believed to have been painted consecutively atop one another, behind the original work this year.

The practice of painting on top of previous sketches was not uncommon for modern artists who were financially struggling and looking to conserve materials. Specific details of the underpaintings have not been disclosed by the museum.

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