And here's one Picasso did earlier ...

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The Independent Online

An unknown Picasso masterpiece hidden beneath one of the Spanish painter's early works has been uncovered for the first time in 104 years.

An unknown Picasso masterpiece hidden beneath one of the Spanish painter's early works has been uncovered for the first time in 104 years.

A pioneering technique using X-rays and photo-manipulation has revealed a sexy, sleazy nightclub scene concealed beneath the sombre landscape of the artist's La Rue de Montmartre.

The hidden work - painted when the 19-year-old Spaniard was on his first trip to Paris - is a stunning precursor to his first Parisian masterpiece, Le Moulin de la Galette. The three were executed on a frenetic two-month visit to Paris from October to December 1900, when the young Picasso became fascinated by the city, and seized the opportunity to assert himself as equal to Parisian masters.

"There are two paintings, but three are visible. The discovery is a dream come true for any curator of modern art," William Shank, the American curator who discovered the work, told The Independent yesterday. "It's one of the best Picassos of this crucial early period, and much more interesting than the one that covered it up."

Mr Shank was speaking from Bilbao, where the works are on show at the Guggenheim Museum.

Close scrutiny of La Rue de Montmartre with X-rays and infrared light showed cracks that revealed flashes of bright colour and busy brushwork quite at odds with the sombre wintry scene depicted. The two paintings could not be more different: La Rue de Montmartre, owned by the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, where Mr Shank was chief conservator, is a quiet view of a Paris hillside on a wintry afternoon. Below is a vibrant view of a crowded cancan club, including a grotesque and lascivious figure from Spanish traditional folklore of a "Celestina" - a procuress.

"I imagine this young artist in Paris for the first time, perhaps in a damp garret that made his paintings take a while to dry, flexing his muscles as a top-flight artist. He tackled well-known scenes immortalised by Renoir and other Parisian masters, saying, 'Here I am'. He saw himself as their equal," Mr Shank said.

Why did Picasso cover up such a magnificent work with something so dramatically different? "My theory is that he liked the scene very much, but realised it was too small. I think he decided to develop the scene of the nightclub audience into something bigger and more detailed, and that of the cancan dancers into another work," said Mr Shank. "It's sexy, sinister, with women nuzzling each other. It shows the genius to come."

Indications of an under-painting were glimpsed when La Rue de Montmartre was restored in 1958. But in 1997, Ann Hoenigswald, a conservator at the National Gallery of Art in Washington DC, announced that a complete painting lay beneath.

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