Van Gogh’s ‘hidden’ portrait recreated 135 years after being painted

‘Two Wrestlers’ was discovered behind a still life 10 years ago

Zoe Tidman
Tuesday 30 August 2022 09:41 BST
<p>The Two Wrestlers recreation is set to be exhibited in The Louvre</p>

The Two Wrestlers recreation is set to be exhibited in The Louvre

A hidden Vincent Van Gogh painting has been recreated using artificial intelligence more than 135 years after it was covered over.

The portrait of two male wrestlers was discovered 10 years ago beneath a still life painting by the same artist.

While x-ray technology had previously revealed the painting, University College London scientists have now brought it to life in colour and in the style of Van Gogh himself.

It shows the two men locked in combat with splashes of red blood against a background of blue strokes.

The recreation is set to be exhibited at the Focus Art Fair in the Louvre at the start of September.

Van Gogh once made a passing mention of a painting involving wrestlers. “This week I painted a large thing with two nude torsos — two wrestlers,” he said in an 1886 letter this his brother, adding: “I really like doing that.”

This painting - thought to have been made while the artist was studying in Antwerp - was considered lost or destroyed until it was discovered behind the other in 2012.

Oxia Palus - an initiative which uses AI, spectroscopy and 3D printing to bring hidden paintings to life - was behind the recreation of the “Two Wrestlers” painting.

University College London neuroscientist Anthony Bourached, who led the efforts alongside physicist George Cann and artist Jesper Eriksson, told The Telegraph they trained an algorithm to try and work out how the original painting may have looked.

“How much it is like the original painting is impossible to tell at this point because the information doesn’t exist. I think it’s very convincing - by far the best guess we can get with current technology,” he said.

The University College London PhD candidates have also worked to recreate other hidden paintings through their Oxia Palus initiative, including Van Gogh’s “Standing Female Nude” and lost 15th century “Madonna” by Leonardo Da Vinci.

Artists were known to reuse canvases to save money or to hide works which they were unhappy with.

Earlier this year, a Van Gogh self-portrait was found hidden behind another at the National Galleries of Scotland.

“Two Wrestlers” was found behind the 1886 painting “Still Life with Meadow Flowers and Roses”, which is being held at the Kroller-Muller Museum in the Netherlands.

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