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Hidden whale revealed in nearly 400-year-old Dutch painting

Hidden Whale Revealed in Nearly 400-Year-Old Dutch Painting


A 400 year-old mystery within Dutch artist Henrik von Athonissen's famous painting is solved as British art restorers discover that there used to be a beached whale right in the middle of the painting.


The painting, titled "View of Scheveningen Sands," was painted by Henrik von Anthonissen around 1641 and is a part of the Fitzwilliam Museum's collection at Cambridge University in the UK.

Postdoctoral student Shan Kuang began restoring it by first removing the yellowing protective varnish. "That's when a figure started appearing, standing directly on the horizon line," Shan explained.

Layers of paint were removed to reveal a large beached whale, transforming the painting from one of an idyllic ocean scene to a depiction of what would be a major news event for any town.

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Jean-Marie June 09 2014 at 3:20 PM

You can always count on AOL news or Huffington Post to twist the heck out of things. What they don't mention in this article is the paint over the whale tested to be from the 18th or 19th century. NOT from the original artist who would have painted it in the 17th century. Important to report the full information especially because it makes a complete difference in whether or not the restoration was destroying the original painting, which it is not.

http://news.discovery.com/history/art-history/beached-whale-hidden-in-17th-century-dutch-painting-140605.htm

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4 replies
theomegaman72 June 09 2014 at 2:06 PM

Raise your hand if you thought it would be a picture of a soldier surprising their child at their High School graduation...

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6 replies
charletort June 09 2014 at 1:45 PM

"Layers of paint were removed to reveal" something the artist obviously did not want in that painting. The varnish was put on over his finished product the way he wanted it and 400+ years later, our 'advanced technology' ruined his work. Good going, guys. What's next? Straightening the Tower of Pisa?

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19 replies
kentdeaninla June 09 2014 at 11:58 AM

When does restoration become vandalism?

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9 replies
shuuto1313 June 09 2014 at 3:24 PM

Restoration returns the artwork to an "original" condition. It has nothing to do with motives, likes or dislikes. It simply takes it back to original composition. Overpainting could have been the real, (original), vandalism!

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thiang June 09 2014 at 4:05 PM

Cited from:
http://news.discovery.com/history/art-history/beached-whale-hidden-in-17th-century-dutch-painting-140605.htm

"The Fitzwilliam Museum acquired "View of Scheveningen Sands" in 1873 when a donor handed over several Dutch landscape paintings. There is no indication that anyone at that time knew the van Anthonissen painting originally featured a beached whale. It's not clear when or why someone decided the whale had to go, but an analysis of the paint used to cover up the animal suggests the alteration took place in the 18th or 19th century before the painting was donated."

Obviously Huffpost left this part out, so those complaining about the 'ruination of original art' don't have a lot to stand on. The person doing the restoring/cleaning couldn't help that the whale from the ORIGINAL painting started to come through.

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1 reply
klw4919 thiang June 09 2014 at 6:01 PM

Very strange remark of yours regarding people complaining not having "a lot to stand on". Of course they do. That would be this typically inaccurate and utterly misleading story from AOL . Please note that AOL did not report this as a destructive act, in fact they seemed positively giddy that a whale had been revealed. I think they are more concerned with whales than with art, but that is another matter. Probably too many cartoons in early childhood.
. Now that it is understood it was the result of later tampering, they, and that includes myself now have a different perspective. Incidentally, I have had some experience cleaning oil paintings. In a proper cleaning, the original painting doesn't "come through". A conservator does not use paint remover to clean a picture. Turpentine has absolutely no effect on dried oil paint or varnish. If they were removing the varnish and were dissolving the paint then it was an incompetent job at best.

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1 reply
hisstah klw4919 June 09 2014 at 6:22 PM

"If they were removing the varnish and were dissolving the paint then it was an incompetent job at best."

Not necessarily. I've been a painting conservator for over 30 years and solvents used to remove varnish can often easily remove the underlying overpaint, as well. Your charge of incompetence is a bit premature unless they were affecting the original paint with their solvents. And until I see a treatment report, I'm going to assume they knew what they were doing. It's extremely unlikely that the solvents used dissoved any of the original paint unless it was an oil varnish and then I suspect that would have been left intact. It's very unusual for a painting of that age to have an original varnish intact anyway.

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ganderrrr June 09 2014 at 1:51 PM

It would have been much more interesting if removing the varnish had revealed a dinosaur, or a crashed spaceship.

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2 replies
moller4444 ganderrrr June 09 2014 at 3:02 PM

Or what if it had been a giant Nicholas Cage head, that would have been totally awesome!!

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2 replies
None moller4444 June 09 2014 at 3:50 PM

I must say....you're an especially witty bunch this afternoon !

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bdot157 moller4444 June 09 2014 at 8:59 PM

that is so stupid it made me laugh

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helema alkaabi ganderrrr June 09 2014 at 6:20 PM

or mabey it was jimmy haufman or elvis... or mabey it was puff the magic dragon!!

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2 replies
BARRY AND KATHY helema alkaabi June 09 2014 at 7:11 PM

The original painting had a wagon selling cotton candy, french fries and fresh squeezed lemonade at $4 dollars a glass with half price refills.

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kirkinoregon helema alkaabi June 09 2014 at 10:21 PM

I didn't know any one named Jimmy
Haufman was missing.

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lmcn85 June 09 2014 at 4:00 PM

The whale is badly painted because no one in the 17th century knew what it looked like. Try painting a realistic deer if you've only seen 3 day-old decomposing roadkill in your life. In my opinion, that's what makes the painting historically interesting.

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2 replies
Kate lmcn85 June 09 2014 at 5:42 PM

Painters of the day definitely knew what whales looked like-- this whale is dead and decomposing. Whaling had been going on for quite a long time by then.

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ganderrrr lmcn85 June 09 2014 at 6:30 PM

By the 17th century, lots of Europeans -- mostly Portuguese -- had traversed the Pacific all the way to China and Japan. They'd seen whales.

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Kashathree June 09 2014 at 11:52 AM

Who are we to repaint a masterpiece. What next! Add eyebrows to the Mona Lisa?

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9 replies
MASTER June 09 2014 at 11:47 AM

Suppose the original artist didn't like the whale (it looks unnatural to me) and painted over it. Would what was done to it then be transforming the painting into something the artist never intended?

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10 replies
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