X-ray analysis of Picasso masterpiece reveals hidden painting

A scientific analysis of Pablo Picasso’s ‘The Crouching Woman’ revealed that the artist made a significant compositional change during the painting’s creation. 

Researchers with a variety of institutions including the Northwestern University, the Art Institute of Chicago, and the Art Gallery of Ontario used “an X-ray fluorescence imaging instrument” and other non-invasive means, to view the paint layers beneath the finished work. 

The painting as it’s typically seen features a woman hunched over and wrapped in a blanket. 

It appears that Picasso originally painted the figure with one of her arms showing and later made the decision to conceal it under the cover. 

Pablo Picasso iconic paintings and images
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Pablo Picasso iconic paintings and images
UNSPECIFIED - MAY 27: Painter Pablo Picasso (1881-1973) photographed in 1895 (14 years old) in Barcelona (Photo by Apic/Getty Images)
Portrait of Spanish painter Pablo Picasso (1881 - 1973) standing in his studio, 1920s. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
PARIS, FRANCE: Picture dated probably in 1930 in Paris of Pablo Ruiz Picasso (1881-1973), a Spanish painter and sculptor, born in Malaga (Spain) and established in Paris in 1904. His major creation is 'Guernica' (1937, Madrid) expressing in synthetic Cubism his horror of the bombing of this Basque town during the Spain Civil war. After WWII Picasso joined in Paris the communists. N/B B/W (Photo credit should read AFP/AFP/Getty Images)
circa 1935: Portrait of Spanish painter Pablo Picasso (1881 - 1973), smoking a cigarette with a filter, standing in front of his 1917 painting of his first wife Olga, (Russian ballet dancer Olga Kokhlova). Picasso is wearing a double-breasted gray flannel suit. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
(GERMANY OUT) Pablo Picasso (1881-1973), Spanish painter, engraver and sculptor, next to one of his sculptures. No date. (Photo by Bunk/ullstein bild via Getty Images)
Spanish artist Pablo Picasso (1881 - 1973) in Antibes, France, in the summer of 1946. (Photo by Michel Sima/RDA/Getty Images)
Spanish artist Pablo Picasso (1881 - 1973) in his workshop at the Chateau Grimaldi in Antibes (France), in the summer of 1946. (Photo by Michel Sima/RDA/Getty Images)
1948: Portrait of Spanish-born artist Pablo Picasso sitting in his studio beside a painted flower sculpture on a work table, Vallauris, France. (Photo by Michel Sima/RDA/Getty Images)
Headshot of Spanish artist Pablo Picasso (1881 - 1973), 1950s. (Photo by Tony Vaccaro/Getty Images)
Spanish artist Pablo Picasso (1881 - 1973) lighting a cigarette. (Photo by George Stroud/Getty Images)
(GERMANY OUT) *25.10.1881-08.04.1973+Bildender Künstler, Maler, Spanien- 1971 (Photo by Hierl/ullstein bild via Getty Images)
Pablo Picasso and his wife Jacqueline (L) with friends duing a party at their home in Mougins, south of France. (Photo credit should read RALPH GATTI/AFP/Getty Images)
A photo taken on 1973 shows Spanish painter Pablo Picasso and his wife Jacqueline walking in a street in Vallauris. AFP PHOTO RALPH GATTI (Photo credit should read RALPH GATTI/AFP/Getty Images)
Mougins, FRANCE: To go with AFP story 'Espagne-histoire-Guernica-anniversaire' This file pictured dated 13 October 1971 shows Spanish painter Pablo Picasso in Mougins, France. The town of Guernica will commemorate next 26 April 2007 the 70th anniversary of the 1937 bombing by planes of the German Luftwaffe 'Condor Legion' and subordinate Italian Fascists from the Corpo Truppe Volontarie expeditionary force during the Spanish Civil War which resulted in widespread destruction and civilian death.AFP PHOTO/RALPH GATTI (Photo credit should read RALPH GATTI/AFP/Getty Images)
PARIS, FRANCE - OCTOBER 18: A visitor looks at a Picasso painting ' Seated woman with arms crossed' during the press day at the Picasso museum, on October 18, 2014 in Paris, France. The museum will reopen on the 25th and will be inaugurated the same day by French president Francois Hollande. (Photo by Thierry Chesnot/Getty Images)
UNITED STATES - MAY 03: Gallery goers view Pablo Picasso's painting 'Dora Maar au Chat' at Sotheby's auction house in New York, Wednesday, May 3, 2006. The canvas, one of the largest and most important portraits of Picasso's mistress and Muse, was painted in 1941. With an estimate above $50 million, the painting portrays a Picasso mistress who was a frequent muse. (Photo by Timothy Fadek/Bloomberg via Getty Images)
NEW YORK, UNITED STATES: Christopher Burge, chairman of Christie's (L), starts the bidding for Pablo Picasso's painting, 'Le Reve', 10 November in New York at an auction of the collection of Victor and Sally Ganz. The painting, one of 58 pieces of 20th century art offered for sale, was bought for 48 million USD by an unidentified bidder. AFP PHOTO Stan HONDA (Photo credit should read STAN HONDA/AFP/Getty Images)
TO GO WITH AFP STORY US-LIFESTYLE ART by PAOLA MESSANA A man stands between Pablo Picasso's 'Nude, Green Leaves and Bust' (R), 1932, estimated at USD 70 million to 90 million and Henri Matisse's 'Nu au coussin bleu' (L), 1924, estimated at USD 20 million to 30 million, on display April 29, 2010 at Christie's in New York. Both are part of the collection of Mrs. Sidney F. Brody, to be sold at the Impressionist & Modern Art evening sale at Christie's May 4. AFP PHOTO/Stan Honda (Photo credit should read STAN HONDA/AFP/Getty Images)
New York, UNITED STATES: TO GO WITH STORY BY Catherine HOURS, US-ART-PAINTING-PICASSO-BIRTHDAY Pablo Picasso's 'Les Demoiselles d'Avignon' (1907) on display, 09 May 2007, at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, as part of 'Picasso's Demoiselle d'Avignon at 100', marking the 100th anniversary of the creation of the epoch-making painting. It is being displayed with nine preparatory studies from public and private collections and will be on view from 09 May to 27 August. AFP PHOTO/Stan HONDA =MORE PHOTOS IN IMAGE FORUM= (Photo credit should read STAN HONDA/AFP/Getty Images)

The team also provided additional insights into how the painting by another artist already known to exist behind Picasso’s work may have influenced the final image. 

Originally, the canvas featured a mountainous landscape crafted by an unknown Barcelona painter. 

release from Northwestern University noted that Picasso rotated the existing image “90 degrees to the right” and “incorporated the lines of the cliff edges into the woman’s back.” 

“We now are able to develop a chronology within the painting structure to tell a story about the artist’s developing style and possible influences,” Sandra Webster-Cook, one of the researchers, said.

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