If you know anything about art, you've probably heard a few things about one Dutch painter named Vincent Van Gogh. The impressionist master's paintings of sunflowers and starry-skyed landscapes are recognised all over the world – as is his famous self-portrait after he cut off his own ear. So it goes without saying that the discovery of a previously unknown hidden self-portrait has art historians in a frenzy.
It's been discovered that behind the 1884 painting 'Head of a Peasant Woman' (flattering title, right?), there is a self-portrait of Van Gogh sporting a hat and neckerchief. The portrait was discovered completely by accident when the Royal Scottish Academy were cataloguing Van Gogh's artworks ahead of the academy's French Impressionism exhibit (while Van Gogh was Dutch, he spent most of his life in France). If you aren't able to make The RSA's exhibit, you can still get your art fix by checking out the best online art galleries (opens in new tab).
As it turns out, the hidden painting is part of five experimental portraits that were painted on the backs of earlier canvases. To scan the painting, the art historians used an X-Raying technique, and then processed the scans in a darkroom. Lesley Stevenson, senior paintings conservator at the National Galleries of Scotland, described the X-ray find as, "absolutely thrilling," according to The Guardian (opens in new tab) (we can't supply you with an X-ray machine for your own art, but you can get hold of one of the best portable scanners).
Seeing as Van Gogh painted around 900 paintings in his lifetime, it's perhaps no surprise that hidden paintings are still emerging. And this is by no means the first time a hidden painting has been found under the work of a great master. Lots of masterpieces include secrets behind the layers of paint, often for years before they're discovered – in Munch's 'Scream' (opens in new tab), there is an ever-so-faint scribe of the phrase "Can only have been painted by a madman".
It's exciting to think that behind so many masterpieces, there could be another one waiting to be found. For now we can appreciate Van Gogh's artwork a the RSA summer exhibit. And if you'd like to have a go at painting a double masterpiece of your own, make sure you check out our roundup of the best art supplies to stock up.