Hidden Miniatures and Faces
By Svend Erik Hendriksen
After 500 years of looking at some great paintings of the Renaissance, you would think everything in the composition would have been seen and analyzed. Hundreds of art critics, historians and connoisseurs examined these paintings and wrote books about them. Then Greenland Art Research came along, looked at them carefully and said "Oh, do you see this miniature image hidden here?" and "do you see this little face there?”
In June 2004 Greenland Art Research (GLAR) found a “face in a portrait” in "Flora" by Titian Vecellio 1515. Just a few weeks later a possible replica of “Flora” was discovered in Norway by an American art dealer in Mr. Raidar Osen’s private home in Bergen. Unfortunately for the owner, the “face” in the Norwegian painting was quite different from the origin painting by Titian. The copyist had an idea about what it was, but didn’t manage to paint the face accurately enough.
In the “Sacrifice of Isaac” Titian Vecellio painted a hidden blurred self-portrait in Abrahams red dress so masterly hidden that it took nearly 450 years to find it. When G. Vasari left Venice in 1545 the commission of three paintings was handed over to Titians workshop. The three paintings were designed and composed by Vasari I guess that Titian wanted to put his special “signature” on at least one of the three paintings, just to show the viewer who painted it, the Italian National painter himself.
During our research of another Australian owned Titian painting “Joseph and the wife of Potiphar”, ca. 1520 and reworked in about 1535, more than 50 clues were found pointing to Titian. The most significant was his hidden signature. GLAR found the so-called “Marilyn Monroe in the Bath” scene.
It has, as far as I know, never been mentioned that Titian painted miniatures into his paintings and for what reason. We think it was probably to make them copy-proof. If one didn’t know about the miniatures or faces it would be impossible to make a proper copy.
Paul Gauguin did it too—in almost all of his paintings. He started already in 1875 when he painted “The Seine in Paris between the Pont de Lena and the Pont de Grenelle” with a so-called double exposure (two paintings in one). The lower part is a Maritime subject from the Seine and the upper part is a sea with several small islands. The biggest islands shape fits to Læsø (Laesoe in Denmark). His wife Mette Gad was born and raised on that island in the Kattegat Sea in Denmark. The shape also fits to Marquesas Islands in the South Sea, but I can’t imagine that he already planned his escape to the South Sea in 1875, two years after he married Mette Gad.
When I was reading the press release from Ordrupgaard Museum in Denmark about the “Gauguin and Impressionism” exhibition August-November 2005, I had a closer look at some of the Ordrupgaard paintings. I was very surprised when I found a Gauguin self-portrait in “The Little Dreamer” hidden in the fools face It was also surprising to find a portrait of his good friend Vincent van Gogh in another painting “The Blue trees,” which was painted in 1888 , the same year he visited Vincent van Gogh. In the Hermitage, St. Petersburg collection I found the final proof. He also painted a portrait of his good friend Paul Cezanne into “A Landscape with two Goats” in 1897.
For many years Cézanne was known only to his old impressionist colleagues and to a few younger radical postimpressionist artists, including the Dutch painter Vincent van Gogh and the French painter Paul Gauguin. In 1895, however, Ambroise Vollard, an ambitious Paris art dealer, arranged a show of Cézanne's works and over the next few years promoted them successfully.
The Winner of the John Glover Prize 2005, the Australian artist Mr. Stephen Lees, painted miniatures and faces into his beautiful winning landscape painting ”Wishbone Ridge”. Find the “Madonna with child”, “Two girls” and “Two portraits of men”, yourself, at http://www.johnglover.com.au/former_winners.html