Experts Have Discovered a Hidden Portrait by Magritte Underneath Another Famous Painting by the Artist

The painting was hiding under the surface of another image for 80 years.

Image of a woman found underneath René Magritte, La cinquième saison (1943). Photo: Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium, Brussels.

A portrait of a mysterious woman has been found underneath a painting by Magritte thanks to the use of infrared reflectography. The sitter is believed to have been his wife Georgette.

Magritte eventually painted over the portrait with La Cinequième Saison (The Fifth Season) (1943), and it remained hidden for 80 years. The surface painting, a depiction of two men who are holding canvases and appear to be involved in the art trade, belongs to the Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium in Brussels (RMFAB).

Though experts can’t be sure, they believe the woman in the original painting may be Magritte’s wife due to her likeness to other images of Georgette by the Belgian Surrealist, in which she is also shown with short, curly hair, an oval face, light eyes, and an unflinching gaze. It seems, however, that the depicted woman is a blonde, unlike Magritte’s wife. The couple married in 1922, having met while Georgette was working at an art supplies store.

René Magritte, La cinquième saison (1943). Photo: © Ch. Herscovici, avec son aimable autorisation co SABAM Belgium, Musées royaux des Beaux-Arts de Belgique, Bruxelles, photo by J. Geleyns – Art Photography.

Infrared reflectography is a non-invasive imaging technique, and acts like a more powerful x-ray that can “see” through paint layers when the human eye cannot. There are countless examples of hidden paintings that have been recovered thanks to these sophisticated scanning techniques.

In fact, this is not the first time that a hidden Magritte has resurfaced in recent memory. In 2016, curators at Norwich Castle Museum and Art Gallery in England found part the 1927 painting La Pose Enchantée (The Enchanted Pose) beneath the painting La Condition Humaine (The Human Condition) (1935). The find solved the mystery of the missing painting, a nude that had only previously been known by a black-and-white photograph.

It is not uncommon for artists in the past to have recycled old canvases, especially when they were trying to save money.

The latest find is the result of a new research project into Magritte’s paintings held at RMFAB led by Catherine Defeyt and Francisca Vandepitte. The pair have also co-authored the new book René Magritte: The Artist’s Materials, which will be published this August by the Getty Conservation Institute as part of its “Artist Materials” series.


More Trending Stories:  

Nefarious Data Collection Masking as Public Art? An A.I. Company Has Placed Mirrored Spheres Around the World in a Massive Eye-Scanning Project 

A $3 Thrift Store Vase Turns Out to Be a Japanese Cloisonné Masterpiece That Could Rake in More Than $13,000 at Auction 

Is the World Ready for the Chameleonic, Virtuosic Legacy of Artist Juan Pablo Echeverri? Here’s His Story 

Building a Rare Book Collection? Gagosian Has Launched a New Curatorial Service to Help Jumpstart Your Library 

The Remnants of a Bronze Age Ceremony Have Been Discovered at a Construction Site for a Rocket Launch Pad in the U.K. 

‘It Took Forever to Get to Those Pinks’: Here’s How the Set Design Team Behind ‘Barbie’ Brought the Doll’s World to Vibrant Life 

Looking for a Smart Beach Read? Here Are 15 of the Most Gripping New Art-World Books to Crack Open This Summer

Follow Artnet News on Facebook:

Want to stay ahead of the art world? Subscribe to our newsletter to get the breaking news, eye-opening interviews, and incisive critical takes that drive the conversation forward.


Subscribe or log in to read the rest of this content.

You are currently logged into this Artnet News Pro account on another device. Please log off from any other devices, and then reload this page continue. To find out if you are eligible for an Artnet News Pro group subscription, please contact [email protected]. Standard subscriptions can be purchased on the subscription page.

Log In