Fine Art

Hidden Cupid resurfaces in one of Vermeer’s best-known works after two and a half centuries

Laboratory tests revealed "sensational" discovery that the figure in Girl Reading a Letter at an Open Window was overpainted decades after the artist’s death A hidden Cupid in Vermeer’s Girl Reading a Letter at an Open Window , one of the world’s most famous paintings, is set to resurface on the canvas after two and a half centuries behind a layer of paint. During restoration work, conservators discovered, to their surprise, that the naked figure—which dominates the upper right section of the picture—was overpainted long after the artist’s death. On the original canvas, the Cupid “picture within a picture” hung on the wall behind the letter-reading girl. It was detected 40 years ago by x-ray, but scholars had always assumed that Vermeer himself painted over it, says Uta Neidhardt, the senior conservator at Dresden’s Gemäldegalerie. The decision to restore Cupid to the work was taken after recent laboratory tests established beyond doubt that the figure was overpainted decades after Vermeer completed it. “There was even a layer of dirt above the original varnish on the Cupid, showing the painting had been in its original state for decades,” Neidhardt says. The overpainting was also slightly darker than the colour used […]

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