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Hidden: Unseen Paintings Beneath Tudor Portraits

Past display archive
3 January - 9 June 2013

Room 3


X-ray of Sir Francis Walsingham possibly after John De Critz the Elder 16th century (circa 1587) NPG 1704

X-ray of Sir Francis Walsingham
possibly after John De Critz the Elder
16th century (circa 1587)
NPG 1704

Sir Francis Walsingham
by Unknown artist
circa 1585
NPG 1704

Recent technical analysis undertaken as part of the Making Art in Tudor Britain project has revealed that some of the Gallery’s sixteenth-century portraits were painted over pre-existing paintings. This could have occurred for a variety of reasons and provides fascinating insight into artistic production during the period.

This display highlights two rare examples in which paintings with religious iconography have been discovered beneath portraits. Images generated by analytical techniques such as x-radiography and infrared reflectography are used to reveal the hidden paintings, and the portraits are also paired with loans from other collections to give an impression of the underlying compositions. The display also includes an interesting portrait with a fragment from a decorative scheme on the reverse, which suggests that it was originally intended to be viewed from both sides.

© National Portrait Gallery, London


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