Lost Picasso found under earlier work

Scientists and art experts have found a hidden painting beneath one of Pablo Picasso’s first masterpieces, The Blue Room, using advances in infrared imagery to reveal a bow-tied man with his face resting on his hand.

Now the question that conservators at The Phillips Collection in Washington hope to answer is simply: Who is he?

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It is a mystery that is fuelling new research about the 1901 painting created early in Picasso’s career while he was working in Paris at the start of his distinctive melancholy blue period.

Curators and conservators revealed their findings for the first time last week.

Scholars are researching who the man might be and why Picasso painted him. They have ruled out the possibility that it was a self-portrait. One candidate is Paris art dealer Ambrose Villard, who hosted Picasso’s first show in 1901.