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Picasso’s Hidden Dog: A closer look at the Iconic Painting

A Hidden dog

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Picasso’s Hidden Dogg

A little puppy that was purposefully hidden in one of Pablo Picasso’s early works and shown as part of the Young Picasso in Paris exhibition at the Guggenheim Museum in Manhattan has been discovered by researchers. According to scanning X-ray fluorescence performed at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Picasso attempted to conceal the light-coloured lapdog with a red bow tied around its neck by adding a dark brown form in the foreground of “Le Moulin de la Galette” (1900) that could be either a chair’s back or a coat draped over it.

The in question artwork depicts a bohemian celebration occurring in the darkly lighted ballroom of Montmartre’s le Moulin de la Galette, a windmill that first opened as a cabaret for French nightlife in the 18th arrondissement of north Paris. Picasso’s candlelight composition depicts men and women dancing, drinking, and gossiping among themselves while wearing the best hats. This shows Picasso’s enthusiasm for being involved in the Parisian arts and culture scene after relocating there that year at the age of 19. In the painting’s left-hand corner, the small dog was seated at the table next to the grinning lady and was looking straight at the spectator with a face that matched the loose, swishing shapes found throughout the rest of the work.

The dog, however, was not included in the finished design, and Picasso hurriedly hid it behind a dark brown mass.

According to Megan Fontanella, the director of the Young Picasso in Paris show at the Guggenheim, it is typical to see lone individuals staring out at the audience and evidently “acknowledging their presence.”

The lapdog in the front would have filled this role in the original composition for “Le Moulin de la Galette” and served as an alluring point of connection, according to Fontanella. Picasso concentrates more attention on the figures and the area by removing the dog. Now, one can see how delicately the act of gazing develops in “Le Moulin de la Galette,” with dance hall patrons directing their gaze in various places.

Despite being hidden, the dog’s overall shape is still fairly recognizable, with the contour of its floppy ears and the black paint splotches that make up its eyes and snout sticking out in particular. An x-ray of the painting taken in 2017 for the Thannhauser Collection: French Modernism at the Guggenheim book revealed, in the opinion of the Guggenheim’s senior painting conservator Julie Barten, that there were other colours beneath the brown shape that needed further imaging to be seen. Further investigation into the layers of the artwork was required for the 2023 display.

Barten told Hyperallergic that scanning X-ray fluorescence “maps the distribution of elements contained in the painting, including inorganic pigments.” The distribution of the pigments vermillion red, zinc white, and iron-containing ochres was mapped to create the false-colour visualisation of the dog.

Now, I can’t think of a more appropriate place for a little French dog to be than seated at the table with its fellow partygoers, and to be perfectly honest, neither could Picasso, as evidenced later in his life when he became the parent (more like personal attendant) of a brazen little Dachshund named Lump who had a seat at the dinner table in his Cannes mansion from the late 1950s to the early 1960s.

David Douglas Duncan, a friend of Pablo Picasso and a photojournalist who photographed Lump’s place in the family, described their warm friendship as “a love affair.” The lump would be held in Picasso’s arms. He fed him with his own hands. That small puppy just took control, holy sh*t. He was in charge of the awful house.

It’s not quite apparent why Picasso covered over the dog in “Le Moulin de la Galette,” but such a practice is also not unusual. A secret portrait in Picasso’s 1901 painting “The Blue Room” is only one example of the many of his works that have undergone examination, scanning, and X-raying to discover hidden people or altered compositions. According to some experts, the artist allegedly torched his older work to stay warm during periods of extreme hardship in the early 1900s and would paint over his previous creations as a result of limited resources.

On May 12, a month after the 50th anniversary of the artist’s passing, Young Picasso in Paris officially debuted. Recent charges of violence and abuse against Picasso’s various lovers and the female figures depicted in his paintings have rekindled scholarly interest in his technique, artwork, and way of life.

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What was discovered in Pablo Picasso’s painting “Le Moulin de la Galette”?

Researchers discovered a hidden image of a puppy that Picasso had attempted to conceal behind a dark brown mass in the foreground of the painting

How was the hidden puppy discovered?

Scanning X-ray fluorescence technology was used to reveal the image of the puppy beneath the added layer in the painting.

Why did Picasso hide the image of the puppy?

The exact reason is unknown, but artists often make changes or hide elements in their work during the creative process. Picasso’s motivations for concealing the puppy remain speculative.

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