Maybe they can change the saying, “The elephant in the room” to “The whale on the beach.”
Art conservators discovered a hidden portion of a painting that when revealed changes the whole meaning of the picture. Hendrick van Anthonissen around 1641 painted “View of Scheveningen Sands” around 1641. More than 100 years later the painting was donated to the Fitzwilliam Museum.
The painting at that time showed people gathered in small groups on a beach in The Hague in the Netherlands. It seemed a typical seascape. The problem was it wasn’t the painting that van Anthonissen had created, at least not entirely.
Of course, no one knew that at the time.
It was only when Shan Kuang, a conservation student at the University of Cambridge’s Fitzwilliam Museum, started cleaning the painting recently that the truth was uncovered…literally.
“Kuang was tasked with removing a coat of varnish, which is typically found on oil paintings, but unfortunately yellows over time. When she began cleaning, a figure emerged on the horizon of the ocean next to a shape that looked like a sail. This was “extremely peculiar and unexpected,” Kuang said. But further cleaning with a scalpel and solvent revealed the floating figure was actually standing on top of a whale, and what at first appeared to be a sail was actually the whale’s fin,” Megan Gannon wrote for Live Science.
It was kind of like an 19th Century version of Photoshop.
No one knows when the whale was painted over, but it was most likely done because societal sensitivities of the day didn’t want to view a dying whale.
The painting can be seen in the Fitzwilliam Museum.