The hidden image turned out to be a bow-tied man with his face resting on his hand, with three rings on his fingers.

Art historians and scientists have discovered a separate painting beneath one of Pablo Picasso’s first masterpieces, “The Blue Room.”

To the naked eye, “The Blue Room” depicts a blond woman washing herself from a water jug in the middle of a tiny flat.

But the latest infrared imagery has revealed, painted under “The Blue Room,” a seated bearded man, wearing a bow tie and resting his face on his hand.

Now curators at The Phillips Collection museum in Washington, DC, have a 21st-century art mystery to solve: Who is this bearded man?

“It’s really one of those moments that really makes what you do special,” collection conservator Patricia Favero told the Associated Press.

“The second reaction was, ‘Well, who is it?’ We’re still working on answering that question.”

Picasso likely had very “franc” reasons to paint over an existing painting back in 1901, when he was struggling to make ends meet while living in a small Paris apartment.

“When he had an idea, you know, he just had to get it down and realize it,” curator Susan Behrends Frank said.

“He could not afford to acquire new canvases every time he had an idea that he wanted to pursue. He worked sometimes on cardboard because canvas was so much more expensive.”

Patricia Favero, associate conservator at The Phillips Collection, sets up an infared camera to view the hidden image.Photo: AP

Suspicions of a “Blue Room” painting-within-a-painting date back to 1954, when a museum conservator first noted odd brushstrokes that didn’t match the work’s composition.

By the 1990s, X-rays captured a fuzzy image behind “The Blue Room,” which has been part of The Phillips Collection since 1927. But it wasn’t until just recently that curators finally got a look at the canvas’ original work.

Scholars do not believe the bow-tie-wearing man is Picasso himself. It could be Parisian art dealer Ambrose Villard, who hosted Picasso’s first show in 1901.

The mystery might linger forever, because Picasso didn’t leave any clues on the canvas.

Dorothy Kosinski, director of The Phillips Collection, said “The Blue Room” revelation could spark renewed interest in the artist’s remarkable life.

“Our audiences are hungry for this. It’s kind of detective work. It’s giving them a doorway of access that I think enriches, maybe adds mystery, while allowing them to be part of a piecing together of a puzzle,” she said.

“The more we can understand, the greater our appreciation is of its significance in Picasso’s life.”

Picasso died in 1973 at age 91.

“The Blue Room” is currently on tour in South Korea.



Art Picasso Hidden Painting

Art Picasso Hidden Painting

Art Picasso Hidden Painting  

Art Picasso Hidden Painting

Art Picasso Hidden Painting