The initial head of Young Girl Reading

Published in Jackall, Yuriko, John K. Delaney, and Michael Swicklik. "'Portrait of a woman with a book': A 'newly discovered fantasy figure' by Fragonard at the National Gallery of Art, Washington" in The Burlington Magazine 157(1345):248 (April 2015)

Young Girl Reading was considered to be a genre painting until June 2012, when a drawing by Fragonard was discovered at auction. It appeared to show Fragonard's 18 "Fantasy Figures," one of which looked strikingly similar to Young Girl Reading. The difference was that the sitter was looking out at the viewer rather than at her book.

X-radiography performed in the 1980s showed there was an initial head painted beneath the one we see today, but advanced technical imaging combined with cross sectional analysis allowed NGA staff to better understand the underlying portrait. 

In collaboration with curators, imaging specialists, scientists, and other conservators, I created the digital simulation at left to show how the painting may have appeared before Fragonard covered the first iteration of the head.

All images © 2015, National Gallery of Art, all rights reserved