Picasso’s Hidden Pooch: Advanced Technology Reveals Unknown Element in Renowned Painting

X-ray fluorescence imaging spectroscopy unveils a hidden detail: The renowned Picasso painting "Le Moulin de la Galette" has been studied using cutting-edge imaging technology. X-ray fluorescence imaging spectroscopy allowed experts to uncover a small dog, likely a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, adorned with a red ribbon around its neck that had been hidden beneath Picasso's brushwork for over a century.
The significance of the discovery: The presence of the hidden dog in the foreground of the painting alters the viewer's experience and perception of the artwork. The newfound detail adds complexity to the composition and highlights the energy of the dance hall scene. The discovery sheds light on Picasso's editing process and aligns with his later artistic approach.
"Le Moulin de la Galette" as an early masterpiece: The painting, considered one of Picasso's early masterpieces, portrays a popular dance hall scene and is currently held by the Guggenheim Museum in New York. It is featured in the exhibition "Young Picasso in Paris," which explores Picasso's early years in the French capital through various artworks.
Restoration and the Picasso Celebration 1973-2023: The painting underwent a full restoration process led by Julie Barten, the Guggenheim's senior paintings conservator, in preparation for the exhibition. The restoration brightened the colors and removed the yellowing varnish, bringing the artwork closer to its original state when Picasso completed it in 1900. The restoration coincides with the global celebration marking the 50th anniversary of Picasso's death in 1973.
Added intrigue to Picasso's artistry: While the reason behind Picasso hiding the dog within the painting remains unresolved, the discovery adds an additional layer of intrigue to the artwork. It deepens our appreciation for Picasso's evolving artistic techniques and further captivates the art world.


The art world was stirred recently by an intriguing discovery in a celebrated Picasso painting. “Le Moulin de la Galette,” created in 1900, has long been celebrated for its vivid depiction of a bustling Parisian dance hall.

However, new imaging technology has unveiled a charming detail that has remained hidden for more than a century – a small dog, thought to be a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, adorned with a red ribbon around its neck.

The Detection Process

The revelation was made possible by X-ray fluorescence imaging spectroscopy, a cutting-edge technology that allows researchers to examine layers of paint without causing any damage to the artwork.

This tool enabled experts from the Guggenheim Museum, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., to unveil the dog’s presence, which was previously obscured by Picasso’s brushwork.

Julie Barten, the Guggenheim’s senior paintings conservator, had harbored a suspicion about the presence of a hidden element within the painting for years.

Following a meticulous process of examination, including years of microscopic studies and X-ray technology, Barten’s hunch was confirmed, bringing the concealed canine into full view.

A Surprise in the Foreground

The unexpected discovery has transformed the perception of the painting. Megan Fontanella, the Guggenheim’s Modern Art curator, spoke of the significant impact of the new discovery.

The inclusion of the adorable dog in the foreground would have dramatically altered the original experience of viewing the painting.

Now, with the dog hidden, the viewer’s focus is drawn to the diverse figures occupying the dance hall, highlighting the energy and complexity of the composition.

Barten noted that Picasso had a habit of editing his own work, often repurposing elements within a piece into new forms.

It appears that the dog was hastily obscured by a few quick brush strokes, leaving a faint, ghostly impression of the pet.

This editing style aligns with Picasso’s later approach to his art.

A Celebrated Early Masterpiece

“Le Moulin de la Galette” portrays a popular dance hall, a subject that captured the imagination of other celebrated artists, including Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Vincent Van Gogh, and Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec.

The painting, considered one of Picasso’s early masterpieces, is currently held by the Guggenheim Museum in New York.

It is the centerpiece of the exhibition, “Young Picasso in Paris,” which presents a compelling narrative of Picasso’s initial years in the French capital through a range of paintings, drawings, and photographs.

The exhibition forms part of a global celebration marking the 50th anniversary of Picasso’s death in 1973, the Picasso Celebration 1973-2023.

Alongside the unearthing of the hidden dog, the painting underwent a full restoration process led by Barten to prepare it for the exhibition.

The restoration involved brightening the colors and removing the old yellowing varnish, returning the painting closer to its original state when Picasso completed it in 1900.

Despite the unresolved mystery of why Picasso chose to hide the dog within his painting, this new discovery has added a layer of intrigue to an already fascinating work, and has undoubtedly deepened our appreciation for Picasso’s evolving artistry.


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