Whistler’s Hidden Portrait Of His Mistress

The Art Newspaper reveals: ‘Scholars have discovered a previously unknown portrait by James McNeill Whistler hidden beneath a painting of a bridge over the River Thames from 1862. The subject is thought to be Whistler’s young mistress and model Jo Hiffernan, who lived with the artist in London for five years. Prior to the discovery, experts believed Whistler created only around six portraits of Hiffernan, including the well-known “Symphony in White, No. 1: the White Girl,” 1862, at the National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC. Curators made the discovery late last year, as they were hanging the first major exhibition devoted to Whistler’s early work, “An American in London: Whistler and the Thames”, at the Dulwich Picture Gallery in south London. “Whenever a picture comes in for a show, the conservators look over it with a magnifying glass,” says the curator Margaret MacDonald. They noticed bumps on the surface of The Last of Old Westminster, 1862, so MacDonald asked for an X-ray. What she found was “staggering”—an entirely different composition, flipped sideways, of a young woman reading. “I immediately said, ‘It is Joanna. It is Joanna Hiffernan.’”

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