Discoveries

Many paintings in the Gallery once looked quite different from how they do today. Sometimes artists themselves have made changes. In other cases, transformations have been brought about by accident, or through the intentional interventions of dealers and restorers.

Close Examination: Fakes, Mistakes and Discoveries explores some of the stories of change and transformation behind paintings in the National Gallery.  

These case studies show how scientific analysis can help detect changes, and how researchers interpret the results to understand why they occurred. Find out about some surprising discoveries made through close examination:

Master of the Mornauer Portrait, 'Portrait of Alexander Mornauer', about 1464-88
Feature
Find out why this portrait was radically altered in the 18th century
Dosso Dossi, 'A Man embracing a Woman', probably about 1524
Feature
Discover how a circular ceiling painting was cleverly transformed into a rectangular gallery picture
Giorgione, 'Il Tramonto (The Sunset)', 1506-10
Feature
Have interventions by 20th-century restorers deepened the mystery of Giorgione's painting?
Italian, North, 'Woman at a Window', probably 1510-30
Feature
After 300 years, this seductive beauty was transformed into a demure lady. Find out why
Pieter de Hooch, 'A Man with Dead Birds, and Other Figures, in a Stable', about 1655
Feature
De Hooch never intended a still life of dead birds – who transformed this painting and why?
Follower of Robert Campin, 'The Virgin and Child before a Firescreen', about 1440
Feature
Portions of this painting are the work of a 19th-century restorer – can you tell which ones?
Detail from Giovanni Bellini, 'A Dominican, with the Attributes of Saint Peter Martyr', about 1490-1500
Feature
Modern technology reveals Bellini's original painting – hidden for 400 years
The Le Nain Brothers, 'Four Figures at a Table',about 1643
Feature
Which Le Nain brother painted this simple scene? And who painted the mysterious portrait hidden beneath its surface?