The Mystery Portrait under Titian's Ecce Homo

Revealing the unseen

The technical analysis of the painting of Ecce Homo (“behold the man”) attributed to Titian and his studio, with a tentative date in the 1550s, revealed the hidden portrait of a man under the Ecce Homo composition. The work depicts a theme explored by Titian in the later phase of his artistic career in a series of paintings kept in museums and collections around the world. The X-Ray Radiography study of the work revealed an underpainting depicting the portrait of an unidentified standing man. This work was overpainted at an angle of 180° in relation to the Ecce Homo composition. No further art historical information was available on the initial painting in regards to its subject, colour or pigment composition. The integration of non-invasive techniques like digital microscopy, UV/IR/IRFC imaging, Fiber-Optic Reflectance Spectroscopy and micro-X-Ray Fluorescence spectroscopy analysed both works state of conservation, painting stratigraphy, pigment composition and preparation techniques. More importantly, it shed light to the development of the iconography of the particular theme.