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Jean-Honoré Fragonard, Young Girl Reading, c. 1770, oil on canvas, National Gallery of Art, Washington, Gift of Mrs. Mellon Bruce in memory of her father, Andrew W. Mellon

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Details of Young Girl Reading, the near infrared hyperspectral image (HSI) and the x-ray florescence (XRF) scan for the element mercury (thought to show the presence of vermilion) are shown alongside a simulation of Portrait of a Woman with a Book, generated by cross-referencing various imaging techniques (simulated image by Becca Goodman and Denis Doorly).

The researchers were able to establish that Portrait of a Woman with a Book existed as a “complete” painting for at least six months before it was changed into Young Girl Reading. The composition once showed a woman with her head turned outwards, looking at the spectator. She wore a large feathered headdress dotted with colored beads, a thinner neck ruffle than in the subsequent painting, and she was illuminated by a frontal light source. An amorphous folding shape in the background behind her was suggested to be a curtain on the basis of precedents in 17th- and 18th-century French portraiture.

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Groundbreaking Research Reveals Significantly Different Composition in Jean-Honoré Fragonard's Young Girl Reading, at National Gallery of Art, Washington

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