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August 31, 2009

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Hidden pig found in 1600s painting

A restorer has found a hidden image of a butchered pig in a 17th century Dutch painting owned by a Michigan college in the United States.

Barn Interior, one of 16 paintings given to Calvin College by alumnus Cornelius Van Nuis two years ago, shows a woman and two children inside a barn.

It was painted by Egbert van der Poel, who lived from 1621 to 1664.

Last summer, Calvin director of exhibitions Joel Zwart sent the picture to Chicago art conservator Barry Bauman for cleaning.

Bauman noticed that a ladder on the left side of the painting had been heavily painted over and the paint was flaking.

Underneath, he discovered the pig, butchered and stretched hanging upside down from the ladder.

"It was painted over, and the obvious question is, Why was it painted over?" said Zwart.

"Well, it was most likely not covered over by the artist. Very likely a wealthy patron bought it. It's this grotesque scene, this butchered animal hanging in a barn. And quite likely this patron hired another artist to paint it over," said Zwart.

He said the restored work "looks a lot different than before, and it looks better.''

The restoration work also revealed information about the painting's history.

It turns out that the work is a "pendant," one of a pair of paintings on a shared theme.

Barn Interior's companion painting hangs in the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam.


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