A new infrared examination of Norwegian artist Edvard Munch’s famed Madonna has revealed how Munch did some sketching on the canvas before he started painting. The exam was carried out on the National Museum’s own version of the iconic work.
Under its surface, conservators Thierry Ford and photographer Børre Høstland could detect sketching that could have changed the composition of the Madonna painting that’s part of the National Museum’s collection.
Museum officials called the discovery “exciting” because it “casts new light over Madonna and how the artist worked.” It suggests that Munch tried out various angles for posing the subject of his painting. One curator said Munch seems to have experimented with how the woman’s arms would hang before settling on her final pose.
Munch painted five versions of Madonna, all between 1894 and 1897. The National Museum’s version has been dated to 1894-95 and will finally go back on display in its “Munch Room” next year, when the new museum building that consolidates Oslo’s old and much-loved National Gallery and the museums of applied arts, architecture and design opens in June.
Oslo’s new Munch museum, meanwhile, also has a version of Madonna along with the rest of the Munch’s vast collection of his own art that he willed to the City of Oslo upon his death in 1944. That new museum will open later this month.