Gustave Coubert’s “L’Homme Blessé” or “The Wounded Man” painting currently under exhibit at the Musee d’Orsay in Paris does not really hold a lot of mysteries the way it looks now.
The painting merely depicts a wounded man, as the title suggests, with a sword lying on his side.
It is possible that this guy was attacked using the same sword that is now about a foot away from his shoulder. For many, the painting is merely a depiction of a man; perhaps a dying man waiting for help to come. Would he die?
Well, the answer is not really provided in the painting – and current advances in technology have chanced upon something really exciting: this painting holds a lot of mystery, after all!
For the wounded man was not always wounded; and the painting did not always look like how it appears now.
In fact, the original appears to have been a wonderful moment shared by two people: a man and a woman.
Scholars have long established that the man in the painting was artist Coubert (it was long called a self-portrait) but they did not realize that beneath his seemingly wounded self-portrait was the figure of a woman lying contentedly on his shoulders.
The x-rays of today have uncovered a secret love story hidden beneath layers of paint. The original depicted happier moments together but when the two broke up, the artist decided to erase the woman from the painting.
He had such great talent that he was able to make changes to a 10-year-old painting without creating discrepancies on the final effect that it took scholars decades to discover these changes – and only with the use of x-ray technology!
The painting was believed to have been finished around 1844-1855 but now appears to be 10 years older.
Can you make out the woman in the painting and where the hand that was later covered? Weird, isn’t it? But perhaps the artist did not want to ruin a good painting yet wanted to remove traces of the woman from his memory and his work; thus, he painted over her likeness and created the wounded man.
Did you notice that his wound was at the area above his heart? This was not a random wounded artist after all but a heartbroken one!
It’s incredible what technology can uncover in centuries-old works of art without taking the piece apart! I am amazed!
(Art Image via Musée d’Orsay)