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“The Old Musician” has not been on view for the last two years because it was undergoing cleaning and technical examination, including x-radiography and infrared reflectography, at the National Gallery’s conservation studio.

Curators and conservators have been particularly interested in determining the painting’s relationship to an earlier canvas, “The Absinthe Drinker,” which dates from 1858-1859 and is in the collection of the Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek in Copenhagen.

“The figure of the top-hatted man in ‘The Old Musician’ is an almost exact match to a similar figure in ‘The Absinthe Drinker,’ ” said Kimberly A. Jones, associate curator of French paintings at the National Gallery. “Ann Hoenigswald, our senior conservator, went to Copenhagen with a Mylar overlay to compare the scale and form of the figure.”

That the two men are almost identical was unusual for Manet. “To take one figure and literally insert it into another painting is almost unheard of,” Ms. Jones said. “We’ve been looking for other examples, but there isn’t really anything like this. Here he’s put in a whole new context.”

The painting had also been covered with layers of yellow varnish that had made the painting’s surface even and its colors flat; until its cleaning nobody knew what the original colors were.

“The painting suddenly had vibrant blues, greens and shades of aqua as well as pristine white,” Ms. Jones said. “There is also a remarkable variation in texture.” There are, she said, areas of thick impasto and places where the paint is applied with a wash so thin that it resembles watercolor.

Seeing the two paintings next to each other also helps illuminate the artist’s painterly techniques.

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Must be a technical term.
The Standard Deviant
Belle Epoque Photoshop?
'Somphe, check yer PM's, you Ole goat!
Checkin' 'em now, Elf…

Damn, I was hoping it was that Nigerian attorney!
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