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Historic Resources Committee

  • COST

    Free and open to the public

  • TYPE

    Knowledge Community



Not Sorry: A Hidden Buildings Show-and-Tell

NOUN (from Italian: “repentance”)
1. a reappearance in a painting of an original drawn or painted element which was eventually painted over by the artist

1. A manuscript or piece of writing material on which later writing has been superimposed on effaced earlier writing
2. Something reused or altered but still bearing visible traces of its earlier form

Using X-ray photography, a conservator at the Courtauld Institute of Art (University of London) recently discovered a “politically dangerous” portrait of Mary, Queen of Scots hidden beneath another painting; see, October 31, 2017 “SmartNews” story by Jason Daley.

Artists often alter their compositions as they are working—whether repositioning a subject’s hand or removing an entire figure from the scene—and then cover up these forms with a new layer of paint. Over time, this coating can fade away to reveal the previous version of the painting -- the pentimento -- that had been hiding underneath. In the built environment, we can also see examples of this on building facades and commercial signage.

Do you covet a favorite work of art or architecture that is or was once hidden beneath… or behind… or even in plain sight? Are there hidden elements, hidden geometries, concealed messages, or whimsy? Can you identify transformations of landmarks and vernacular structures in which ‘fronts’ became ‘backs’ and additions become centerpieces? For our December HRC meeting, please send (or bring in) examples from your own virtual or actual travels! Alternatively, ring in the holidays with a few photos, artifacts or stories about a current project that involves historic resources.

For those who qualify, 1.5 LUs are available.

To learn more about the Historic Resources Committee, visit

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