The Hidden Face

In 1987 a long-lost watercolour by the Victorian artist Richard Dadd, The Artist's Halt in the Desert, was discovered by specialist art dealer Peter Nahum on the BBC TV programme Antiques Roadshow. Made while the artist was incarcerated in a mental institute, it is based on sketches made during his tour of the Middle East, and shows his party encamped by the Dead Sea. It was later sold for 100,000 to the British Museum.

But ... Nahum and other 'experts' failed to notice that there was a hidden face in the picture. The eagle-eyed George Rooker saw a reproduction of the picture in a newspaper magazine and later examined the original when it was part of The Lure of the East exhibition at the Tate Britain.

Correspondence with Patricia Allderidge, Archivist and Curator of the Bethlem Royal Hospital where Dadd had been an inmate, confirmed that there is a face and it was deliberately concealed in the composition. Can you find it?

The painting is one of the ten most valuable items seen on the Antiques Roadshow. Mr. Nahum (seen centre in this picture) did not respond to communication asking him how he had missed the significant feature.

As an artist and historian, George Rooker believes the work has special significance in marking a crossover of Dadd's rational paintings and his fantasy themes.

British Museum

Peter Nahum

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