Only about three dozen paintings by the 17th-century Dutch artist Johannes Vermeer exist to this day. Now, however, researchers at the National Gallery of Art have subtracted one work from that relatively small mix, reports NPR. Using high-tech analysis to look "beneath" the surface of the painting, researchers concluded that "Girl With a Flute" was not done by Vermeer but by someone else—perhaps a student, an associate, or even, as one "fringe" theory holds, by his daughter Maria after her father's death, per the New York Times.
“The science techniques showed the artists used similar materials in similar ways, but they handled the paint differently, from the underpaint to the final surface paint,” imaging scientist Kathryn Dooley of the National Gallery tells the Times. Another possibility is that Vermeer began the painting, perhaps as a sketch, and somebody else finished it. Vermeer was known as a "lone genius," so the idea that he might have worked closely with another person, or multiple people, "is perhaps one of the most significant new findings about the artist to be discovered in decades," says gallery director Kaywin Feldman in a news release. Vermeer may be best known for his painting "Girl With a Pearl Earring." (In that famous work, the earring came last.)