X-ray of historic painting reveals intriguing touch-ups to earlier, weirder version

Queen Elizabeth I’s famously mysterious advisor John Dee has been demystified, if only slightly, by an x-ray investigation conducted more than four centuries after his death.

Or has he?

Beneath the final brush strokes that completed a celebrated painting of Dee performing an experiment in front of the monarch and her guests is an earlier version.

The painting is by Henry Gillard Glindoni.

The earlier version had an eerie cluster of human skulls in attendance, while the final version showed only the queen’s well-coiffed fellow onlookers in attendance.

“Glindoni had to make it look like what we now see, which is august and serious, from what it was, which was occult and spooky,” art curator Katie Birkwood tells The Guardian in a story published Jan. 17. “That epitomizes the two different impressions of Dee which people have and the fight between them.”

Read the whole fascinating thing.