Artist reunited with his hated other half

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An astonishing discovery in a provincial saleroom in America has revealed the last hateful rites of the marriage of Francis Hayman, one of the most prominent artists in early Georgian England, a founder-member of the Royal Academy and the man who taught and inspired Thomas Gainsborough.

If every picture tells a story, it is fair to say that art historians have been flummoxed by Hayman's earliest known self-portrait, done around 1735. He painted himself at work – with palette and brush in hand – but otherwise his picture is horribly composed. Who or what was he painting? Why is only a sliver of the canvas on which he is working visible? And why on earth is his right knee – and the lower portion of both legs – missing? Hayman, then living in Exeter, was either having an extremely bad paint day or..

Yesterday, the West End art dealer Philip Mould said he believed that he had found the answers. The self-portrait is just half (the left-hand half) of the picture. Mr Mould says he has discovered a previously unknown right-hand section – revealing that the picture was in fact a double portrait, showing Hayman painting his first wife.

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