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LONDON – A previously unknown self-portrait by Vincent van Gogh was found hidden beneath another painting by the National Galleries of Scotland.

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Conservators first found the never-before-seen painting after an X-ray revealed an image hidden behind the painting “Head of a Peasant Woman,” NGS said in a news release. Experts had been X-raying the piece ahead of a planned exhibition.

"Head of a Peasant Woman"

"Head of a Peasant Woman," Vincent van Gogh, 1885.

Van Gogh is known for his economical style — he often turned canvases around and painted on the other side to save money, The Associated Press reported.

“Moments like this are incredibly rare,” Professor Frances Fowle, senior curator of French art at NGS, said in a statement. “We have discovered an unknown work by Vincent van Gogh, one of the most important and popular artists in the world.”

The self-portrait, seen in the X-ray image, was hidden under glue and cardboard for more than a century, since “Head of a Peasant Woman” was painted in 1885. The portrait shows van Gogh with a beard in a brimmed hat, and is believed to be from his early work, the AP reported. His left ear, which he famously cut off in 1888, is visible in the painting.

Secret Van Gogh self-portrait found behind another painting

The portrait shows van Gogh with a beard in a brimmed hat, and is believed to be from his early work.

Lesley Stevenson, the gallery’s senior conservator, told BBC that she was shocked to find the artist “looking out at us.”

The process of removing the glue and cardboard to reveal the painting without an X-ray will require delicate work, and experts are researching how to do so without damaging “Head of a Peasant Woman,” CNN reported.

“Head of a Peasant Woman” is believed to be a likeness of Gordina de Groot, who modeled for van Gogh’s masterpiece “The Potato Eaters” in 1885, NGS said in its news release.

Visitors to the upcoming exhibition where “Head of a Peasant Woman” will be displayed, will be able to see the self-portrait through a lightbox, the AP reported.