Pentimento or “repentance” refers to a change made by an artist during the painting process, evidenced by an image concealed within the work itself. Artists often alter their compositions as they are working—whether repositioning a subject’s hand or removing an entire figure from the scene—and then cover up these forms with a new layer of paint. Over time, this coating can fade away to reveal the previous version of the painting—the pentimento—that had been hiding underneath.
With modern technology, conservators can also uncover a painting’s pentimento using infrared scans and X-rays. Studying a painting’s pentimento can be part of the authentication process, as original works of art tend to have more hidden changes in comparison with their copies.