Dead grasshopper lay hidden in van Gogh painting for 128 years

When Vincent van Gogh was working on his series of olive trees paintings in 1889, he probably didn’t realize a wayward grasshopper had taken up residence deep in the paint on one of his canvasses.

This image, taken through a microscope, captures the grasshopper embedded in the paint of Van Gogh’s “Olive Trees.”

Maybe it just had good taste in art?

A painting curator at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City recently discovered the small critter, which had been peacefully resting, undetected, for 128 years.

Mary Schafer, a paintings conservator who was working to catalog the piece, spotted the grasshopper while looking at “Olive Trees” under magnification.

(FILES) File image taken April 23, 2009 shows a visitor looking at the painting ‘Olive Trees’ (Saint-Remy, June/July 1889) by Dutch artist Vincent van Gogh at the Kunstmuseum in Basel, Switzerland. It was revealed by a Kansas City art museum on November 7, 2017 that when conservators at The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art put this Vincent van Gogh painting under the microscope, they found an unlikely intruder: a grasshopper trapped in the canvas’s painterly whirls for 128 years. Mary Schafer, a conservator at The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, came across the tiny dried, brown carcass in the lower foreground while studying the painting of olive groves. The find reflects the artist’s practice of painting in the outdoors, where it was often windy enough to send dust, grass and insects flying. / AFP PHOTO / NICHOLAS RATZENBOECK / TO GO WITH AFP STORY by Olivia Hampton ‘There is a dead bug in the Van Gogh.’

To her, the finding wasn’t unusual, the museum reports, since Van Gogh was known to paint outdoors. Experts at Nelson-Atkins cited an 1855 letter in which van Gogh wrote, “I must have picked up a good hundred flies and more off the 4 canvases that you’ll be getting, not to mention dust and sand …”

There is no clear explanation for how the grasshopper ended up on the canvas. A paleo-entomologist told the team there were no signs of movement in the paint, which could suggest that the bug, which was missing its abdomen and thorax, was dead before it got stuck, according to the museum.

And while museum visitors might want to sneak a peek at the grasshopper, experts said it can’t be seen through casual observation.