The Crystal Ball
Waterhouse painted The Crystal Ball with a young woman in a red dress peering into a crystal ball, apparently conjuring a spell with the help of a book and a skull. In 1902 this painting was shown at the Royal Academy. The painting was sold and eventually hung in the Glenborrodale Castle on the southern shore of the Ardnamurchan peninsula in the West Highland, Scotland. The painting was sold once more with the castle when the property was acquired by another in 1952. This owner of the painting did not like the skull and had the rest of the curtains painted over it to hide it from view.
When Martin Beisly, head of the Victorian picture department, and his research team began to look into the background of The Crystal Ball, they found documented pictures of the original painting, recorded by The Art Journal in 1909. In 1994, Beisly had the painting x-rayed, unveiling the skull beneath. After investigation, they learned the skull was still protected by a layer of varnish, which meant the modification could be safely removed without damaging the original work. After the restoration, Beisly said the painting cleaned up “quite beautifully.”