Modern technology has made it possible to find hidden images in historical artwork. A royal portrait from the 17th century is the source of one recent discovery. Early modern Europe was ruled by the Hapsburgs. Members of the clan intermarried and ruled over Europe for nearly seven centuries. Their power fluctuated, ranging from Portugal and Germany to Hungary. The family remained centred in Austria, where they ruled as Holy Roman Emperors for most of the period from 1282 to 1918. Another outpost of the family was the Spanish monarchy, where members of that branch married into their own family in an aggressive attempt to consolidate their power. As a result, Juan Carreño de Miranda, a painter, created a portrait of Charles II, the final Hapsburg king of Spain.
The only child of Charles II's parents to live to adulthood was him. The transformation of Charles II in Armour by Carreño de Miranda shows his progression from boy to man through an x-ray. Painted in 1681, at the age of twenty-one, it features the king in military garb, replete with all the symbolism of a fearless leader. The young king is positioned in front of a battle scene in the background, and his armour was created for his distinguished ancestor Phillip II. Nevertheless, x-ray analyses of the artwork indicate that the canvas had previously displayed a distinct picture. A considerably smaller but otherwise similar-looking child king stood behind the young man. His face is long, his hair is loose, and his posture is the same in both photos.
"Carreño probably used what had become an obsolete portrait of the child king to paint a new portrait on top of it that updated his image as an adult, showing his taller stature," states the Museo del Prado, home of the painting. He then trimmed the sides slightly to make the painting fit the format of the artist's other painting, which features Philip IV and added a strip of canvas to the top to increase the painting's height. The picture of the younger king, which is currently hidden, is closely linked to a painting of the 10-year-old monarch that is currently on display at the Museo de Bellas Artes de Asturias. However, the depressing truths of inbreeding in one of the most powerful royal houses in Europe are hidden behind both of the king's images.
Charles II was descended from sixteen generations of Hapsburg inbreeding, which included a close genetic relationship between his own parents. Gonzalo Alvarez, the researcher, found that "[o]f 34 children, half died before their tenth birthday, and 10 died before their first." These deaths occurred within these generations of the Spanish royal family.
Charles II was an exceptional survivor, but his physical and mental impairments from birth compromised his health and speech. Specifically, he suffered from the Hapsburg jaw, a severe underbite that made daily living challenging. He died at the age of 35 from senility and seizures, leaving no heirs and being infertile. His royal portraits, which try to portray the monarch as the last of a strong dynasty, conceal this depressing life.