Art conservators dream of finding hidden secrets in the masterpieces they look after. Rarely do they expect to find a dead grasshopper.

Curators at the Nelson-Atkins museum of art in Kansas City said they discovered the dead insect in one of its star paintings, Vincent van Gogh’s Olive Trees, when it was being scanned as part of the research for a catalogue of its French painting collection.

It was spotted by paintings conservator Mary Schafer. She told a local broadcaster that she found it in the work’s lower foreground. “Looking at the painting with the microscope … I came across the teeny-tiny body of a grasshopper submerged in the paint, so it occurred in the wet paint back in 1889.

“We can connect it to Van Gogh painting outside, so we think of him battling the elements, dealing with the wind, the bugs, and then he’s got this wet canvas that he’s got to traipse back to his studio through the fields. Read more