Caravaggio, Judith Beheading Holofernes rediscovered

Lost Masterpieces Found: Surprising Discoveries in Art History

In the intriguing world of art history, the rediscovery of lost masterpieces often reads like a detective story, filled with unexpected twists and revelations.

Lost masterpieces, rediscovered in surprising locations like attics and basements, have reshaped art history. These finds, including works by Rembrandt, Van Gogh, and Caravaggio, reveal the unbelievable existence of beloved artwork over time.

Here, we explore some of the most remarkable finds that have reshaped our understanding of art and its history.

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Rembrandt van Rijn's "Unconscious Patient (Allegory of Smell)" (ca. 1624–25)

Rembrandt van Rijn's "Unconscious Patient (Allegory of Smell)" (ca. 1624–25)

  • Time Lost: Found in July 2015, unclear how long it was lost.
  • Found: In a New Jersey basement.
  • Why a Treasure: This early Rembrandt work, created when the artist was about the voting age, diverges from his typical style. It lacks the strong chiaroscuro and subdued palette of his later works, offering insight into his developmental years.

Vincent van Gogh's "Sunset at Montmajour" (1888)

Vincent van Gogh's "Sunset at Montmajour" (1888)

  • Time Lost: Misplaced from 1901 until its authentication in 2011.
  • Found: In a Norwegian attic.
  • Why a Treasure: Painted during Van Gogh’s prolific Arles period, this work shares the era with his famous pieces like "Sunflowers." The rediscovery highlights the breadth of Van Gogh's work and his use of color and light.

Fabergé Figure of a Cossack Bodyguard (1912)

Fabergé Figure of a Cossack Bodyguard (1912)

  • Time Lost: Lost from 1934 until 2013.
  • Found: In an Upstate New York attic.
  • Why a Treasure: This Fabergé figure is exceptional for its rarity and exquisite craftsmanship, particularly its sapphire eyes. Fabergé's figures are considered as rare as his imperial Easter eggs.

Caravaggio's "Judith Beheading Holofernes" (ca. 1607)

Caravaggio's "Judith Beheading Holofernes" (ca. 1607)

  • Time Lost: Lost since 1689, rediscovered in 2014.
  • Found: In a Toulouse attic.
  • Why a Treasure: Caravaggio’s works are renowned for their dramatic use of light and shadow. This painting, if authenticated, would be a significant addition to his known works.

Other Significant Rediscoveries

  • Alfred Stieglitz's "A Venetian Courtyard"
    Alfred Stieglitz's "A Venetian Courtyard":
    A second, perfectly preserved print was found hidden within a frame.
  • Bernini's Marble Skull
    Bernini's Marble Skull:
    Identified in the Dresden State Art Collections, showcasing Bernini's mastery.
  • Picasso's Sketch for Le Tricorne
    Picasso's Sketch for Le Tricorne:
    Unearthed in a Maine attic, linking to Picasso’s involvement in the Ballet Russe.
  • Paul Henry's Landscapes
    Paul Henry's Landscapes:
    Discovered in a Cincinnati storage unit, highlighting the beauty of Irish landscapes.
  • Cesare Dandini's Holy Family with the Infant St. John
    Cesare Dandini's Holy Family with the Infant St. John:
    Found in a church, contributing to the narrative of Baroque religious art.

Learn more About Naturalist Gallery of Contemporary Art.

These discoveries, often made in the most unlikely places, not only bring lost treasures back to light but also contribute significantly to our understanding of the artists and their historical contexts. Each rediscovered piece adds a new chapter to the rich and dynamic story of art history.

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