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5 Amazing (and Unexpected) Art Discoveries

Updated on March 21, 2012

From a hidden van Gogh to 13,000-year-old native art, here’s a look back at some of the art world’s greatest discoveries.

$3 Million Boldini

The owner of this apartment left for the south of France before WWII and never returned, though she diligently paid the rent for decades. When she passed away at the age of 91, her home was opened for the first time in 70 years.

Experts tasked in drawing up an inventory of her possessions were amazed at what they found. Under all the dust and cobwebs, they stumbled across a stunning painting of a woman in a pink evening dress. Turns out, the painting was by Boldini, a renowned Italian painter, and the subject of the painting was in fact the grandmother of the woman who inhabited the apartment.

The painting had never been listed, exhibited or published before, but experts found a love note from Boldini and a reference to its date—1898—tucked away away in a book that proved its authenticity. It sold for a whopping €2.1 million (almost $3 million) at auction.

A portrait thought to be the work of an unknown 19th century German artist is now being attributed to Leonardo da Vinci, thanks to a 500-year-old fingerprint.

A noted da Vinci scholar identified the painting as one of the artist's in 2008, but nobody believed him until an art-forensics specialist, using state-of-the-art multispectral infrared technology, discovered the print of an index finger on the top left corner of the drawing.

The 13 by 9 inch portrait, now dubbed La Bella Principessa, was bought by an anonymous Swiss dealer for around $19,000. Experts now value the artwork at over $150 million.

Da Vinci’s Fingerprint

Van Gogh’s Still Life with Roses and Field Flowers

Emperor Qianlong’s Carved Jade

In 2009, a woman brought 4 ornately-carved jade pieces to the Antiques Roadshow. Her father had bought them while stationed in China, thinking they were nothing more than cheap tourist trinkets. The show’s appraisers quickly realized that they were in fact genuine antique Chinese pieces, and based on the markings, determined they belonged to Emperor Qianlong, who ruled China from 1736 to 1795.

Together, the two bowls and two statuettes were valued at over $1 million.

Dutch art experts have finally attributed an anonymous painting to post-impressionist Vincent van Gogh. Using a new technique called Macro Scanning X-ray Fluorescence Spectometry, they uncovered an image of two wrestlers underneath, an image van Gogh referred to in an 1886 letter to his brother. It is thought the wrestlers were a subject the artist grew tired of and painted over. Experts were also able to compare the brush strokes and palette of the hidden painting to other van Gogh works from the same time period.

Still Life with Roses and Field Flowers now hangs among other van Gogh works in the Dutch Kröller-Müller Museum, where the painting has been hung anonymously for almost 4 decades.

Ice Age Art

In 2011, researchers from the Smithsonian Institution and the University of Florida discovered a bone fragment, approximately 13,000 years old, with an etched image of a mammoth or mastodon (the bone fragment itself is most likely either a mammoth or mastodon, or maybe even a giant sloth). Experts used optical and electron microscopy to determine if the bone and the edges of the carving aged simultaneously, and to rule out the use of metal tools. After extensive testing, the artifact was ruled to be genuine.

While there are hundreds of depictions of proboscideans (animals with trunks) on cave walls and carved into bones in Europe, this is the first example ever found in the Americas.


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    • profile image

      Abriani Velroa 2 years ago

      Velroa shares his 5-year intensive research and journey inside the deepest secrets of Leonardo da Vinci, unraveling the untold mystery of the Mona Lisa.

      Widely acclaimed as the best-known work of art and mysteries in the world, the Mona Lisa has stirred art society for centuries. The amount of speculations that surrounds this masterpiece and her creator remains undefined. The ambiguity of expression, frequently described mysterious piece of art, the subtle modeling form, and distinctive illusion has contributed to the continued fascination and study of the work; leaving it only natural that countless art historians, critics, scientists and researchers have tried to unravel the untold mystery, until now.

      Abriani Velroa has developed a patent pending process digitally mimicking a natural environment. Without changing or making any alterations to the artist work, this process brings out to the open the complete work done by Leonardo Da Vince in a three dimensional magical world, exposing the truth to the naked eye.

      “The masterpiece itself has rules which have to be followed in order to see it completely and understand it. It comes down to two simple rules, distance and movement, an unconventional combination way to view the piece.”

      What da Vinci had created was three-dimensional images perfectly moving in sequenced within a confined space. We must understand that the painting is actually a technology that has not yet been recognized nor recorded. Leonardo da Vinci successfully created his own magical world, a world that defies the principles of optics and physics.

      Abriani Velroa’s result consists in a five archive digital encyclopedia. Each archive contains never disclosed before videos and pictures that will take visitors step-by-step, layer by layer, detailing how to view Leonardo da Vinci’s secret art. Velroa’s research sends readers on a voyage through a free educational web-gazette full of surprises.

      To learn more about Abriani Velroa’s research visit:


    • KoffeeKlatch Gals profile image

      Susan Haze 5 years ago from Sunny Florida

      Very interesting. Each item had it's own interesting little story. I especially like the bone fragment with the etched image of a mammoth.

    • CarliFrenneman profile image

      CarliFrenneman 5 years ago

      Thanks for the kind words! I had a great time researching it.

    • sarahperkins profile image

      sarahperkins 5 years ago from Montevallo, Alabama

      Thanks so much for posting! These were definitely interesting to discover!