5 Amazing (and Unexpected) Art Discoveries
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.