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Where Did It Gogh? – Five of the Most Famous Lost Works of Art

Dutch Masterpiece Resurfaces in Amsterdam

The international art community was held spellbound this month with the news that a lost painting by van Gogh had been discovered languishing in a Norwegian attic. “Sunset at Montmajour” was unveiled at the van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam on September 9. The 1888 painting was purchased by an art collector who relegated it to a dark corner of his attic after being told that it was a fake. To protect the identity of the owner, the museum did not release details as to the rediscovery of the painting. They did say, however, that it was authenticated by the distinctive brush strokes, as well as by the fact that van Gogh himself had discussed the painting in a letter to his brother, dated July 5, 1888. Though this painting is not considered one of his best, the discovery is, nonetheless, extremely exciting, especially since it is the first van Gogh painting to be discovered since 1928.

As an art lover, myself, I cannot help but think it is a small tragedy when any work by an artistic master goes missing. The rediscovery of this work made me wonder what other great pieces have gone missing and have yet to be found.

Five Other Pieces You Should Have Seen, But Haven’t

Though there are innumerable missing works of art, and some that have been forever destroyed, here is a list of five that are particularly missed.

  1. Any of the works by Apelles– This prolific Greek artist was once considered the greatest painter in the world, and Pliny the Elder wrote about him extensively. Though Renaissance painters tried to create copies of his works based on written descriptions, none of his work is known to survive.
  2. The Nativity” by Caravaggio1

Image: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Michelangelo_Caravaggio_035.jpg

Few hold out hope for this piece, which was stolen in 1969 from the Oratory of San Lorenzo in Palermo, Italy. Though no one knows exactly who stole it, for years it has been assumed that it was the Italian mafia, and several people with ties to the mafia have admitted stealing it or assisting in the theft. If it is ever found, it is estimated to be worth $20 million.

  1. The Storm on the Sea of Galilee” by Rembrandt– This awe-inspiring work with its dramatic, sweeping lines and colors, was stolen from the Isabel Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston in 1990. This theft was part of the most notorious art heist in the world, and other works were lost by such artists as Vermeer and Manet.
  2. Poppy Flowers” by van Gogh2

Image: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Van_Gogh_-_Vase_mit_Pechnelken.jpeg

This small but vibrant still life was stolen from the Mahamoud Khalil Museum in Cairo in 2010. Valued at $55 million, this is the second time the painting has been stolen from this museum. The first time was in 1978, before the painting was found in Kuwait.

  1. 13 lost paintings by Kustav Klimt – At the end of World War II, 13 paintings by Klimt were on display at the Schloss Immendorf, an Austrian castle under the command of Nazi soldiers. On the last night of the war, just before the scheduled surrender of troops in Austria, one of the SS officers was overheard saying it would be a “sin” to let the beautiful works fall into the hands of the Russian soldiers. Just before the surrender, the soldiers detonated bombs in the castle, utterly destroying it and everything inside. It is possible, however, that someone may have slipped away with one or two of the paintings.

 

As an art lover and a purveyor of Fort Lauderdale auctions, I find stories of lost works of art to be both heartbreaking and exhilarating. I mourn the loss of these great works, and while I know I will never find these works, I do relish the thrill of finding new treasures with every auction. From great paintings to one-of-a-kind paintings to authentic works of tribal art, the auction industry is like a never-ending treasure hunt. And I can still dream. Maybe a lost van Gogh will someday cross my path.