There is something about famous paintings that sends the human mind into a world of self-imagination. Before cameras were invented, master painters were in high demand because self-portraits were the only way to capture a lasting image. In modern times, it can be a lengthy process for a painting to be authenticated. Luckily, modern techniques have been invented so people can more easily study controversial pieces of art and confirm their true identity.
In 2010, some remarkable discoveries were made in the world of art. In one case, French police arrested a 71-year-old man when they found 271 unknown works by Pablo Picasso in his house. The collection was estimated to be worth £50 million pounds. In another famous case, the lost painting titled The Wine of Saint Martin’s Day by Pieter Bruegel the Elder was rediscovered when it was brought to the Museo del Prado in Madrid for restoration.
In December of 2011, Antiques Roadshow rediscovered a painting titled Bonnie Tyler by Australian artist Rolf Harris. The artwork was featured on the show and given an appraisal of £50,000, which was 100 times what the woman’s father paid for it. In March of 2011, a painting of the Taj Mahal turned up at a Washington DC taping of Antiques Roadshow. It was speculated on the show that the work was done by Edwin Lord Weeks. Since that time the artwork has been authenticated by an expert and sold to a private collector for $100,000. In 2011, 23 paintings by Welsh artist Gwendolen John (1876-1939) were discovered at Princeton University. The art was valued at £500,000 and displayed at Princeton until the start of 2012.
10. Norman Rockwell – The Little Model
Norman Rockwell (1894-1978) was a 20th-century American painter and illustrator. For many years Rockwell created cover illustrations for The Saturday Evening Post. He is noted for using a visual reflection of America and has become one of the most popular artists of the 20th century. In 1963, Rockwell published his last painting for the Post. It marked the end of a publishing relationship that included 321 cover works. During his career, Rockwell was commissioned to paint the portraits for U.S. Presidents Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, and Nixon. He produced over 4,000 original artworks in his lifetime. Most of his paintings are either in public collections, or have been destroyed in fire or other misfortunes.
On June 4, 2011, the popular television program Antiques Roadshow was in Eugene, Oregon when they discovered a genuine Norman Rockwell painting. After researching the artwork, the show confirmed that it was an original oil-on-canvas painting by Norman Rockwell titled The Little Model. In 1919, the painting was used for the cover of a Collier’s Weekly magazine. The artwork depicts a girl with a dog, posing in front of a fashion poster. The owner of the painting told the show that it had been in his family for at least 90 years after Rockwell gave it to his great-grandmother.
At the end of the program, appraisers determined that the Rockwell painting was worth an estimated $500,000, which made it one of the most valuable treasures in Antique Roadshow (US) history.
9. Jules Breton – A Fisherman’s Daughter
Jules Breton (1827-1906) was a 19th-century French Realist painter. During his lifetime, Breton was one of the most popular artists in France, England, and the United States. He is famous for painting female figures, usually portrayed in a beautiful landscape and posed against the setting sun. Breton often produced copies of his artwork and exhibited them in salons.
During the First World War, German troops stormed the Douai Beaux Art Museum in Northern France and stole a large number of paintings. One of the artworks was a Jules Breton painting titled A Fisherman’s Daughter. The story of the lost painting has intrigued the art world for nearly a century. In 2010, French officials and Interpol were alerted that the painting, valued today at about $150,000, had been imported by an art dealer in New York. The police recovered the painting, but it was heavily restored and needed to be authenticated by art officials.
Art experts from France and the United States were called in to research the painting and investigate its history. After a close examination, the true story of A Fisherman’s Daughter emerged; it was indeed the same painting stolen from the Douai museum in 1918. In 1919, the Belgian government organized the return of the French stolen art. However, the Breton painting was missing. No one knows for sure what happened to it after that, except for the fact that the painting was professionally restored and turned up in New York. In October of 2011, U.S. officials returned the masterpiece to France at a ceremony in Washington attended by the French ambassador, officially ending the nearly century-long art mystery.
8. Otto Dix – Four New Artworks
Otto Dix (1891-1969) was a German painter who created realistic depictions of the German society and the brutality of war. When the First World War erupted, Dix enthusiastically volunteered for the German Army and served in battle until 1918. Just like many World War I soldiers, Dix was profoundly affected by war, and would later describe a recurring nightmare in which he crawled through destroyed houses. When the Nazis came to power in Germany, they regarded Dix as a degenerate artist and had him fired from his job as an art teacher at the Dresden Academy.
Many of his paintings were taken by the Third Reich, displayed in a degenerate art show, and destroyed. During World War II, Dix lived in Germany and in 1944 he was placed into the Volkssturm. The Volkssturm was a German national militia created by Adolf Hitler on October 18, 1944. It was made up of males between the ages of 16 to 60 years who were not already serving in some military. The men were put into the German Home Guard. Dix was captured by French troops at the end of the war and released in February 1946.
In 2011, it was announced that four works by German expressionist Otto Dix were discovered by accident in Bavaria among the belongings of the painter’s wife. They were found in an old portfolio by Peter Barth and Herbert Remmert, the owners of Remmert Gallery in Dusseldorf, who were searching the estate of Hans and Martha Koch. Martha Koch was married to Otto Dix in 1923. The paintings date from 1922-1925. The artworks include two watercolors, a painting study of a portrait of art dealer Alfred Flechtheim, and a large scale work depicting “a street scene with prostitutes.” The four lost paintings are valued at $287,960 each. Remmert is planning to show the newly discovered work along with other paintings in an exhibition to mark Dix’s 120th birthday later this year.
7. Jasper Francis Cropsey – Autumn in America and Prospect Point Niagara Falls in Winter
Jasper Cropsey (1823-1900) was an American landscape artist of the Hudson River School, a mid-19th century American art movement embodied by a group of landscape painters. The paintings for which the movement is named depict the Hudson River Valley and the surrounding area, including the Catskill, Adirondack, and the White Mountains. In 1900, Jasper Cropsey died in anonymity, but his artwork was rediscovered by galleries and collectors in the 1960s. Today, Cropsey’s paintings are found in most major American museums.
In March of 2011, a Cortlandt Manor couple brought two paintings signed by Jasper F. Cropsey to an Antiques Appraisal Day event sponsored by the Larchmont Historical Society (LHS) and Clarke Auction Gallery in New York. After an initial investigation of the artwork, it was quickly recommended that the gallery contact the Newington-Cropsey Foundation, a Hastings-on-Hudson-based organization that is the foremost authority on the work of Cropsey to further authenticate the pieces. It was hard to get the foundation to look at the art, but after three weeks of deliberation, the organization confirmed that the two paintings were done by Jasper Francis Cropsey.
The rediscovered paintings were given the titles Autumn in America and Prospect Point Niagara Falls in Winter. The Clarke Gallery originally estimated they would sell for between $40,000 and $60,000 each. However, in May 2011, the paintings sold for a combined total of $840,000. The winter hunting scene at Niagara Falls sold for $552,000 and a circa-1860 autumn view of Mount Washington in New Hampshire sold for $288,000.
6. Claude Monet – Bords de la Seine a Argenteuil
Claude Monet (1840-1926) was a French artist and founder of the French impressionist painting movement. The term Impressionism is derived from the title of his painting Impression, Sunrise. From December 1871 to 1878, Monet lived at Argenteuil, a village on the right bank of the Seine River near Paris. Monet painted some of his best known works during this time of his life. In 1926, Monet died of lung cancer at the age of 86. He is buried in the Giverny church cemetery in north-western France. The highest price ever paid for a Monet painting was for Le bassin aux nymphéas (from the water lilies series), which sold in 2008 at Christie’s in London for £36,500,000 pounds.
A lurking question in the world of art is, at what point does a painting become internationally recognized as authentic? For example, in 2011, a respected Italian conservator named Antonio Forcellino published a book titled The Lost Michelangelos which speculated that two separate paintings by the famous artist were rediscovered in 2010 and 2011. The paintings are named Pieta bread and Crucifixion with the Madonna, St John and Two Mourning Angels. However, few art historians have accepted the paintings as true Michelangelos, which has diminished their value.
Bords de la Seine a Argenteuil (Banks of the Seine at Argenteuil) is an oil painting by Claude Monet. The painting was purchased by Englishman David Joel in 1992 for £40,000 and depicts the River Seine at Argenteuil in France. Since Joel purchased the artwork, he has been on a mission to establish its authenticity. In 2011, The Art Access Research Centre scanned the picture using high resolution, infrared, and X-Ray photography. The resulting image was examined by Iris Schaefer, the head of Conservation at the Wallraf-Richartz-Museum in Cologne, who had previously uncovered a fake Monet and she declared Joel’s painting genuine.
In 2011, the chemical analysis of the paint and its signature were studied by Dr Nicholas Eastaugh (Courtauld Institute of Art) and were found to conform precisely to Monet’s palette and the mediums he used in the early 1880s. Since the new evidence has emerged, dozens of experts have written to confirm that without a doubt the painting is by Claude Monet. However, the Wildenstein Institute continues to ignore the research and regards the painting as a fake. The provenance of the work has been tracked to 1881 when it was given by Monet to Dr Charles Porak in lieu of medical fees. With the new evidence and support of the art community, David Joel should have no problem selling the painting as a genuine Monet. The artwork has been appraised at £1.5 million.
5. Francisco Goya –The Hidden General
Francisco Goya (1746-1828) was a Spanish romantic painter who is highly regarded as one of the last Old Masters. In 1786, Goya was given a salaried position as painter to Charles III. After the death of Charles III in 1788 and revolution in France in 1789, Goya reached his peak of popularity with the Spanish royalty. He was a court painter to the Spanish Crown during the Peninsular War and France’s invasion of Spain. French forces invaded Spain in 1808 and Goya’s involvement with the court of the “Intruder king,” Joseph I, the brother of Napoleon Bonaparte, is not known. Goya did paint works for French patrons and sympathizers, but kept neutral during the fighting. After the restoration of the Spanish king, Ferdinand VII, in 1813, Goya denied any involvement with the French.
In 2009, a technique was invented that allows people to X-ray paintings. The process involves a device that emits a ray and causes atoms to produce a “fluorescent” X-ray and a color map of anything hidden under the paint. In 2009, the technique was successfully used on a Van Gogh painting to reveal a portrait of a peasant woman behind the work Patch of Grass. Since that time, a mobile version of the X-ray “scanner” has been developed, allowing museums to examine paintings that are too delicate to be moved or touched.
In 2011, the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam used the X-ray device to test their most famous artworks, and discovered an unfinished painting behind Francisco Goya’s Portrait of Don Ramon Satue (1823). The unfinished artwork is thought to depict a French general, and may even portray Napoleon Bonaparte’s brother, Joseph. The Rijksmuseum says the Spanish master may have covered up the portrait for political reasons. Joseph Bonaparte was briefly King of Spain from 1808-1813.
In 1813, when the Napoleonic army was driven out and Ferdinand VII restored to the throne, it has been suggested that Goya would have wanted to distance himself from the French regime and possibly paint over portraits of French command. According to the Rijksmuseum, the Goya painting is a “formal portrait of a man wearing a uniform.” The detail on his face was never completed, but “the decorations on the uniform are those of the highest ranks of a chivalric order instituted by Joseph Bonaparte when his brother, the emperor Napoleon, anointed him King of Spain.” Only 15 generals, plus Joseph, were entitled to wear the uniform and medal.
4. Diego Velázquez – Portrait of a Gentleman
Diego Velázquez (1599 – 1660) was a Spanish painter and artist in the court of King Philip IV of Spain. He is best known for his portraits of the Spanish royal family, notable European figures, and commoners, including his masterpiece, Las Meninas. Velázquez is often named as a key influence in the art of Édouard Manet, which is important because Manet is cited as the bridge between realism and impressionism. In 1957, Pablo Picasso recreated Las Meninas in 58 variations. The Anglo-Irish painter Francis Bacon found Velázquez’s portrait of Pope Innocent X to be one of the greatest paintings ever made.
In 2010, descendants of 19th century British artist Matthew Shepperson decided to sell some of his art at Bonhams auction house in London. In the process of pricing the paintings, it was noticed that one of the pieces was similar to the work of Diego Velázquez. Following more than a year of tests, X-rays, and research, the portrait was confirmed to be done by Velázquez. The appraisal instantly boosted the paintings value to 10,000 times that of a Shepperson work. The portrait shows an unidentified man in his fifties or sixties, who could possibly be Juan Mateos, the Master of the Hunt for Velázquez’s patron, King Philip IV of Spain. It measures 47 x 39 cm (18.5 x 15.4 in) and represents one of only 110 to 120 known Velázquez canvases.
In 2011, Andrew Mckenzie, director of the old master paintings at Bonhams, said the portrait was of “outstanding quality” and had “extraordinary presence.” In December, the newly discovered Diego Velázquez was sold at Bonhams to an American dealer for £3 million, or $4.7 million.
3. Gustav Klimt – Lakeshore with Birches
Gustav Klimt (1862-1918) was an Austrian painter and one of the most prominent members of the Vienna Secession movement. He was a reserved man. “I have never painted a self-portrait. I am less interested in myself as a subject than I am in other people, above all women. There is nothing special about me. I am a painter who paints day after day from morning to night, whoever wants to know something about me ought to look carefully at my pictures.” His painting method was deliberate and painstaking, which usually required lengthy sittings by his subjects.
In 2011, Sotheby’s London announced the sale of a recently rediscovered masterpiece by Gustav Klimt named Lakeshore with Birches. The painting was labeled rediscovered because it was in the same family for over 100 years. When the descendants of Lakeshore with Birches sought authentication in 2011, it became clear that it was a Klimt painting unknown to scholars. The artwork was not included in his catalogue of existing paintings. In addition, an infrared scan uncovered a preparatory sketch on the canvas, which is characteristic of the artist.
It has been determined that a photograph taken in 1902 shows the painting hanging alongside other works by Gustav Klimt. Before Lakeshore with Birches was put up for sale in 2012 it was given an estimate and reserve price of £6 million to £8 million ($9.5 to $13 million dollars). Despite the marvelous scene, the painting did not meet the reserve. Art critics responded: “The price was conceivable had the landscape been one of the lake views painted by Klimt from 1905 until World War I.” After the painting didn’t sell at auction, it was quickly purchased privately for £5.6 million pounds.
2. Caravaggio – St Augustine
Caravaggio (1571-1610) was an Italian artist active in Rome, Naples, Malta, and Sicily between 1593 and 1610. His work had a strong influence on the Baroque school of painting. Caravaggio was notorious for brawling and led a tumultuous life. The transcripts of his police records and trial proceedings fill several pages. After his death, Caravaggio was forgotten by history. It wasn’t until the 20th century that the importance of his work was identified. Only about 80 paintings by Caravaggio survive, though lost artwork is discovered from time to time.
In June 2011 it was announced that a previously unknown Caravaggio painting of Saint Augustine, dating to about 1600, had been discovered in a private collection in Britain. The painting was originally thought to be the work of an anonymous hand. However, documentary evidence quickly attributed the painting to Caravaggio. The painting fits Caravaggio’s oeuvre around 1600, when his style was sculptural and monumental, with powerful movement and emotional expression.
The painting was covered in old varnishes and repaints when discovered. However, the potential of the artwork was spotted by Clovis Whitfield, a British art historian and dealer. The painting had never been published throughout history and is thought to have been commissioned by Vincenzo Giustiniani, a patron of Caravaggio that lived in Rome. In 2012, The Caravaggio of St Augustine was displayed for the first time in Ottawa, Canada, at the exhibit Caravaggio & His Followers in Rome. Unfortunately, I could not find a monetary estimate for the recently discovered St. Augustine.
1. Leonardo da Vinci – Salvator Mundi
Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519) was an Italian Renaissance painter, sculptor, architect, and scientist. He is widely considered to be one of the greatest painters of all time and perhaps the most diversely talented person ever to have lived. Among his works, the Mona Lisa is the most famous and The Last Supper is the most reproduced religious painting of all time. According to art historians, 16 confirmed Leonardo da Vinci paintings exist, with one being authenticated in 2011. The last Leonardo da Vinci painting to have been rediscovered was the Benois Madonna, which was found by architect Leon Benois in 1909.
Salvator Mundi is a painting of Jesus Christ as Salvator Mundi, which has recently been attributed to Leonardo da Vinci. Salvator Mundi, or Savior of the World, is a famous image that depicts Christ with his right hand raised in a blessing and his left hand holding an orb, known as a globus cruciger. The orb symbolizes the Earth. The pictorial theme has been attributed to a large number of artists, including the Italian painter Titian.
In 2011, a New York art dealer took Salvator Mundi to Robert Simon, who is a Leonardo da Vinci expert, in hopes of having it examined. Simon was initially resistant, but became intrigued when he noticed that the painting had been hidden under a layer of crude over-paint.
The truth slowly revealed itself as researcher Dianne Dwyer Modestini painstakingly removed the layers of varnish and over-paint on the artwork. It was discovered that the painting had a “pentimento” or alteration that showed signs of a previous work. It was found that the creation of Christ’s curls in the art is unmistakably similar to other Leonardo da Vinci paintings. This evidence, along with the comparative art history of the piece, allowed it to be authenticated by historians.
Salvator Mundi is an oil-painting that measures 66 x 45 centimeters (26 x 17.7 in). Leonardo da Vinci painted the subject in France for Louis XII between 1506 and 1513. The recently authenticated work was once owned by King Charles I and recorded in his art collection in 1649 before being auctioned in 1763. In 1900, the painting was purchased by Sir Frederick Cook. Cook’s descendants sold it at auction in 1958 for £45. The painting was then acquired by a U.S. consortium of art dealers in 2005 and authenticated in 2011. Salvator Mundi was displayed in the London’s National Gallery from November 9, 2011 to February 5, 2012 as part of a Leonardo da Vinci exhibit. After looking at the eyes of the painting, it becomes clear that Leonarado da Vinci was at hand.