7 Rediscovered Paintings by Famous Artists


A painting by Vincent Van Gogh long believed to be a fake has been announced to be the real thing by the Van Gogh Museum. Of course, we can only judge from the images of the painting which have appeared online, but it looks authentic enough:

The process of “rediscovering” old masterworks in paintings previously assumed to be copies or fakes is a common phenomenon in the art world, part of what makes it churn, and makes art dealing a little more exciting than your average sales job. Here are seven paintings that were, like the van Gogh, discovered to be authentic upon further scrutiny.

Salvador Dalí’s gift to Riker’s Island

Salvador Dalí made a drawing of the crucifixion and hung it at Riker’s Island. Inscribed, “For the Dining Room of the prisoners at Riker’s Island,” it hung there for 16 years. Then it was lost among the prison’s records, and only re-autheticated in the early 1980s. Once everyone had confirmed that the drawing was, indeed, a Dalí, it moved around the prison until vanishing in 2001 from its glass-case display, replaced with a copy. A foursome of prison guards confessed to stealing and perhaps destroying it.

Salvator Mundi by Leonardo da Vinci

Identified from drawings the painter had made of the portrait he planned to paint, the painting disappeared from recorded history until it was brought to an art dealer in 2005, who looked underneath the paint, not at all suspecting what he’d find. There are only about 15 surviving Da Vincis, as far as scholars know; this turned out to be one of them.

Portrait of an Elderly Woman in a White Bonnet by Rembrandt

Some hack artist had painted a fur stole over her collar, to add to the intrigue of the picture. The painting was rediscovered in a private Texas collection in the 1980s; it had been forgotten in the 1930s. The painting was authenticated in part by way of the oak panel it’s painted on; it comes from a tree Rembrandt seemed to favor, and from which he made three other panels for his work.

A Portrait of a Lady and Her Daughter by Titian

Another paint-over job, the artist made the daughter a boy and gave the mother wings, trying to make her look like the archangel Raphael. According to The Economist, there was “no market for portraits of women” at the time of Titian’s death, so his assistant made the thing marketable. X-rays in the latter half of the 20th century revealed the painting underneath, and a collector removed them. The painting itself is incomplete, but still clearly a masterwork.

The Massacre of the Innocents by Peter Paul Rubens

For almost a century misattributed to a minor painter, Rubens’ painting was finally authenticated by Sotheby’s in 2002 as being the lost masterwork. It then sold for almost £50 million to Ken Thomson, a Canadian media magnate, who donated it to the Art Gallery of Ontario.

Caravaggio’s portrait of St. Augustine

A slip of paper indicated that this painting had once been owned by one of Caravaggio’s patrons. X-rays in the 2000s revealed the technique to be that of the famous Italian artist.

Toulouse-Lautrec’s portrait of Oscar Wilde

Toulouse-Lautrec happened to be in London the night before Wilde’s trial. A longtime friend, he wanted to draw a portrait, but Wilde was reportedly too nervous, so Toulouse-Lautrec drew this one from memory. It’s in private hands, but was exhibited at the British library in 2000.