10 mysteries from the world of art that still excite the minds of experts (11 photos)

13 October 2023
Category: nostalgia, 16+

Over the centuries, the art world has been constantly changing, and has been shrouded in mysterious stories. Some of them continue to excite the minds of experts and ordinary amateurs to this day. From suddenly missing paintings to mysterious symbols on works of art, these events spark the imagination in search of answers. Let's find out 10 small stories of works of art that still defy explanation.

1. The disappearance of the painting "Leda and the Swan" by Leonardo da Vinci

Leonardo da Vinci's painting Leda and the Swan, based on the legend of Leda, is of great historical significance and has delighted art lovers for centuries. The original painting, created around 1508, is now lost. The painting is known only from preliminary sketches, mentions in historical documents and copies of other artists. However, the circumstances surrounding the painting's disappearance remain shrouded in mystery - there are many theories and speculations regarding the fate of the lost masterpiece. Some suggest that the painting was destroyed during wars and upheavals, while others believe that it was hidden in a secluded place, and “Leda and the Swan” has yet to be found.

2. Missing parts of the "Ghent Altarpiece"

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The Ghent Altarpiece is a polyptych consisting of twenty-four panels depicting 258 figures. It went down in the history of world art as one of the most masterpiece works of its era. Throughout its turbulent history, the altar has survived thefts, attempts at destruction and looting by the Nazis. In 1934, the lower panel called “Fair Judges” disappeared from the altar - and the fact of its disappearance continues to excite the minds of researchers and ordinary art lovers. Over the years, many versions have appeared. The main suspect, Arsene Goedertje, left a tip before his death that allegedly indicated the location of the panel. But despite searches and investigations, the mystery of the missing panel remains unsolved.

3. Stolen paintings by Jan Vermeer

The Dutch artist Jan Vermeer left behind a number of brilliant works - however, several of the master's paintings mysteriously disappeared. Among the stolen paintings are "Love Letter", "Guitar Player", and "Lady Writing a Letter with Her Maid". These paintings were stolen several times, and some of them were then returned - while each theft incident left many questions and secrets. The reasons for the thefts could be different: from political motives to the simple temptation to own priceless masterpieces. The search for Vermeer's stolen paintings continues to this day.

4. Caravaggio's missing masterpieces

The art world, centuries later, is puzzled by the disappearance of paintings by the Italian artist Caravaggio. One of the most famous cases involves the painting "Nativity with Saints Francis and Lawrence", stolen from the Oratory of Saint Lawrence in Palermo in 1969. Theories have been put forward that the Sicilian mafia was involved in the theft. Another missing painting is “The Crowning with Thorns.” Not long ago it was allegedly found in Madrid, and if the authenticity of the painting is confirmed, it could cost up to 150 million euros.

5. Lost painting by Vincent van Gogh

Several works by the legendary Vincent van Gogh have disappeared without a trace, leaving art experts with many mysteries. According to some experts, his missing works were either safely hidden in hiding places or were simply destroyed. One such painting is "Vase with Daisies and Red Poppies", whose current owner and whereabouts remain unknown. The painting allegedly could have been stolen and then sold illegally. Another painting, “The Pastor’s Garden in Nuenen in Spring,” was stolen from the museum in modern times - during a pandemic.

6 Iran's Stolen Royal Jewels

A number of valuable Iranian royal jewels were stolen under unknown circumstances. This happened after the victory of the Islamic revolution in 1979. The stolen jewelry included the Kohinoor diamond and other historically valuable stones. Experts suggest that the Pahlavi dynasty, which was overthrown during the Islamic Revolution, may be involved in the theft. However, the exiled queen Farah Pahlavicategorically denies such claims - stating that most of the royal jewelry collection is in the National Treasury of the Central Bank of Iran.

7. The Elgin Marbles Theft

The Elgin Marbles is a collection of sculptures and reliefs that are considered masterpieces of ancient Greek art. These ancient sculptures once adorned the majestic Parthenon in Athens, Greece, but in the early 1800s, British diplomat and 7th Earl of Elgin, Thomas Bruce, received permission to export the sculptures to the United Kingdom. He supposedly wanted to preserve the masterpieces, but over time his actions caused heated controversy and amounted to robbery. Additionally, the sculptures were significantly damaged during cleaning for the museum. Greece has persistently called for the statues to be returned, emphasizing their cultural significance, but the British Museum in London, where the marbles currently reside, has rejected those requests.

8. The Mysterious Origin of the Kensington Runestone

The Kensington Runestone is a rune stone slab discovered by Swedish immigrant Olof Oman in 1898 in Kensington, Minnesota, United States. The find caused heated debate about the history of its origin and authenticity. Officially, the stone is considered proof that in 1362 Scandinavian travelers reached the middle part of North America.

But scientists and historians have different opinions on this matter. They still dispute the origins and significance of the slab - and some experts view it as a late fake.

9. Paintings stolen by the Nazis

During World War II, the Nazis looted and confiscated countless works of art from Jewish collectors, ordinary families, and various cultural institutions. The search for many works continues to this day, and many owners are trying to get their paintings back through the courts. One such case involved a painting by Pissarro that was part of the collection of a Jewish couple. The family has filed a lawsuit seeking the return of the stolen painting, a case that Stuart E. Eizenstat, a prominent diplomat and Holocaust lawyer, has been pursuing for years. Another story is connected with the Jewish family Deutsch de la Merte. Artworks stolen from their home by the Nazis were finally returned to them in 2020.

10. The Curse of the Bassano Vase

The Bassano Vase is a mysterious artifact from Italy that dates back to the 15th century. According to legend, the vase was a wedding gift to an Italian bride who tragically died on her wedding night, tightly clutching this silver vessel. While the vase was being passed down from generation to generation, each of its owners experienced a series of unexplained deaths. Attempts to hide or sell the vase were allegedly futile because all its buyers died. The origin and history of the Bassano vase are still surrounded by speculation and mystery. But skeptics claim that the vase did not carry any curse - but the power of suggestion and belief in that very “curse” played a role.

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