As 2018 comes to a close in a few days, I think it is best that we have a look back at some of the most important art historical discoveries this year has given us. Out of 15 of the major discoveries that we have seen so far, these are the top three that I have decided to highlight:
1. A stolen Degas turns up in a bus
In 2009, a pastel painting by Edgar Degas, Les Choristes (1877) that was on loan to the Cantini Museum in Marseille, France by the Musée d’Orsay, was stolen. French police had no clue how it was done, so they assumed that it was an inside job. Fast forward to February of 2018, customs officials conduct a random search of a bus stopped at a gas station near Paris and find the painting that had been missing for almost 10 years inside a suitcase. Unsurprisingly, none of the passengers on board claimed the luggage as their own, nor the painting for that matter. It was quickly taken back into the collection of the Musée d’Orsay and estimated to now be worth over $1,000,000. In 2019, the museum will feature the painting in the exhibition “Degas at the Opera,” which will travel to the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. the following year.
2. New Michelangelo bronzes were identified by their 10-pack abs
Yes, you read that sentence right. Anyone who has ever studied a painting or sculpture by Michelangelo di Lodovico Buonarroti Simoni will know that he has the tendency to elaborate on the human anatomy. This year, an international team lead by the University of Cambridge finally confirmed after four years of research that the two bronzes sold at Sotheby’s in 2002 for £1,821,650, are in fact Michelangelo’s bronzes that he cast. As the BBC now puts it, these bronzes could now be worth “hundreds of millions.”
3. A professor in Italy claims to have discovered one of Leonardo da Vinci’s earliest works
Is it just me, or does it seem like every year there is always someone claiming that they found a new da Vinci painting? After the painstaking, record breaking sale in 2017 of his Salvator Mundi (which sold for $450.3 million AND people are still skeptic of its authenticity), we have another piece that has surfaced, but this time it is an eight-inch by eight-inch terracotta tile featuring a profile figure of the Archangel Gabriel. Italian professor Ernesto Solari held a press conference in Rome back in June where he claimed that the figure is Leonardo himself at the age of eighteen. Solari said that he used thermoluminescence testing to date the tile to the artist’s lifetime. He also worked with handwriting expert Ivana Bonfantin to verify a mirrored signature in the corner of the tile which Solari said read: “I, Leonardo da Vinci, born in 1452, represented myself as the Archangel Gabriel in 1471.” Leading scholars quickly jumped in to attack it as inauthentic, and claim that there is no way in h-e-double-hockey-sticks that it is a da Vinci original. “One rule of thumb is that if a work is signed by Leonardo it’s not by him,” one scholar said when speaking to the Times of London. “The chance of its being by Leonardo is less than zero,” he continued. I guess only time will tell.
Personally I cannot wait to see what new discoveries 2019 will bring. Especially when a new painting resurfaces and is claimed a da Vinci once again, or when we find a long lost stolen painting inside of a super market.