10 Unsolved Art Mysteries

10 Unsolved Art Mysteries


The art world has concealed compelling mysteries
since the beginning of time. Just think of the puzzle of the pyramids or the mystery
of the Mona Lisa. And just like them, some mysteries never seem
to find an answer… 10) THE BOSTON ART HEIST OF 1990: In 1990,
a pair of thieves disguised as Boston police officers entered the Isabella Stewart Gardner
Museum and stole 13 works of art. According to the police report, the intruders handcuffed
the security guards, bound them with duct tape and left them in the basement. In fewer
than 90 minutes the bandits stole $500 million worth of art, including three Rembrandts,
Vermeer’s painting The Concert, and five Degas drawings. It wasn’t until 2013 that law enforcement
was finally onto something. The FBI suspected the thieves were members of a criminal organization
with a base in the mid-Atlantic states and New England. Interesting, but not really a
turning point. But then, in 2017, Dutch private investigator
Arthur Brand said former members of the Irish Republican Army revealed to him that “it
was common knowledge these paintings were probably in the hands of the [IRA].” However, despite promising leads, the Boston
heist of 1990 remains unsolved. 9) VINCENT VAN GOGH’S DEATH: For decades,
it went unquestioned that Vincent Van Gogh committed suicide by shotting himself in the
chest. But in 2011, Pulitzer Prize-winning biographers Steven Naifeh and Gregory White
Smith suggested Van Gogh’s fatal wound could not have been self-inflicted. But then, if Van Gogh didn’t pull the trigger,
who did? According to the biographers, the artist was
fatally shot by wayward 16-year-old René Secrétan. The bourgeois boy was well known
for bullying people in the small village where Van Gogh died. René’s father was a powerful
figure in the village community, and Vincent had no friends. The suicide story might be
a cover-up, and the whole village supported it to protect René’s family. On the other hand, Van Gogh’s friend Émile
Bernard strongly believed that Vincent killed himself, and Van Gogh’s last words were
reportedly “I tried to kill myself.” And so the debate goes on… 8) THE MEANING OF THE NAZCA LINES: The Nazca
Lines were discovered in the 16th century, but it wasn’t until the advent of air travel
that they finally became famous all over the world, revealing one of history’s greatest
mysteries. The lines are located in a region of Peru,
approximately 400 kilometres southeast of Lima, near the modern town of Nazca. Some
of the lines are 50 metres long, while others are up to 1 kilometre. They are so big, and
the land around them so flat, that the artwork cannot be appreciated from the ground. How were they formed? And why? Scientists believe that the majority of lines
were made by the Nazca people, who flourished until A.D. 700. Given the astonishing size and complexity
of the designs, theorists like Swiss author Erich von Däniken, claim that the Nazca people
couldn’t possibly have etched the designs without being able to fly. Therefore, they
must have been helped by aliens, at least – or maybe aliens drew the lines themselves?
Von Däniken was convinced some of the drawings, such as The Astronaut, are alien self-portraits. On the other hand, experts like National Geographic
Explorer Johan Reinhard believe the lines were most likely drawn as part of rituals
to bring more water in a primarily desert area. 7) THE MAN HIDDEN UNDER “THE BLUE ROOM”
OF PICASSO: In 1901, at the beginning of his Blue Period, Pablo Picasso painted The Blue
Room. More than a century later, in 2008, thanks to advanced infrared imagery, scientists
and art conservators at the Phillips Collection in Washington discovered a hidden portrait
under Picasso’s blue painting. The portrait depicts a man dressed in a jacket
and bow tie, with his bearded face resting on his hand with three rings on his fingers.
Further technical analysis confirmed the hidden portrait was a work that Picasso had probably
painted just before The Blue Room. But who is the man in the painting? Experts have excluded the possibility that
it was a self-portrait. Instead, the man in the picture might be Paris art dealer Ambroise
Vollard, who hosted Picasso’s first show in 1902. However, no records or other clues remain,
so the search for his identity continues. 6) CARAVAGGIO’S SECRET GUILT: Michelangelo
Merisi da Caravaggio was an Italian painter active from 1590 to 1610. He is remembered
for his dark, dramatic compositions, and his powerful use of light that influenced Baroque
paintings. But, if his paintings were dark, Caravaggio’s life was even darker… In 1606, Caravaggio fled Rome in mysterious
circumstances. He had apparently killed a young man in a brawl, although historians
think there was more to the murder. But this is not the puzzling part. In 1608, Caravaggio completed The Beheading
of St. John the Baptist. It was his largest ever painting, and unlike his earlier works,
it places a biblical event in the street, like a common killing rather than the execution
it was. And the painter placed his signature in the martyr’s blood, which makes this
the only painting ever signed by Caravaggio. Many scholars still ask, did Caravaggio compose
this painting as an admission of guilt? 5) THE DISAPPEARANCE OF BAS JAN ADER: In 1975,
Dutch performance artist Bas Jan Ader disappeared at sea when he was 33 years old, the same
age his father was when he was executed by the Nazis in 1944. Some of his most faithful fans believe the
age of the artist at the moment of his disappearance isn’t just a coincidence. In fact, they
claim the artist planned to disappear, in another one of his provocative performances
whose meaning is yet to be found. Is Ader still alive? Well, no trace of Ader’s body was ever found
and, more mysteriously, the boat in which he disappeared was recovered by authorities
and then stolen just before it was due to be examined. Exactly who stole it and why,
remains unknown… 4) THE JESUS STATUE WITH REAL TEETH: In 2014,
Mexico’s National Institute of Anthropology and History was in the process of restoring
an 18th Century statue of Jesus, when X-ray analysis revealed an astonishing truth: the
statue contained real human teeth. According to head restorer Fanny Unikel, it
wasn’t unusual at the time for parishioners to volunteer their hair to make wigs for saints’
statues, but teeth and nails were usually made of animal bones. No one had ever seen
human teeth in a sculpture before. And even more strangely, the statue’s mouth is almost
completely closed. So, why use a perfectly good set of human teeth if they won’t be
seen? 3) BANKSY’S IDENTITY: Banksy is a British
street artist who rose to prominence for his provocative stencils in the late 1990s. Banksy’s
identity remains unknown, and the mystery around his persona has started quite a few
theories. One of the most supported claims is that Banksy is really Bristol artist Robin
Gunningham. Gunningham moved to London around the year 2000, which fits the timeline of
the progression of Banksy’s artwork. Another theory is that Banksy is the alter-ego
of artist Damien Hirst, since the pair once collaborated on a piece. And just like Hirst, many famous artists are
believed to be “the real Banksy”, like Robert Del Naja, whose 1990s stencil art was
akin to Banksy’s signature style. More recently, in the summer of 2019, ITV
News rediscovered a long-lost interview with a young man claiming to be Banksy. The interview
was filmed before the elusive artist’s breakthrough in 2003. The man, whose face is partially
covered, is shown stencilling two pictures that have long been attributed to Banksy. However, the man featured in the ITV film
does not quite match the description given by The Guardian’s writer Simon Hattenstone,
when he interviewed Banksy in 2003. For now, Banksy’s real identity is safe. 2) THE SPUTNIK OF VENTURA SALIMBENI: Ventura
Salimbeni was an Italian Counter-Maniera painter. In 1600 he painted the Glorification of the
Eucharist for the San Lorenzo (san lo-ren-tzo) in San Pietro church in Montalcino (mon-tal-chi-no),
in Italy. The painting has in recent years become known as the Sputnik of Montalcino.
That’s because at the top of the picture is an object that looks like the world’s
first artificial satellite, Sputnik 1. Conspiracy theorists argue that this is proof
that Jesus was an alien time traveller who visited Salimbeni and showed him a model of
Sputnik 1. On the other hand, sceptics say the Sputnik
in the painting is a representation of the Sphaera Mundi, a spherical model of the universe
found in several examples of European medieval art. However, as conspiracy theorists point out,
the sphere appears to be made of metal plate, which suggests it is a product of advanced
engineering, rather than a medieval one. The same goes for the antenna wands. One thing is sure, the sphere looks very out
of place. 1) THE SECRET IDENTITY OF WALTER SICKERT:
Walter Sickert was a British Post-Impressionist painter and printmaker in late Victorian and
early 20th century London. In 2001, British author Patricia Cornwell
claimed Sickert had a frightening secret identity: he was Jack the Ripper, the infamous serial
killer who terrorized London in 1888. In support of her thesis, Cornwell pointed
out how the painter was notorious for his shadowy, heavy scenes of female nudes, featuring
women in various states of despair, including one titled Jack the Ripper’s Bedroom. Cornwell
even paid for forensic tests to prove Sickert and Jack were one and the same. She failed to find any DNA on the letters
purportedly written by Jack the Ripper to compare with samples taken from Sickert’s
desk. However, one of the letters shared the same unusual watermark as Sickert’s personal
writing paper. Still, many Jack the Ripper theorists disagree
with her, and, for now, Cornwell’s theory has yet to be proven.

26 thoughts on “10 Unsolved Art Mysteries

  1. It's well known in bristol that banksy is Robert Gunningham hes in his 50s.. I mean it kinda got leaked when he painted that wall in Gaza

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