1.The Colossus of Rhodes: Lost in an Earthquake.
The Colossus of Rhodes was an enormous statue of the Greek Titan Helios, the personification of the sun, which was built in the Greek city of Rhodes by Chares of Lindos between 292 and 280 BC. This massive statue stood nearly one hundred feet high and rested on a fifty-foot high marble pedestal. This masterpiece is considered to be one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.
The striking bronze Colossus took over twelve years to build, and it stood facing the city of Rhodes for over fifty-six years before an earthquake hit the city, collapsing the statue into hundreds of pieces, where they have lain for centuries.
2.Picasso's "The Painter": Lost in a Plane Crash.
This signed 1963 Collotype called "Le Peintre" (The Painter), by famed artist Pablo Picasso, was lost in the crash of Swissair Flight 111 off Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada on September 2, 1998. In addition to this painting, which was valued at about one-and-a-half million dollars, the plane's shipment also contained almost a half a billion dollars worth of precious diamonds and other jewels.
En route from JFK airport in New York City to Geneva, Switzerland, the pilots sent a distress signal and were attempting to make an emergency landing in Nova Scotia when the plane crashed into the Atlantic Ocean, killing all two hundred and twenty-nine souls on board. Though ninety-eight percent of the plane was recovered from the water, only about twenty centimeters of the Picasso work were located, and the jewels were nowhere to be found.
3.Fourteen Paintings by Gustav Klimt: Destroyed by Nazis.
Pictured above: "Schubert at the Piano" (1899).
Gustav Klimt was a prominent Austrian symbolist painter whose work often focused on the female form. Serena Lederer was a wealthy Viennese art patron who collected fourteen of Klimt's paintings. Lederer sent her collection to the Schloss Immendorf museum for safe keeping in 1943. Nevertheless, the collection was lost when the retreating Nazi party set Schloss Immendorf on fire in 1945.
Works ranging from 1898's "Musik II" to 1917's "Gastein," as well as the famed Vienna Ceiling Paintings, were destroyed in the fire.
4.Claude Monet's "Water Lilies": Destroyed by Fire.
Claude Monet, a founder of the French impressionist movement, created several beautiful water lily paintings beginning in 1883. New York City's Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) was thrilled to acquire two of these paintings in 1957, only to have them both destroyed a mere one year later.
On April 15, 1958, a fire on the second floor of MoMA destroyed an eighteen-foot-long "Water Lilies" painting, along with a smaller (but still large) version of water lilies. Apparently, the fire was started when workmen who were installing an air conditioning unit took a smoking break near paint cans, sawdust, and a canvas drop cloth, igniting the canvas. The fire spread rapidly.
5.Sutherland's Portrait of Winston Churchill: Destroyed by Churchill's Wife.
In 1954, Graham Sutherland was commissioned to paint a full-length portrait of Sir Winston Churchill, the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, that was presented to Churchill at a public ceremony on his eightieth birthday. Sutherland was a modernist painter with a reputation for capturing the "real" side of his subjects. Instead of depicting Churchill as stately, Sutherland painted him as he truly looked, and apparently neither Churchill nor his wife liked the painting.
After the public presentation in 1954, the painting was taken to his country home at Chartwell but was never displayed. It wasn't until Lady Churchill died in 1977 that the truth was discovered; she had destroyed the painting shortly after it was delivered.
6.John Banvard's Mississippi River Panorama: Cut into Pieces.
The work above is another of Banvard's paintings.
John Banvard was an American panorama and portrait painter. Banvard's magnum opus was a huge panorama of the Mississippi River Valley. In 1840, the artist spent months traveling up and down the river in a boat, sketching the scenery. He then transferred the sketches to an enormous canvas.
The finished work measured twelve feet high by a mile and a half long. The massive panorama was advertised as the "three-mile canvas," (a slight exaggeration), and was brought on a tour of the entire United States. Towards the end of the 19th century, the panorama was cut into several pieces for storage, and the pieces have never been recovered.
7.Vincent Van Gogh's "The Painter on His Way to Work": Destroyed by Fire.
Vincent Van Gogh created nearly two thousand works of art in his lifetime; this is one of just six of his paintings that we know are lost forever. "The Painter on his Way to Work" was housed in the Kaiser-Friedrich Museum in Berlin before being destroyed by fire during World War II.
This is one of Van Gogh's many self-portraits, depicting the artist laden with painting supplies on the road to Montmajour in 1888.
8.Johannes Vermeer's "The Concert": Stolen by Thieves.
In one of the most famous art heists in history, Johannes Vermeer's "The Concert," valued at around two hundred million dollars, is considered to be the most valuable stolen work of art in the world. In 1990, two thieves disguised as police officers stole thirteen pieces of art from the Isabelle Stewart Gardener Museum in Boston. None of the Gardner Museum's missing works have surfaced since they were stolen.
Also among the famous paintings stolen in Boston was Rembrandt's "The Storm on the Sea of Galilee."