[Best of 2014] The Year in Art Discoveries

So many secrets.

This year we saw museum-goers with the power to x-ray paintings on their phones, algorithms that could beat an art historian, and an easel that could probe artworks with hyperspectral imaging. From lost mosaics and never-before-seen underpaintings, to fresh insights on an artist's creative process, and even mind-boggling theories that reveal new threads of history, 2014 was a fruitful year for curious findings.

This is the Year in Art Discoveries:  

+ The Mona Lisa’s alleged twin made her public debut in Singapore this week. According to its owners, scientific tests and expert analyses confirmed that the work is 10 years older than its famous sister.

The Mona Lisa (left) alongside it's long-lost cousin (right). via

+ While watching Stuart Little, historian Gergely Barki spotted a long-lost avant-garde masterpiece hanging in the Little family's living room.

+ Researchers unveiled the hidden portrait of a man in a bow tie lurking beneath Pablo Picasso’s The Blue Room.

The man hidden beneath Picasso's Blue Room. GIF by Dan Stuckey

+ We questioned if van Gogh was murdered after reading the case made by his biographers and a leading forensic scientist.

+ Reflective light technology showed that Leonardo da Vinci layered three different versions of his Lady with an Ermine atop one another.

Three versions of da Vinci's Lady with an Ermine. Image via BBC News

+ We learned that 40,000-year-old hand paintings found in Indonesia predated the oldest art by a few thousand years. Weeks later, a zigzag doodle on a shell—made 300,000 years before human evolution—took over as the new oldest art.

The above cave paintings, found on walls in Sulawesi, Indonesia, were discovered to be at least 40,000 years old. via

+ An audio recording of Martin Luther King Jr.’s 1962 Emancipation Proclamation speech was unearthed at the New York State Museum in January.

+ The breasts of a mermaid sculpture in the Las Vegas Venetian popped open to reveal a diorama of the canals of Venice.

Toland Grinnell's sculpture, The Armillary Sphere, had even more artwork hidden inside. Image via

+ A rare Shakespeare first folio surfaced in a public library in Saint-Omer, France.

+ Around 1,400 masterpieces, including ones by Claude Monet and Pablo Picasso, were confiscated from the home of the son of a Nazi-era art dealer.

+ In October, archaeologists stumbled onto a mosaic of Hades and Persephone while digging through a massive tomb in Greece.

A recently-uncovered mosaic of Hades kidnapping Persephone. Image via

+ Only a single clip of Disney’s first Christmas film had been saved in MoMa’s archives, but the complete work was found on an unlabeled reel in Norway’s National Library earlier this month.

+ We discovered Banksy was a woman (maybe). But, at least we eliminated Paul William Horner this year from our list of possible Banksys.

+ Previously unknown Warhol works were discovered on floppy disks from 1985, thanks to Cory Arcangel, a team from Carnegie Mellon, and the Andy Warhol Foundation.

Image: Andy Warhol, Campbell’s, 1985, ©The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visuals Arts, Inc., courtesy of The Andy Warhol Museum, used with permission.

This is the fifth part of our end-of-the-year series. Stay tuned as we continue to look back on 2014 and collect all of our favorite examples of modern creativity, fantastic innovations, and important trends.


[Best of 2014] The Year in Robots

[Best of 2014] The Year in Sound

[Best of 2014] The Year in Brains

[Best of 2014] The Year in Sculpture