A gallery of all missing art would likely be bigger than every world museum combined, as only a small fraction of all the artworks created throughout history have survived to the present. So we have researched missing artwork to establish the Gallery of Missing Artwork.
It’s estimated that two thirds of artworks by Renaissance Masters are missing. We know about the work from primary sources, but we don’t know their locations. And the number of lost ancient artworks must be even higher.
Missing can mean both temporarily and permanently. Some missing art is gone for good – burnt to ashes or destroyed by natural disasters.
But the fate of others is more uncertain. Those stolen, hidden or mislaid may be recovered one day. Leonardo’s Salvator Mundi is one that has recently resurfaced, although experts have disputed its authenticity since its record-breaking $450m sale to Saudi royalty.
The fact remains that you can’t see missing art all in the same place, if it can be seen at all. To combat this, we’ve collected 40 of the lost artworks with the highest estimated market values in our online gallery.
The gallery contains art that’s both known to be irretrievably lost, and that which it’s possible could be found again. You should know which ones to keep an eye out for, as it’s always possible that you could come across one languishing in a charity shop. You never know, it’s happened before…
Each artwork is accompanied by its story. Where more details are known about how it was lost, such as in an especially daring or elaborate heist, we’ve included links to news reports or investigations so you can read more for yourself. They include:
The Concert by Johannes Vermeer – This painting by Dutch Master Johannes Vermeer is valued at over $200 million, making it the most expensive missing artwork. It used to hang in the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston, Massachusetts until its theft in 1990.
Portrait of a Courtesan by Caravaggio – Sometimes the story behind the painting can be as interesting as how it was lost. This painting displays a courtesan named Fillide Melandroni. She appears in several Caravaggio’s paintings from the 1590s and there is a story of love-rivalry and murder behind his relationship this lady detailed in the gallery.
The Just Judges by Jan van Eyck – The Adoration of the Mystic Lamb, of which this panel is part, is the world’s most stolen painting. It’s been involved in 13 different crimes, including six thefts – the most recent in 1934.
Take a look for yourself at the breadth of art that remains missing today.