When disaster strikes, the damage can be far-reaching, leaving nothing untouched. Unfortunately, this can result in treasured possessions and valuable artifacts being lost or destroyed. Art is no exception, and throughout history numerous magnificent works have tragically been lost to various disasters. Some of the most important works lost to random disasters are compiled below.

For the purposes of narrowing down the list, we left out any works that were destroyed intentionally, or were collateral damage in a war. Instead, we focused on more random, freak disasters.

  • Colossus of Rhodes In 305 BC, the Greek city of Rhodes’s successfully defended themselves from a besieging army from Cyprus. To celebrate their victory, they erected a massive statue of the Greek Titan Helios. Considered one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, the statue was destroyed in an earthquake in 226 BC.
  • Picasso’s “The Painter.” A signed copy of Pablo Picasso’s “Le Peintre” was aboard Swissair Flight 111 of Halifax, Nova Scotia when it crashed into the Atlantic Ocean. The plane was en route from JFK airport in New York City to Geneva, Switzerland when it sent out distress signals. It was attempting to make an emergency landing in Nova Scotia, but crash landed into the water off the coast. All 129 passengers were killed, and while 98% of the plane was recovered, a mere two centimeters of Picasso’s work were located.
  • Claude Monet’s “Water Lilies.” In 1957, New York City’s Museum of Modern Art was proud to acquire two of Monet’s impressionist paintings of water lilies. However, less than a year later, both were destroyed. Two workmen stopped to have a smoke break near paint cans, sawdust and a canvas drop cloth- why it didn’t occurred to them that this was a bad idea is beyond me. The canvas caught fire, which then set the entire building on fire. Sadly, both paintings were damaged beyond repair.
  • Antoine Watteau’s “Spring.” Antoine Watteau was a French painter in the early 1700s. Around 1716, Watteau painted a series of seasonal images including Spring, Autumn, Winter and Summer. Today, only one of the four paintings remains.. “Spring” was rediscovered in 1964, but was unfortunately destroyed two years later. “Autumn” and “Winter” have never been found.
  • The only takeaway is to put forth a greater effort to preserve important works of art. With each work lost, a piece of history and art is lost forever to the world.

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