Art experts working at the summer home and gallery of 19th-century American artist Thomas Cole simply wanted to figure out the original color of the walls. Instead, paint analyst Matthew Mosca uncovered an incredible find: previously unknown friezes on the original plaster of the Catskill, NY, farmhouse, hidden behind layers of paint. A bold black design called a Greek key was first revealed high up on a wall in the east parlor. Further investigation showed a rose bush beneath it. A study of the walls in the west parlor next exposed a painting depicting what looks like hanging fabric, per the New York Times. Experts who examined paint invoices and letters, and compared the designs to Cole’s other works, say Cole likely painted the unsigned friezes around 1836.
Letters reveal "Cole was directing the redecoration of those rooms," says the executive director of the Thomas Cole Historic Site, and she comes to "no other conclusion [than] that this is his work." In earlier years, Cole—who founded the Hudson River School, which romanticized the American wilderness—was known to paint designs on textiles, furniture, and wallpaper, the Times reports. His home's walls were painted over around 1900, probably by Cole's descendants after his death, reports the Hudson Register-Star. Sen. Charles Schumer, who visited the site, says experts have "stumbled upon ... a once-in-a-century find" that "could be a game changer for the entire art community." He called for grants to be provided to fund the necessary work on the friezes. (The mystery of a dismembered painting has finally been solved.)