Masterpiece Work of Art That Was 'Lost' Found to Have Fallen off Wall

It's not every day you rediscover an artistic masterpiece.

Nearly four centuries after it was completed, Rembrandt's The Adoration of the Magi has been found, the Italian Heritage Foundation (FPI) announced on Tuesday at a conference titled Rembrandt: identifying the prototype, seeing the invisible, according to Italy 24 News.

One of the Dutch Golden Age's foremost talents, Rembrandt Harmensz van Rijn, better known by the mononym "Rembrandt," was born in 1606 to miller Harmen Gerritsz van Rijn and his wife, Neeltgen van Zuytbrouck, according to the National Gallery of Art. Rather than take over the family business, Rembrandt chose to study art under some of the most esteemed painters of the day, including the history painter Pieter Lastman. However, financial strain and personal scandal—he impregnated his partner Hendrickje Stoffels out of wedlock—blighted his career. When he died at the age of 63 on October 4, 1669, he was buried in a rented plot, according to the Gallery.

Painted between 1632 and 1633, The Adoration of the Magi depicts the New Testament's three wise men tending to the baby Jesus as he sits in his mother's lap. While copies of the painting exist, the original was "considered lost and never shown until now," according to an FPI press release, CNN reports.

It was only rediscovered thanks to a happy accident. In 2016, the painting fell off the wall of the country home in Rome where it was hanging, sustaining damage in the process, according to CNN. It was sent to restorer Antonella Di Francesco's workshop for repair. While removing the multiple layers of varnish that slicked the oil surface, Di Francesco came to a stunning realization.

"During my work one of the most beautiful things that can happen during a lifetime: the sudden awareness of being in front of a work by a very great author who reveals himself to you, which comes out of its opaque zone and chooses you to be redeemed from the darkness," she said, according to the press release. It's a thrill, she added, that "has no equal."

The painting's size—54 by 44.5 centimeters, or 21.3 by 17.5 inches—and technical features support the theory it is the missing Rembrandt, according to the press release. Its owners, a noble family, have no plans to sell it, but want to make it available to museums and other cultural institutions, FPI President Guido Talarico told the news outlet on Thursday.

People examine a Rembrandt painting.
People examine the painting "Saint James the Greater" by Rembrandt at Sotheby's in 2006. Long thought lost, the Rembrandt painting "The Adoration of the Magi" was recently rediscovered after it fell off a wall and was sent for repair. CHRIS YOUNG/AFP/Getty Images