Happy Accident Reveals Century-Old Art In Lynchburg Home

No one actually expects to find hidden treasure, but that's exactly what happened to Lynchburg's Samuel Gravitt, during a visit to his friend Ariel Oliver's house on the 4th of July.

It started when a picture of Jesus on Ariel's wall caught Sam's eye, and he wanted a closer look. Ariel Oliver recalls say asking "Can I take this off the wall?' When he did, the frame and glass separated. It was at that point that the modest picture of Jesus revealed a hidden surprise.

Behind the portrait of Jesus was a rare photo from turn-of-the-century photographer Edward Curtis. Known in the art world for his "American Indian" project, the photo is one of his last, called "Aphrodite". A blue-toned gelatin print with silver accents, the woman in the water sparkles just as brightly as she did, nearly 100 years ago.

Oliver and her family are overwhelmed by the find, saying "We're pretty amazed by the condition of it, the fact that it had never been mounted, never been framed, it was just tucked away, almost like that was the perfect thing that should have happened to it."

Photos of Oliver's find have been sent to several places, including the Smithsonian, who agree; "Aphrodite" is in pristine condition. Conservative estimates place the value of her find in the $2,000-$3,000 range.

But the question still remains...Why was the photo hidden for nearly 100 years? That secret may stay hidden forever. According to Gravitt, Ariel Oliver attributes the photo to one of her relatives, whom have all passed away.

While the mystery of Aphrodite may live on, Oliver hopes to find a local collector, so she may continue to float in Virginia for the next 100 years.