• British experts found two rare bronze statues crafted by Michelangelo.

What idiom or phrase can describe either the state or the period for which the invaluable piece of art remained hidden from public knowledge.

Edit - A word or phrase that tells not about the discovery but the statues, their being out of public domain. Where did it remain all this while?

  • Hidden, (thought) lost, forgotten? There are many options, maybe if you give some more details, we could be more specific. As for unheralded, I don't think it works. The discovery of the statues may have been unheralded, but the statues themselves?
    – oerkelens
    Feb 3, 2015 at 14:29
  • Sir, kind of where did it remain all this while.
    – Non-native
    Feb 3, 2015 at 14:38
  • If you are referring to the following article, it is a question of acknowledged or unacknowledged attribution.cbc.ca/news/arts/…
    – user66974
    Feb 3, 2015 at 15:41
  • 2
    Unheralded, like gala, is not a great choice for a predicate adjective. Feb 3, 2015 at 16:09
  • Is it perhaps the case that the statues were previously unattributed, or misattributed? Feb 3, 2015 at 21:30

7 Answers 7


I think it would be fun, if slightly histrionic, to say that the statues "languished in obscurity".

  • +1, 'languished in obscurity", appears appropriate to what the OP demands. Feb 3, 2015 at 16:17

Either heretofore unknown or heretofore undiscovered would work if no knowledge of the works existed prior to the discovery.

The works, heretofore unknown, were discovered in the ruins of a monastery in Pisa.

If knowledge of the works did exist, then you could use thought lost or long thought lost, as in

The works, long thought lost, were discovered in the ruins of a monastery in Pisa.

Edit: You can substitute hitherto for heretofore in the first example.


Since the knowledge of the work did not exist during the period.

What about- "period of anonymity".

The noun anonymity comes from a Greek word meaning "without a name." If you have anonymity, you have namelessness, and people will not know who you are.

an·o·nym·i·ty - (TFD)*

  1. The quality or state of being unknown or unacknowledged.
  2. One that is unknown or unacknowledged.

Assuming that it was known that these pieces existed, but we thought they had been lost, a common way of expressing that is long-lost:


Long-lost original score of Mozart masterpiece found in Budapest


BFI screens long-lost Laurel and Hardy print

Of course, it is possible that nobody (in the recent era) ever knew that they existed at all. That is, not just the statues were long-lost, but actually the knowledge of their existence was lost. In that case, they were forgotten.


How about limbo?

limbo (n.)

  1. (in some Christian beliefs) the supposed abode of the souls of unbaptized infants, and of the just who died before Christ's coming.
  2. an uncertain period of awaiting a decision or resolution; an intermediate state or condition.

The statues were in limbo until discovered.


'Waiting to be discovered' can be used as a metaphor. Oblivious can be used in a certain context, to the time - eg people were oblivious of the future uses of rubber at that time.

The statues were disregarded for nearly a decadecennium.

deca - prefix in the metric system, also a numerical prefix, denoting a factor of ten.

decennium - a period of 10 years

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  • If they were disregarded then they couldn't easily be "hidden from public knowledge."
    – Robusto
    Feb 3, 2015 at 18:21

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