BORDEAUX, France, Dec 12 (AFP) – French auctioneers withdrew a painting attributed to Dutch artist Vincent Van Gogh from sale at the last moment Friday because of doubts about the work’s authenticity.
The painting, entitled “the Laborers,” was found at a French flea market 12 years ago and was to have been the star item at an international sale at Portets in the heart of the Bordeaux wine territory of Graves on Saturday.
However auctioneers halted the sale after the Van Gogh museum in Amsterdam agreed to re-examine the work.
The museum originally declared the painting to be a fake in 1992, but its view is contested by French specialist Benoit Landais who has certified its authenticity.
“If the museum says that the painting is false, with convincing arguments, I shall hang up my hat and never occupy myself again with Vincent,” Landais said.
The painting, showing field workers under a heavy sky, was discovered at a second hand stall in Paris in 1991 where it was sold for less than EUR 1,500 (USD 1,840).
In Saturday’s planned sale it had a reserve price of EUR 2 million but the sale room, the Hotel des Ventes des Graves, said it had decided to withdraw the work pending a new expert analysis “in the interests of transparency.”
The public sales council that oversees auctions in France said it would have halted the sale had the painting not been taken off the market.
Council president Gerard Champin told AFP that the saleroom did not carry enough insurance to guarantee the work in the event its authenticity was successfully contested.
Earlier this week, the council stepped in to halt the sale of a painting said to be by Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec in an auction.
The director of research at the Van Gogh museum, Sjaar van Heugten, gave an initial unfavorable report on the Van Gogh painting 1992, saying it had been falsified by a capable artist, but that the signature was not convincing.
But Landais had further laboratory tests carried out. He said the painting was mentioned in letters that Van Gogh sent to his brother, Theo, and included in the inventory of his works carried out in 1890.
He said a confusion over the inventory may have been responsible for the initial doubts about authenticity.
Subject: France news