Without saying who owns the newly attributed work of Vincent van Gogh, the artist’s museum has announced the discovery of “Sunset at Montmajour,” a work painted in Arles in 1888:
Researchers at the Van Gogh Museum said they concluded the work was a van Gogh painting because the pigments correspond with those of van Gogh’s palette from Arles. Also, it was painted on the same type of canvas, with the same type of underpainting he used for at least one other painting, “The Rocks” (owned by the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston) of the same area at the same time. The work was also listed as part of Theo van Gogh’s collection in 1890, and was sold in 1901.
Bloomberg answers the key question:
The work is owned by private collectors who have asked not to be identified, the Van Gogh Museum said. They approached the museum to request an expert opinion of the painting.
The Times responds by contacting James Roundell for a market appraisal:
“One or two early van Goghs do sometimes come out of the woodwork now and again, but from the mature period it’s very rare,” said James Roundell, an art dealer and the director of modern pictures for the Dickinson Galleries in London and New York, one of the world’s leading Impressionist and modern galleries. “It’s an incredibly exciting moment and very exciting for the van Gogh to have something presented to it that turns out to be a missing van Gogh,” he added.
Mr. Roundell, who deals in museum-quality artworks from the 19th century, said it would be hard to predict precisely how much this work would fetch on the market. “You’re going to be talking in the upper ranges, in the tens of millions and quite a few of them,” he said. “It’s not the iconic status of something like the ‘Sunflowers’ or the ‘Portrait of Dr. Gachet,’ ” which sold at auction for $82.5 million in 1990. “This is an interesting landscape by van Gogh and landscapes do come up so you’re probably starting at $10 million and working up to 30, 40, or 50 million, but where this lies in that register it’ll be hard to say.”
Finally, the Wall Street Journal follows up with a separate story explaining how the painting was “lost” in the first place. Turns out the owners were told it was a fake:
But the Van Gogh Museum experts, in an article about their findings in the forthcoming edition of the art publication The Burlington Magazine, say that it was purchased, probably in 1908, by the Norwegian industrialist Nicolai Christian Mustad, whose family firm was involved in steel production.
After the French ambassador to Sweden said it was fake, however, Mr. Mustad hid it in the attic.
The “banishment was permanent; he never wanted to see the landscape again, and later photographs of his home confirm that it didn’t hang among his other pictures,” the experts wrote in the article.
After Mr. Mustad’s death in 1970, an art dealer also concluded that the painting wasn’t a real Van Gogh. Another owner in 1991 contacted the Van Gogh museum, and again the piece was judged to be fake.
Two years ago, the museum experts asked the owner if they could give it another try, after having identified the place the painting depicts.
With more-sophisticated scientific tools at their disposal this time, they were able to determine that the pigments used for “Sunset at Montmajour” correspond with those of Van Gogh’s palette from Arles, the museum said.
Fake van Gogh in the Attic Turns Out to Be Real (Wall Street Journal)