• gerard van weyenbergh

A Van Gogh once sold for £ 45, fetched € 15M

The Maastricht Tefaf had to close its doors prematurely in March because of the coronavirus pandemic. Still, the English gallery Dickinson had time to sell there for 15 million euros a painting by Van Gogh titled "Peasant in front of a cottage" (Nuenen July 1885) which had been purchased for 45 pounds sterling (equivalent to current 700 euros) in 1968.

This canvas had resurfaced in the early 1920s in an English collection before disappearing again until the Italian journalist Luigi Grosso found it in 1968 in an antique shop in Belsize Park, north London. The latter then contacted art historian Alan Bowness, the future director of Tate, in the hope of obtaining a certificate of authenticity. It was done after an x-ray analysis which revealed that Van Gogh had covered a preparatory drawing showing a plow to paint his scene.

In 1970, Grosso sold his painting at Sotheby's in New York for nearly 98,000 euros to benefit film producer Joseph Levine. After two other visits to Sotheby's New York in 1983 and Sotheby's London in 1985, the work was sold again by the group in 2001 for the equivalent of 1.5 million euros and has since remained in possession of the last buyer.

The year 1885 was a key moment in Vincent's career who, under Jean-François Millet's influence, began to weigh down his body and broaden his features, as he did later in his Provencal landscapes. In short, of the 12 known paintings painted in the summer of 1885, seven are in public collections such as that of the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam.

© Adrian Darmon