Van Gogh thought to be fake: unveiled as £30m masterpiece

Updated: 


Montmajour

A Van Gogh painting has been unveiled in Amsterdam today. Sunset at Montmajour is said to be worth around £30 million, and is being seen for the first time in a major museum.

It's the latest twist for a painting branded a fake 100 years ago and left to languish in a loft.

Branded a fake

The painting was originally identified as a fake in 1908, just after being bought by a Norwegian collector. It lay unloved for 60 years in his attic, as he was embarrassed by his error, and it was sold on his death in 1970.

An art dealer at the time said he thought it was a fake, and it was sold on to an unnamed collector. In 1991 the owners at the time asked the Van Gogh Museum for a second opinion but they refused.

The confusion over its authenticity has been explained by the Van Gogh Museum as owing much to the fact it is a 'transitional' piece, because after this time Van Gogh changed his technique slightly, adding more layers of paint.

Masterpiece

The museum agreed to take a look in 2011 - just after a set of the painters' letters were published. It has now confirmed that the experts have been wrong all along - it's a Van Gogh. The museum said in a statement that there were a number of things which indicated the authenticity of the painting.

The experts identified the location of the painting, and found two letters that the painter wrote in 1888 that refer to it. They also examined the technique and pigment the artist used, and found they were identical to another painting done at the same time.

The museum highlighted that x-rays, computer analyses of the canvas, and microscopic research on the paint had all been carried out, and that "Everything supports the conclusion: this work is by Van Gogh."

Museum Director Axel Rüger said: "A discovery of this magnitude has never before occurred in the history of the Van Gogh Museum. It is already a rarity that a new painting can be added to Van Gogh's oeuvre. But what makes this even more exceptional is that this is a transition work in his oeuvre, and moreover, a large painting from a period that is considered by many to be the culmination of his artistic achievement, his period in Arles in the south of France. "

Value

It was during this period that he produced some of his most valuable works, including The Bedroom and Sunflowers, which sold for £25 million in 1987.

The experts have not put a value on the newly-discovered painting. But given the sum that Sunflowers fetched, and the fact that his Portrait of Dr Gachet became the most expensive painting ever sold when it went for $82.5 million in 1990, clearly this would be worth tens of millions of pounds.

Lying around

It's an extraordinary find, but it's not the first time that a rare and valuable artifact has been found lying around the house

In February, a rare Roman coffin was sold for £40,000. A Northumberland couple had been using it as a garden planter.

In November last year it was the turn of a teacher who cleaned out her roof space to make more space, and found a Pre-Raphaelite painting of an owl. It was valued at £70,000.

But perhaps the most impressive was in 2010. A Dorset family discovered that the cracked old vase they had been using as an umbrella stand was an 18th Century Chinese vase that sold at auction for £625,000.

Forbes rich list: the world's top ten billionaires

Forbes rich list: the world's top ten billionaires


More stories