Alleged Photo of Vincent van Gogh With Paul Gauguin Fails to Sell at Auction

Is this one of the only photos of Vincent van Gogh in existence?

Jule Antoine, photo possibly depicting Vincent van Gogh and friends (1887). Photo: Jule Antoine, courtesy Romantic Agony.
Jule Antoine, photo possibly depicting Vincent van Gogh and friends (1887). Photo: Jule Antoine, courtesy Romantic Agony.

What may be a newly-discovered photo of Vincent van Gogh failed to sell at auction this weekend, despite the fact that the group portrait, which appears to show the artist drinking with fellow post-Impressionists Paul Gauguin and Émile Bernard, among others, would be only the third confirmed photo of the painter to date.

Thanks to his many self portraits, Vincent van Gogh is so recognizable that New Yorkers can spot his doppleganger on the subway, but the famous artist was reportedly camera shy.

Romantic Agony auction house in Brussels offered the image over the weekend, but failed to attract a buyer, as reported by Hyperallergic. The catalogue text read that it was a “remarkable portrait of Paul Gauguin and Vincent van Gogh” and the pre-sale estimate was $136,000–170,000.

The new potential van Gogh photo was taken in Paris by Jules Antoine, an architect and amateur photographer, in December 1887, and is a melainotype, or tintype, image.

Believed to be joining van Gogh, Gauguin, and Bernard at the table are Dutch artist Arnold Koning, politician Felix Duval, and Jules’ brother André Antoine, who founded the Théâtre-Libre in Paris.

Jule Antoine, photo possibly depicting Vincent van Gogh (highlighted), 1887. Photo: courtesy Romantic Agony.

Jule Antoine, photo possibly depicting Vincent van Gogh (highlighted), 1887.
Photo: courtesy Romantic Agony.

French photo expert Serge Plantureux, who helped identify the figures in the photo, described his research efforts in depth at L’Oeil de la Photographie.

“They told me, still hesitant, that they thought they recognized the people in it, artists in whom they had long been interested. They were collectors and liked the painters of the late 19th century, in particular the neo-impressionists,” Plantuereux wrote of his first meeting with the photograph’s owners. “They also said it was possible that one of the figures around the table was someone whose true face had never been seen.”

However, according to a photography expert at Amsterdam’s van Gogh Museum contacted by the Parool, the picture is not of the famous artist.

It’s perhaps worth noting that van Gogh, who wrote prolifically to his brother Theo, did not mention the gathering in his letters.

Vincent van Gogh, Self-Portrait (1887)Photo via: Wikipedia

Vincent van Gogh, Self-Portrait (1887). Photo: via Wikipedia.

Other possible photos of van Gogh have turned up over the years, including one discovered by a Greek woman in a stash of Nazi-looted van Gogh paintings and drawings recovered by her father during World War II.


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