Spain’s Recently Discovered Van Gogh a Fake

Cypress, Sky and Country (1889), a painting alleged to be the work of Dutch master Vincent van Gogh Photo: El Mundo
Cypress, Sky and Country (1889), a painting alleged to be the work of Dutch master Vincent van Gogh Photo: El Mundo

A painting, which Spanish tax authorities claimed was Van Gogh’s Cypress, Sky and Country (1889), is in fact a terrible fake according to Alfred Weidinger, vice director of Vienna’s Belvedere. The painting was discovered during a raid of safe deposit boxes in Madrid. Speaking to Austrian daily, Die Presse, Weidinger says, “It is one of the worst fakes or, better yet, copies, that I have ever seen. An amateur must have done it based on a calendar shot of the original.”

According to Weidinger, that original from Van Gogh’s Cypress series was indeed painted in 1889 but hangs in New York’s Metropolitan Museum. He says that he spoke with an expert from the Van Gogh museum in Amsterdam who was similarly shocked at just how bad the painting appears to be.

When the story broke a little more than a week ago, Spanish daily El Mundo cited that two unnamed experts had confirmed the authenticity of the painting. However, neither the Van Gogh Museum expert nor Weidinger were contacted.

Further provenance assurances were made due to the three exhibition stamps on the canvas’s reverse. The stamps note an exhibition at the Rijksmuseum in 1944, an undated show at Berlin’s Museum der Schöne Künste, and an exhibition Vienna’s Kunsthistorisches Museum in 1974. However, Weidinger says that the Kunsthistorisches Museum stamp screams that the painting is a fake.

Most troubling to Weidinger has been the lack of any critical response to the claims made by Spanish authorities or the experts’ opinions, which he says, “one can buy.”

Weidinger says that images of the painting have been sent around to numerous experts in Vienna and elsewhere. Yet, no one else has spoken up. To an extent, this could be an arty version of the bystander effect. If the painting is truly as bad as Weidinger claims, considering that Van Gogh ranks among the most faked artists in history, Weidinger’s colleagues may have thought the alleged fraud so obvious that someone else would point it out.

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