X-ray test­ing IDS paint­ing as a Van Gogh

The Washington Times Daily - - Life - BY MIKE CORDER

ATHE HAGUE still life once thought to be by Vin­cent Van Gogh but later down­graded to the work of an anony­mous artist be­cause of doubts about its au­then­tic­ity is in­deed by the tor­mented Dutch im­pres­sion­ist, re­searchers said Tues­day. The process lead­ing to the con­fir­ma­tion reads like a cold-case de­tec­tive story, with a new X-ray tech­nique help­ing ex­perts re-ex­am­ine what they al­ready knew about the paint­ing and draw on a grow­ing pool of schol­arly Van Gogh re­search.

A de­tailed X-ray of an un­der­ly­ing paint­ing of two wrestlers and knowl­edge of the painter’s pe­riod at a Bel­gian art academy com­bined to lead a team of re­searchers to con­clude that “Still Life With Meadow Flow­ers and Roses” re­ally is by Van Gogh.

The paint­ing is owned by the Kroeller-mueller Mu­seum in the cen­tral Nether­lands and was be­ing hung there Tues­day among its other van Gogh works.

There was no real “eureka” mo­ment for the team of ex­perts study­ing the still life and the un­der­ly­ing im­age of wrestlers, said Louis Van Til­borgh, a se­nior re­searcher at Am­s­ter­dam’s Van Gogh Mu­seum who took part in the con­fir­ma­tion process.

“All the pieces just fell into place,” he told the As­so­ci­ated Press in a tele­phone in­ter­view.

The paint­ing, on a 40-inch-by-31-inch can­vas, was bought by the Kroeller-mueller Mu­seum in 1974 as a Van Gogh. The work was thought to come from the artist’s pe­riod liv­ing with his brother Theo in Paris from late 1886.

“But when they hung it [in the mu­seum], doubts crept in” about its au­then­tic­ity, Mr. van Til­borgh said.

Ex­perts thought the can­vas was too large for that pe­riod, the depic­tion of a vase brim­ming over with flow­ers and yet more flow­ers ly­ing on a ta­ble in the fore­ground was too ex­u­ber­ant, too busy. The sig­na­ture was in an un­usual po­si­tion for Van Gogh — the top right-hand corner.

With the doubts pil­ing up, the mu­seum in 2003 de­cided to at­tribute the paint­ing to an anony­mous artist in­stead of to Van Gogh. The de­tec­tive work did not end there, how­ever. An X-ray taken five years ear­lier al­ready had re­vealed an in­dis­tinct im­age of the wrestlers and con­tin­ued to in­ter­est re­searchers.

Now, a new, more de­tailed X-ray has shown the wrestlers in more de­tail, along with the brush strokes and pig­ments used. They all pointed back to Van Gogh.

“You can see the wrestlers more clearly and the fact that they are wear­ing loin cloths,” Mr. Van Til­borgh said.

Hav­ing mod­els pose half naked was a defin­ing char­ac­ter­is­tic of the An­twerp academy where Van Gogh stud­ied in early 1886. So was the size of the can­vas, the Kroeller-mueller Mu­seum said in a state­ment.

Vin­cent wrote to his brother about need­ing the large can­vas, new brushes and paint. Theo helped the pen­ni­less artist buy the ma­te­ri­als and a week later Van­gogh wrote back that he was de­lighted with the paint­ing of two wrestlers.

Mr. Van Til­borgh said the brush strokes and pig­ments in the wrestlers paint­ing also cor­re­sponded with what ex­perts now know about Van Gogh’s work in An­twerp.

The wrestlers also help ex­plain the “un­char­ac­ter­is­tic ex­u­ber­ance” of the flo­ral still life, the Kroeller-mueller Mu­seum state­ment said — Van Gogh had to cover up all of the old im­age with his new work.

The de­tec­tive work is de­scribed in a new pub­li­ca­tion by the Van Gogh Mu­seum ti­tled “Re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion of a Flower Still Life in the KroellerMueller Mu­seum and a Lost An­twerp Paint­ing by Van Gogh.”

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