This will go down as one of the greatest and most important photographic discoveries of the century. It doesn’t look like much, but the face third from the left is none other than that of Vincent Van Gogh attending an outdoor dinner party on a cold December in 1887. It’s significance? It’s the only photographic image ever to have been taken of the artist.
The extraordinary find was made by a pair of historians who travelled France looking for exquisite memorabilia via house clearances and table top market sales. L’Oeil de la Photographie reports that they recognised several faces in the image and that one of them may have been Van Gogh.
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. They also said it was possible that one of the figures around the table was someone whose true face had never been seen.
After some investigative work using the rule of Ockham’s razor it was finally decided by a group of experts that the unknown face in the photographic image was indeed that of Vincent Van Gogh. A man whose face we have come to know well by way of painting and especially that self portrait, but had never seen in emulsion.
It should be noted that the photograph does come with a caveat. Other photographs of Van Gogh as a youngster do apparently exist. One as a 13 year old boy and another as a gallery worker. However until now he has never been seen in his likeness as an artist, especially this late in life.
The photograph went on sale today at the Romantic Agony Auction Rooms in Brussels and was expected to fetch between €120000 to €150000. As yet we are not aware of the final price but look forward to updating this post with more news.
UPDATE: 19:04 20/07/15
We have had confirmation from the auction house that the photograph did not meet its reserve price of €120,000. This may have been due to questions still being asked over its authenticity. We can also confirm that negotiations have been taking place with a collector in Manhattan where a figure €112,500 including costs is being sought