Bank debtors’ Van Gogh withdrawn as fake

While there is some support for its attribution, doubt still lingers

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The ING Bank recently withdrew a controversial painting attributed to Van Gogh just before it was about to go on sale at Glerum’s auction house in The Hague. Owned by two brothers H. and J. van Helmond who owed the bank in excess of DFl.500,000 (£179,856, $269,784), the work was to be sold off by the bank in order to recoup some of its losses. The painting, a farmer carrying a spade over his shoulder, was estimated to fetch between DFl.80,000 and 100,000. Its value was questioned, however, when a debate started up about the painting’s authenticity. Dr M.M. Op de Coul of the State Bureau for Art Historical Documentation in The Hague is satisfied that the painting, signed “Vincent” can be attributed to Van Gogh and confirmed its identity as a present by the artist to the surveyor A. Ph. Furnee from The Hague, with whom Van Gogh used to associate during the 1880. Experts from the auction house believe the painting to be authentic. However, in a letter to Glerum’s, S. van Heugten, a member of the academic staff of the Van Gogh Museum, wrote that he had “legitimate doubts about the authenticity of the painting”. According to Van Heugten the painting is “weak and hesitant” and does not resemble Van Gogh’s usually robust style. The bank has allowed the brothers to postpone further repayment until September, keeping the decidedly unsteady painting as collateral.

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