Unseen Vincent van Gogh painting of Paris sells for $15.4M

A Paris painting by Vincent van Gogh, barely seen by the public after being kept in the private collection of a French family for more than a century, was auctioned Thursday for 13.1 million euros.

“Street scene in Montmartre” was painted in the spring of 1887, three years before the Dutch master probably died by suicide. A sale at Sotheby’s in Paris achieved significantly more than the highest estimate of 8 million euros (9.4 million US dollars).

However, the auction, at which works by Edgar Degas and René Magritte also came under the hammer, caused confusion. Sotheby’s initially stated that the Van Gogh had sold for over 16 million euros. After what a Sotheby’s spokesman called a “bid error,” the painting was offered to buyers again at the end of the sale, with a second round of bids resulting in a lower final price.

Van Gogh’s painting shows Parisians strolling through a rural and barren landscape in Montmartre, a historic district that is now one of the city’s most popular travel destinations.

“The moment we saw this painting for the first time, we were immediately fascinated,” said Claudia Mercier and Fabien Mirabaud of the Paris auction house Mirabaud Mercier, who discovered the work.

“We are very excited to be able to show this to the world now, having been valued by the same French family for a century,” they said in a pre-sale statement.

The painting is part of a series of works depicting the famous Moulin de la Galette, a windmill that has been converted into a dance hall in Montmartre. The neighborhood is still popular with tourists and locals for its village-like atmosphere, but the surrounding streets have been expanded and now bear little resemblance to the scene in the painting.

Sotheby’s said the painting offered a portal to Montmartre in the late 19th century, when the antiquated mills became tourist attractions and leisure spots where Parisians would gather to drink, dance and relax.

“Only a few paintings from Van Gogh’s Montmartre period are still in private hands. Most of the series are now in prestigious museum collections around the world,” said Aurélie Vandevoorde and Etienne Hellman, senior directors of the Impressionism and Modern Art Department at Sotheby’s France. which completed the sale, in a statement last month.

“The appearance on the market of a work of this caliber and such a cult series is undoubtedly an important event and indeed an opportunity for collectors of the artist and the art market in a broader sense.”

Van Gogh has been serially undervalued throughout his career. He died in 1890, allegedly after shooting himself. The rusty pistol he allegedly used in the shooting was later discovered and sold in 2019.

Although he struggled to find an audience for his work during his lifetime, Van Gogh’s market value skyrocketed over the course of the 20th century. His portrait of a homeopathic doctor “Portrait of Dr. Gachet, ”which he painted in the last year of his life, sold for $ 82.5 million in 1990 (the equivalent of $ 165 million today), making it the most expensive painting ever to sell at the time.

The final selling price on this article was updated after Sotheby’s described a “bid error”.

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