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'First-ever' Van Gogh painting that was bought for just £4 in the 1960s could make £13m at auction

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‘First-ever’ Van Gogh painting that was bought for just £4 in the 1960s could make £13 million at auction next month

  • The Holme family parted with the painting for the small sum of £4 in 1967 
  • In the late 1960s X-rays revealed the painting signed ‘Vincent’ to be authentic
  • The painting will be auctioned in the Netherlands for £13 million next month 

A Vincent Van Gogh painting that was sold for just £4 in the 1960s is set to be auctioned for £13 million, after its authenticity was confirmed.   

Peasant Woman in Front of a Farmhouse, painted by the 33-year-old artist in 1885 four years before his death, is believed to be one of the first ever works Van Gogh offered for sale.      

It’s murky history and simple ‘Vincent’ signature led auctioneers to dismiss the possibility it may be an authentic piece when it sold at a Staffordshire auction house for just £4 in 1967.

The unfortunate Holme family parted with the painting for the small sum after growing tired of it clogging up their attic in Billington, Staffordshire.

The £13 million painting: Peasant Woman in Front of a Farmhouse (1885) by Vincent Van Gogh

The £13 million painting: Peasant Woman in Front of a Farmhouse (1885) by Vincent Van Gogh

It had been given to farm supplier John Holme as a part payment for his services in 1929 – after which it was hung in his children’s nursery, winding up in storage decades later.   

The painting was revealed to be a real Van Gogh work in the late 1960s when an X-ray uncovered the initial sketch under the paint of a man ploughing with oxen – linking the work to another by the artist at that time.  

And in 2001 the piece sold to its current American owner for $1.7 million.

It will be auctioned next month at the European Fine Art Fair in Maastricht, Netherlands, by a British dealer.

It could be one of the first paintings ever sold by the painter Vincent Van Gogh (pictured) at the age of 33 - he died just four years later

It could be one of the first paintings ever sold by the painter Vincent Van Gogh (pictured) at the age of 33 – he died just four years later

Van Gogh expert Martin Bailey told The Times: ‘It would be wonderful if it stayed in England, perhaps at the National Gallery, although raising the funds would be a major challenge.’

The prolific artist did not start painting until the age of 27 or 28 and died at the young age of 37 in 1890. 

During his decade spent painting Van Gogh created around 900 works on canvas and 1,100 works on paper – equating to around two paintings and two drawings a week.

How Britain inspired former Brixton resident Vincent Van Gogh who told his brother: ‘I love London’

Vincent Van Gogh spent several crucial years in London between 1873 and 1876 and wrote to his brother Theo, ‘I love London’.

He set foot in the city as a young trainee art dealer, and the metropolis ‘prompted him to explore new avenues of life, art and love’.

The artist’s years in London – living in Brixton – inspired him ‘right to the end of his career’, according to Tate Britain director Alex Farquharson.

He was aged 20 when he arrived and had not yet decided to be an artist, but he was inspired by the art he saw and wrote about it in letters to Theo.

The Dutch painter, who famously cut off his own ear and died penniless in 1890, after shooting himself, was inspired by British art, literature and culture and collected around 2,000 engravings, most from English magazines such as the Illustrated London News, despite his poverty.

In his time in London Van Gogh responded to art by John Constable and John Everett Millais and found a love for British writers such as William Shakespeare and Christina Rossetti.

Charles Dickens also influenced the painter’s style and subject matter throughout his career.

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