Art news

Gun ‘that ended Van Gogh’s life’ goes under hammer

The revolver with which Vincent van Gogh is believed to have shot himself goes under the hammer at a Paris auction house on Wednesday.

Billed as “the most famous weapon in the history of art”, the 7mm Lefaucheux revolver is expected to fetch up to 60,000 euros ($67,000).

The troubled Dutch painter died in July 1890 and experts believe he shot himself with the revolver in field near Auvers-sur-Oise, a village north of Paris where he spent the last few months of his life.

Discovered by a farmer in 1965 in the same field, the gun has previously been exhibited at the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam.

While Art Auction, which is selling the gun, says there is no way of being absolutely certain it is the fatal weapon, tests showed it has been in the ground for 75 years, which would fit.

The Dutch artist had borrowed the gun from the owner of the village inn where he was staying.

He died 36 hours later after staggering back wounded to the auberge in the dark.

The bullet extracted from Van Gogh’s chest was the same caliber as the one used by the Lefaucheux revolver.

But it was not his first dramatic act of self-harm. Two years earlier, he cut off his ear which he offered to a woman in a brothel in Arles in southern France.


Accident rather than suicide?

Auction Art said the farmer who found the gun in 1965 gave it to the owners of the inn at Auvers-sur-Oise, whose family are now selling it.

“Technical tests on the weapon have shown the weapon was used and indicate that it stayed in the ground for a period that would coincide with 1890,” it said.

“All these clues give credence to the theory that this is the weapon used in the suicide.”

While most art historians agree Van Gogh killed himself, that assumption has been questioned in recent years, with some claiming the fatal shot may have been fired accidentally by two local boys playing with the weapon in the field.

That theory won fresh support from a new biopic of the artist starring Willem Dafoe, “At Eternity’s Gate”, in which the gun goes off after the two brothers get into a struggle with the bohemian stranger.

The auction house acknowledged that the gun could also have been hidden or abandoned by the two boys.

Image: AFP / FRANCOIS GUILLOT Fatal weapon: The revolver Vincent Van Gogh is believed to have shot himself with was found in a field by a farmer in 1965, 75 years after the painter’s death

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