Sunday, November 2, 2008
Who's That Lady in the Hat?
On Friday, the Van Gogh Museum announced it has confirmed the authenticity of two little-known female portraits in its collection, that is to say, their attribution to van Gogh himself. Although in the past they were claimed to be original van Goghs, the seeming difference in style from other examples had cast doubt. But in-depth research using paint samples, careful examination of the supports (=the stretchers), and the discovery of a Paris paint merchant's stamp on the verso of one of the portraits suggest both pictures date from Vincent's Paris period, most likely from spring 1886, when he was studying in the studio of Fernand Cormon. At that point, he was trying to work in a more conventional style, which explains the look of the pictures.
One of the two, showing a lady in a hat, is shown here. (You can see both pictures and read more about the discovery in the Associated Press article and on the Van Gogh Museum website.) The other picture shows a woman seated with hands folded in her lap. But who are these women? We have no idea, and we will probably never know. The lady with the hat intrigues me in particular -- if this painting were from a few years later, I'd be picking my jaw up off the floor. Why? Because she looks a lot like how I've imagined my novel's heroine, Rachel!
The Van Gogh Museum will be showcasing both portraits, and the research involved in attributing them, in a special focus exhibition through September 2009.