Police in Santa Fe are asking for the public's help with a burglary from an artist's home of about $750,000 worth of artworks, jewelry, and artifacts, including an alleged charcoal drawing by Vincent van Gogh. The Santa Fe New Mexican posted an article today about the heist but unfortunately provides no photographs of the drawing. The homeowner describes the drawing as a 14-by-17 inch charcoal preliminary sketch of the "Night Café" painting in the Yale University collection (the same painting that currently is entwined in its own legal battle) and says it is identical to the painting except that it lacks VIncent's signature.
This story intrigues me, and not because of the theft. This drawing -- if it is indeed by van Gogh -- is unknown in the canon, as far as I've been able to find out. It is not in the de la Faille catalogue raisonné, and it is not mentioned in the scholarship surrounding the Night Café painting. The homeowner says that his great-grandfather bought the drawing and it has been in his family ever since: how can van Gogh experts not know about it? And another point ... when Vincent was living in Arles in September 1888, at the time he did the Night Café painting (and the watercolor version of the painting today in a Swiss private collection), his drawing materials of preference were pencil and/or ink/reed pen. Not charcoal.
I would really like to see a photograph of this drawing. According to the article, experts at Yale have been brought into the case. I would also really be curious to know what they have to say.
UPDATE (20 Sept 2009): On 9/11 the Santa Fe New Mexican reported that the alleged van Gogh drawing was discovered, along with the other artworks allegedly stolen from the home, at a consignment shop in Raton, on sale for $250. The whole thing smells odd to me: to quote John Turturro in "Oh Brother Where Art Thou" -- "That don't make no sense." Among the comments on the article about the recovery (which are otherwise pretty silly), David Brooks from the online Van Gogh Gallery (www.vggallery.com, the best non-museum Van Gogh site there is) rightly points out that "There is no such known van Gogh drawing. Saying it's a van Gogh doesn't make it a van Gogh." He's got that right.