Gun likely used in Van Gogh’s suicide up for auction in June

Vincent van Gogh's grave in Auvers-sur-Oise, France
Vincent van Gogh's grave in Auvers-sur-Oise, FrancePhoto: packshot/DepositPhotos

The revolver it is widely believed Dutch artist Vincent van Gogh used to take his own life in 1890, will be going up for auction in Paris on June 19th. Auction house AuctionArt believes the 7 mm Lefaucheux revolver, which it dubbed "the most famous weapon in art history", will be sold for between 40 thousand and 60 thousand euros, Artnet reports.

The gun is being sold by the family of a local innkeeper in the French village of Auvers-sur-Oise, where Van Gogh spent the last months of his life. It is thought that the artist borrowed the gun from the innkeeper and then shot himself in a field. The wounded artist returned to his accommodations that night, but passed away some 36 hours later. It is widely believed by art historians that Van Gogh took his own life, as the artist was known to self-harm - the most famous incident of this was when he cut off his own ear in 1888. 

The revolver was returned to the innkeeper's family in 1965, by a farmer who found it in a field. According to the auction house, scientific tests indicate that the gun was fired around 1890 and then spent decades lying on the ground. It was previously exhibited in the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam.

A biopic of Van Gogh's life by artist Julian Schnable, titled At Eternity's Gate, raised speculation that Van Gogh did not take his own life, but was instead accidentally shot by two boys playing with a gun. Schanbel and the screenwriter of the biopic believe that the number of paintings Van Gogh created in the final months of his life does not correspond to someone who was suicidally depressed, according to Artnet. 

The auction house dismisses this suggestion. "The new theory about the killing is based on testimonies given several years after Van Gogh's death", an AuctionArt spokesperson said to the art news site. "It has been deeply criticized by all the Van Gogh specialists, among them the Van Gogh Museum and Alain Rohan, who wrote a book about the gun."


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