In a London sale, a Van Gogh portrait of a postman fetched $85.4 million, a high for the artist at auction. The price was more than double the $40 million low estimate for the 1888 work, “Portrait of the Postman Joseph Roulin”.
The painting’s owner had bought it in 1998 for $3.9 million at Sotheby’s in London. At the time, the work was widely considered a replica of a Van Gogh self-portrait, and the auction house described it as “attributed to” the artist.
The piece was consigned to Christie’s this time around with a much more definitive provenance. It was exhibited as a Van Gogh in Amsterdam in 1947 and then at the Kunsthalle in Tübingen, Germany, in 1948, where it was included in the artist’s first posthumous retrospective. In the years since, it has been shown in major exhibitions of the artist’s work in Basel, London, and Amsterdam.