Vincent van Gogh gun
The gun believed to be weapon used by Vincent van Gogh to shoot himself that sold at €130,000 (£116,070) at ArtAuction Rémy le fur's sale at the Hôtel Drouot. Image credit: AuctionArt/Drouot.

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Estimated at €40,000-60,000, it drew a prolonged bidding battle with 18 bids fielded in total before the hammer finally fell at a sale held by the ArtAuction Rémy le fur at the Hôtel Drouot in the French capital today (July 19). With premium added, the price was €162,500 (£145,090). It sold to a private collector.

Although there have been different theories about how he was injured, it is largely believed he shot himself in a field behind the village church in Auvers-sur-Oise. Seriously injured, the next morning he returned to his lodgings at Arthur Ravoux’s inn and died two days later.

Provenance

The gun offered at the auction was found in the field by a farmer around 1960 and was handed to the current owner’s mother. According to the auction house, which described the lot as the “most famous weapon in art history”, the evidence that it was gun used by van Gogh included the fact that it was discovered in the location where the artist supposedly shot it; its caliber (7mm) was the same as the bullet retrieved from the artist’s body as described by the doctor at the time; scientific studies pointed to the gun having stayed in the ground since the 1890s; and, finally, the fact that it was a lower-impact firearm helped explained why the artist didn’t instantly die after shooting it.

The object became the subject of a book published in 2012 by Alain Rohan titled Did we find the suicide weapon? and it also featured at the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam in an exhibition titled On the Verge of Insanity: Van Gogh and his illness.

Alternative theory

The auction house though also acknowledged that another theory has been propounded that van Gogh was actually a victim of an accident when two boys playing with the gun nearby pressed the trigger by mistake.

However, it argued that if this theory, proposed by two US researchers in 2011, is to be believed, the weapon “could still be the one that killed van Gogh”.

£1 = €1.12