Paris – One of the few paintings by Vincent Van Gogh still in private hands, “Street Scene in Montmartre”, was sold for over 13 million euros Thursday at auction after going on public display for the first time this week, Sotheby’s said.

The painting — which emerged after a century spent in the same collection and has not been exhibited in public since it was painted in 1887 — fetched 13.091 million euros (R231 million), Sotheby’s said.

Reaching well above the estimate of 5-8 million euros, Sotheby’s said the sale price was a record for the artist in France.

The sale of the painting was the highlight of an auction of 33 works from masters including Degas, Magritte, Modigliani, Klee, Rodin and his muse Camille Claudel sold in an auction live-streamed by Sotheby’s in Paris.

The painting was reoffered at the end of the sale in Paris after the auction house scrapped its initial sale earlier in the afternoon — where it fetched a slightly higher sale price — due to problems with online bidding.

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Other highlights included the sale of a recently restituted work by Camille Pissarro, “La Recolte des pois”, which fetched 3.382 million euros. It had been originally commissioned by Van Gogh’s brother, Theo.

Francis Picabia’s “La Corrida” meanwhile fetched 3.152 million euros.

First time on show

The 1887 work by the Dutch post-Impressionist master, one of more than 200 paintings he produced during two years spent in Paris, portrays one of the windmills that dotted Montmartre when it was still just a village on the northern outskirts of the capital.

A couple stroll and two children play in front of a wooden fence and leafless trees depicted in the characteristic tan and brown tones of his “Dutch palette”, punctuated by a bright red flag blowing above the mill.

The period marked a turning point in Van Gogh’s career as he began exploring expressionist techniques and new uses of colour in the final years of his life, before his suicide in 1890 at the age of 37.

It is not considered one of his best works.

The last Van Gogh sold at a public auction, “Labourer in a Field” from 1889, went for $81 million at a New York sale in 2017.

Specialists knew of the work but it was only catalogued as a black-and-white photograph and was acquired by a French family around 1920.

It had been placed on public display for the very first time this week since it was painted 135 years ago.

“Paintings from the Montmartre series are rare: It’s very likely to garner a lot of interest from private buyers, the major Van Gogh collectors all around the world, and probably from institutions as well,” Aurelie Vandevoorde, Sotheby’s head of Impressionist and modern art in Paris, told AFP ahead of the sale.

The identity of the buyer has not been divulged.

Claudia Mercier, an auctioneer at the Mirabaud Mercier auction house that was hired by the painting’s owners, said it had been examined by the Van Gogh museum in Amsterdam, “which has shown serious interest in the work”.


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