Until recently, the only accepted photographs of the Dutch master Vincent van Gogh (30 March 1853 – 29 July 1890) were two taken of the artist in his youth - at the ages of thirteen and nineteen respectively.
More of these images in a moment.
Serge Plantureux, writer for the French magazine ‘L’Oeil de la Photographie’, believes that an 1887 photograph bought at an estate sale may well be an image of van Gogh as an adult.
The photograph (above) shows the painter (third from the left, pipe in hand) and group of friends including Paul Gauguin, Emile Bernard, Félix Jobbé-Duval, and André Antoine. It is a melanotype, where a positive picture is produced with sensitised collodion on a smooth surface of black varnish, coating a thin plate of iron.
This newly discovered 1887 photograph was sold at auction on 19th June, 2015 in Brussels for an undisclosed figure, with pre-sale estimates being between €120,000 and €150,000 (~$136,000 to $170,000).
The Seton Gallery in New Haven has displayed what they believe to be another and second image of the mature van Gogh, an 1886 cabinet photograph bought by artist Tom Stanford in a Massachusetts antique dealer’s shop in the early 1990s for one dollar.
Stanford said “I saw it and thought it was van Gogh right away, and the more I looked at it, the more I was sure”.
The Van Gogh museum in Amsterdam disputes that this is an image of the artist (perhaps for the obvious reasons), though Albert Harper, director of the Henry Lee Institute of Forensic Science at the University of New Haven, believes otherwise.
Joseph Buberger, who has identified images of Abraham Lincoln and Ulysses Grant, judged the imagine genuine, comparing it with a self-portrait sketch.
Albert Harper said "Even the most minute detail matched up, even the smallest hairs on the beards matched up”. This might suggest that the artist made the self-portrait from the photograph.
As circumstantial evidence, van Gogh is known to have spent much time in Brussels, where Victor Morin, whose name is inscribed on the 1886 image, had his photographic studio.
Now returning to the accepted two youthful images mentioned at the beginning. Mr Buberger claims that they are in fact of the artist’s brother Theo, as they do not match any of Van Gogh's self-portraits, thus taking these 1866 and 1873 images out of the authentication by comparison equation.
As an unhelpful but interesting footnote, there is another 1886 photograph supposedly showing van Gogh and his friend, Emile Bernard, at a table beside the Seine at the Paris suburb of Asnieres.
What you think of all these images, having seen as we all probably have numbers of self-portraits by Vincent van Gogh?