Van Gogh's `Sunflowers' is confirmed as a fake


Sunflowers, the most famous painting associated with Vincent Van Gogh, is definitely a fake, a leading Italian art expert said yesterday. Sunflowers sold for what was then a world record price of £24.75 million in 1987.

Mr Antonio De Robertis, a specialist on the Dutch post-impressionist and one of the first to doubt the painting's authenticity, said in a speech prepared for delivery at a Van Gogh symposium in London that a string of evidence proved the work was undoubtedly a forgery.

Seven other experts, including Mr Jan Hulsker, a leading specialist on Van Gogh who issued a new edition of his catalogue of the painter's works in 1996, and Mr Thomas Hoving, former director of New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art, also support the view that Sunflowers is not a true Van Gogh.

The London symposium will be the first time so many experts say they do not believe the painting can be genuine.

In his speech, due to be published in the Italian art review Quadri & Sculture next week, Mr De Robertis said the size of the picture, the canvas, identifying labels on the back and the style all pointed to a fake.

He said the lack of a signature, lack of mention of the work in Van Gogh's letters, and other documentary evidence meant the picture of brightly-coloured sunflowers in a vase could not be the real thing.

The painting was bought by Japan's Yasuda Fire & Marine Insurance Co Ltd at Christie's auction house in London.

Yasuda, rebuked by Japan's finance ministry in 1987 for "an excessive demonstration of wealth" over the purchase, has said it is "absolutely convinced" it bought an original.

Quadri & Sculture quoted unnamed sources as saying Yasuda might sue Christie's for "many millions".