February 1, 2006

Van Gogh portrait could get $40 mln in NY auction

By Larry Fine

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Vincent Van Gogh's portrait of a cafe
owner, based on a sketch by his friend and fellow artist Paul
Gauguin, could fetch more than $40 million when it is auctioned
in New York later this year.

"L'Arlesienne, Madame Ginoux" was executed in February
1890, five months before the Dutch artist's suicide. It depicts
the proprietress of a cafe in Arles, France, frequented by
Gauguin and Van Gogh.

It is expected to be a highlight of Christie's
Impressionist and Modern Art sale on May 2, Guy Bennett, a
senior vice president of the auction house, said on Wednesday.

The painting was put up for sale by the Bakwin family
collection and could bring between $40 million and $60 million,
he said.

"He is the magical name in our field, but they're
incredibly rare," said Bennett. "The last major Van Gogh
portrait to come to auction was in 1998 and prior to that in

Van Gogh's "Portrait of Dr. Gachet" was sold for a record
$82.5 million in 1990. It was surpassed as the world's most
expensive painting in May 2004 when Pablo Picasso's "Garcon a
la Pipe" sold for $104 million at Sotheby's in New York.

Van Gogh and Gauguin both sketched Marie Ginoux, who owned
the Cafe de la Gare in Arles, in November 1888. Van Gogh
painted the portrait following his return to Arles after being
committed to the asylum in Saint-Remy.

In a letter to Gauguin about the painting on June 17, 1890,
five weeks before his death, he wrote, "it gives me enormous
pleasure when you say the Arlesienne's portrait, which was
based strictly on your drawing, is to your liking. I tried to
be respectfully faithful to your drawing, while nevertheless
taking the liberty of interpreting through the medium of color
the sober character ... ."

Madame Ginoux, glancing to the side with a bemused smile,
is shown against a floral yellow background, wearing a pink and
white dress with green bodice and sitting at a dark-green

Copies of Charles Dickens' "Christmas Stories" and what is
believed to be Harriet Beecher Stowe's "Uncle Tom's Cabin" are
on the tabletop.