This painting from the troubled artist’s montmartre period fetched €13,091,250, but the auction did not go as expected.
Vincent Van Gogh (1853-1890), Scène de rue à Montmartre (Impasse des Deux Frères et le moulin à Poivre) (Street Scene in Montmartre [Impasse des Deux Frères and the Pepper Mill”), 1887, oil on canvas, 46.1 x 61.3 cm/18.15 x 24.14 in.
Everything suggested that the sale of this rare painting by Vincent Van Gogh, Scène de rue à Montmartre [Impasse des Deux Frères et le moulin à Poivre] (Street Scene in Montmartre [Impasse des Deux Frères and the Pepper Mill]), would be a Paris event. The work is unusual on more than one count. First, it was in the hands of the same family that bought it around 1920 and had never been exhibited. Second, the date of its execution, 1887, marked a turning point in the artist’s work. The subject—a long-vanished windmill in Montmartre—must have reminded Vincent of the landscapes of his childhood. Here he uses vibrant colors for the first time—the green gantry in the foreground, the orange notes emerging in the atmosphere like a harbinger of future freedom and the strokes stretching into filaments already ready to swirl.
On the morning of March 25, the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam had at last certified the work’s authenticity. As soon as the auction began, several phone bidders represented by several Sotheby's directors quickly pushed the price up to €10M before it stalled at €12M. At that point, just two bidders were left: one in London, the other in Hong Kong. The hammer fell when the English competitor bid €13,050,000, but at the same time an Internet rival offered €14M. That was the final result—but not for long. Ten minutes later, auctioneer Aurélie Vandevoorde announced that the painting was going back on the block because the bid was invalid. At 5:50 pm, the sale resumed with the same two English and hong kong contestants in the last stretch. The winner was the English bidder, who paid the hammer price of €11,250,000—€13,091,250 including fees. The final result must have left a slightly bitter taste.