A long-hidden Vincent van Gogh painting is expected to sell for upward of $6 million next month.
As Claire Selvin reports for ARTnews, the canvas, titled Scène de rue à Montmartre (Street Scene in Montmartre), will go under the hammer at a joint Sotheby’s and Mirabaud Mercier auction on March 25.
But before hitting the auction block, the work—which has been in a French family’s private collection for more than 100 years—will be publicly exhibited for the first time, making appearances in Amsterdam, Hong Kong and Paris.
“The majority of paintings from this Montmartre series are today in large international museums, so it’s extremely rare to still have one in private hands, especially one that has been with the same family for a century,” Aurélie Vandevoorde, head of the Impressionist and modern art department at Sotheby’s Paris, tells the Art Newspaper’s Anna Sansom.
Van Gogh created the painting in spring 1887, during a two-year stay in Paris with his brother Theo. The work depicts a popular destination—the Pepper Mill, also known as the Moulin Debray—in the neighborhood of Montmartre and is part of the artist’s famous Moulin de la Galette series.
No longer in use by the late 19th century, the windmills had become a place for locals to unwind, eat, drink and gather, per the statement. Van Gogh’s canvas deftly captures the venue’s energy with its expressive pastel brushstrokes; in the scene, a happy couple strolls past the mill at a leisurely pace while two children pause to examine something on the path ahead.
Speaking with the Art Newspaper, Vandevoorde says, “Unlike other artists of his era, like Toulouse-Lautrec, van Gogh was attracted to the pastoral side of Montmartre and would transcribe this ambience rather than its balls and cabarets.”
Scène de rue à Montmartre is one of more than 200 paintings made by the Impressionist during his time in Paris, according to the Vincent van Gogh Gallery. The landscape is expected to sell for between $6 million and $9.7 million (€5 million to €8 million)—a hefty price tag, but nowhere near the “mega sums” fetched by works produced when the artist was in an asylum in Saint-Rémy-de-Provence, van Gogh scholar Martin Bailey tells BBC News. One such painting, Laboureur dans un champ (1889), sold at Christie’s in 2017 for $81.3 million.
“But until the hammer goes down, one obviously never knows what will happen at an auction,” Bailey says. “There is now a great deal of interest in van Gogh in the Far East, so the van Gogh market is truly global.”
But van Gogh’s painting is undoubtedly the star of the show.
As Vandevoorde and co-senior director Etienne Hellman say in the statement, “The appearance on the market of a work of this caliber and from such an iconic series is undoubtedly a major event, and indeed opportunity, for both collectors of the artist and the art market more widely.”