Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Trivia: Attic Finds


Attic find #1: a Van Gogh

Sunset at Montmajour

Sunset at Montmajour is a landscape in oils painted by the Dutch artist Vincent van Gogh on July 4, 1888. It was painted while the artist was at Arles, France and depicts a landscape with the ruins of Montmajour Abbey in the background.

Not having been signed by Van Gogh, the work was dismissed by experts as a fake. Thereafter it was kept in an attic and in 1990 was again identified as a fake by staff at the Van Gogh Museum. In 2013, having using improved investigative techniques and technology, the museum declared it genuine and put it on display.

Van Gogh had described the work in a letter to his brother Theo:
"Yesterday, at sunset, I was on a stony heath where very small, twisted oaks grow, in the background a ruin on the hill, and wheatfields in the valley. It was romantic, it couldn’t be more so, à la Monticelli, the sun was pouring its very yellow rays over the bushes and the ground, absolutely a shower of gold. And all the lines were beautiful, the whole scene had a charming nobility. You wouldn’t have been at all surprised to see knights and ladies suddenly appear, returning from hunting with hawks, or to hear the voice of an old Provençal troubadour. The fields seemed purple, the distances blue. And I brought back a study of it too, but it was well below what I’d wished to do."
The painting had been kept by the owner in a Norwegian attic and is the first discovery of a full-sized Van Gogh canvas since 1928. The owner is now much wealthier but wants to remain anonymous.

I personally think it's a pretty poor van Gogh and I dislike the colours.


Attic Find #2: an original Superman comic

Talking of things discovered in attics. Back in 2010 a US couple whose business had failed were packing their belongings to vacate their home, the bank having taken the property for sale. In the attic were about 50 boxes of comics, virtually all valueless. But for one. That was an original No 1 Action Comics book dated June 1938, the one that introduced Superman. In good condition, it sold for $1.5m.

Attic Find #3: Hitler’s record collection

In 1945, Lew Besymenski, a captain in Russia's military intelligence unit, and two other officers went to the recently captured Reich Chancellery in Berlin, the headquarters of the Nazi party. Besymenski's comrades souvenired silverware engraved with Hitler's initials; Besymenski, a music lover, found that behind some steel doors with special locks were boxes filled with personal belongings awaiting transfer to Hitler's mountain fortress in southern Germany. The boxes were filled with household goods and personal items such as Hitler's records. Hitler, like Besymenski, was also a music lover who attended the opera daily while he lived in Vienna. 

Besymesnki took the records as his souvenir and kept them in his attic, where his granddaughter came across them in 1991. He confided that he had taken them because of his passion about music but had kept it secret because he did not want to be seen as a thief and ransacker of the dead, even if the deceased was on A Hitler.

When Besymenski died in 2007 at the age of 86, his daughter disclosed the record collection and the story behind it.

One final surprise: amongst the records taken by Besymenski (himself a Jew) were records featuring works by Peter Tchaikovsky, Alexander Borodin and Sergei Rachmaninoff, persons who had been categorised and laelled by the Nazis as “subhuman”.

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