Missing Fine Art: Portrait of Dr. Gachet by Vincent Van Gogh
Portrait of Dr. Gachet is one of the most revered paintings by the Dutch artist Vincent van Gogh. It depicts Dr. Paul Gachet who took care of Van Gogh during the final months of his life. First sold in 1897 by Van Gogh’s sister-in-law for 300 francs, the painting was subsequently bought and sold until being acquired by Siegfried Kramarsky, who fled to Lisbon in November 1939 and arrived January 1940 in New York.
Kramarsky’s family put the painting up for auction at Christie’s New York on May 15, 1990, where it became famous for Ryoei Saito, honorary chairman of Daishowa Paper Manufacturing Co., paid US$82.5 million for it ($75 million, plus a 10 percent buyer’s commission), making it then the world’s most expensive painting.
The 75-year-old Japanese businessman briefly caused a scandal when he said he would have the Van Gogh painting cremated with him after his death, though his aides later said Saito’s threatening to burn the masterpiece was just an expression of intense affection for it.
Though he later said he would consider giving the painting to the Japanese government or a museum, no information has been made public about the exact location and ownership of the portrait since his death in 1996. Reports in 2007 said the painting was sold a decade earlier to the Austrian-born investment fund manager Wolfgang Flöttl. Flöttl, in turn, had reportedly been forced by financial reversals to sell the painting to parties as yet unknown.
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