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Art’s famous weapon a blast on auction

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The rusty 7mm Lefaucheux revolver was sold by Auction Art at a sale in Paris.

The handgun that Vincent van Gogh, one of the most influential figures in the history of art, is believed to have used to commit suicide in 1890 has been auctioned for $183000 (over R2.5million).

The rusty 7mm Lefaucheux revolver was sold by Auction Art at a sale in Paris on July 9.

Although the auction house conceded it could not be completely certain that it was the gun used by the artist to take his life, it said there were several pieces of evidence that showed it had to be Van Gogh’s suicide gun.

“It was discovered where Van Gogh shot it; its calibre is the same as the bullet retrieved from the artist’s body as described by the doctor at the time; and scientific studies demonstrate that the gun had stayed in the ground since the 1890s,” Auction Art said in a statement prior to the sale.

The selling price was significantly higher than the pre-auction estimate of $67000.

A farmer found the gun in 1965 in the French village of Auvers-sur-Oise, in the same field in which Van Gogh is thought to have shot himself. He gave the weapon to the owners of an inn in the village and it was passed down in the family before being put up for auction.

Despite creating 2100 works of art with his bold colours and dramatic brushwork, the artist the neighbours called the “redheaded madman” was not commercially successful and his suicide at 37 followed years of mental illness and poverty.

Van Gogh also did not stage a great suicide. The bullet in his chest missed important internal organs and he walked home where he died, smoking his pipe, as no surgeon could be found in time to save him.

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