At Christie's auction house in New York, a painting by Van Gogh is expected to be sold for more than $ 40 million, as part of the Impressionist and Modern Art Evening Sale, at New York's Rockefeller Center on May 2.
The painting is called Madame Ginoux, a woman from Arles and is part of a series of five paintings by the Dutch artist, which pay homage to the artist Paul Gauguin.
The chiseled face of Madame Ginoux, the proprietress of the Café de la Gare in Arles, France, which Van Gogh frequented on and off until his suicide in 1890, is one of the more recognizable figures in art history. Gaugain also lived in Arles for a brief time and used to go to the same café as van Gogh.
During this period when van Gogh and Gaugain lived in the same French town, the Dutch painter is famously known to have cut off a piece of his ear. While recovering in an asylum in France's most beautiful county, the artist created the Madame Ginoux masterpiece.
Writing to Gauguin in 1890, Van Gogh said of his work: "It gives me enormous pleasure when you say the Arlesienne's portrait, which was based strictly on your drawing, is to your liking. I tried to be respectfully faithful to your drawing, while nevertheless taking the liberty of interpreting, through the medium of colour, the sober character and the style of the drawing in question. It is a synthesis of the Arlesiennes, if you like; as syntheses of the Arlesiennes are rare, take this as a work belonging to you and me as a summary of our months of work together."
The painting has a distinguished past, having been part of the Bakwin Collection since 1929. Dr. Harry Bakwin, a New York pediatrician and his wife, Dr. Ruth Morris Bakwin, also a pediatrician, was an heir to the Chicago meat-packing fortunes of the Armour and Swift families. The couple began collecting shortly after their marriage in Paris in 1925, buying extraordinary paintings by artists who were by then already considered Modern masters: Van Gogh, Matisse and Cézanne. Harry Bakwin died in 1973 and when Ruth Bakwin died 12 years later, Sotheby's held a sale of works from her estate, which included several seminal pieces by Matisse, Corot and Rodin. So the fact that Edwin M. Bakwin, their son, chose Christie's instead of Sotheby's to sell his Van Gogh is a coup for Guy Bennett, who was promoted to run Christie's Impressionist and Modern art department in November.