NEW YORK, FEB. 24 -- Yet another major Vincent van Gogh painting will go on the auction block, as Christie's today announced a May 11 evening sale of his "Portrait of Adeline Ravoux" and estimated it would bring more than $15 million.
The picture measures 29 inches high by 21 1/2 inches wide; its consignor was identified by a Christie's spokesman as a "private anonymous collector." It was last auctioned at Sotheby's in May 1980 for $1.98 million, and in 1966 at Christie's in London it sold for a now-modest $441,000.
Van Gogh painted the blond, 13-year-old daughter of his innkeeper at Auvers-sur-Oise, 1890, a month before he shot himself in the wheat fields he loved to paint. It is one of 70 pictures he executed in the last 70 days of his life. Surrounded by horizontal brush strokes of cobalt blue, the girl sits in outlined profile on a simple wood chair. Adeline Ravoux referred to the painting as a "symphony in blue."
According to her memoirs written in 1956, she and her family were particularly close to the painter. From the cafe' in the inn, they saw the mortally wounded van Gogh crawling toward them at nightfall that Sunday in July. Her portrait was among those displayed in his attic bedroom after his death. Adeline's father Gustave Arthur Ravoux contacted the painter's brother Theo in Paris after the shooting, and both men were at the artist's bedside when he died.
Van Gogh mistakenly thought Adeline was 16 when he wrote to his brother on June 24, 1890, about the portrait, possibly confused by the girl's robust figure. There are two other versions of Adeline, one at the Cleveland Museum of Art and the other in a private Swiss collection.
The auction of any van Gogh has become an event because of the staggering prices the last several have brought. Last November at Sotheby's New York, van Gogh's "Irises" fetched $53.9 million, the highest price ever paid for an artwork at auction. The buyer has yet to be identified. In June 1987, "The Bridge at Trinquetaille" sold at Christie's London for $20.2 million. "Sunflowers" sold at the same auction house that April to a Japanese insurance company for a then-astounding $39.9 million. "Landscape With Rising Sun" sold at Sotheby's New York in 1985 for a now-paltry $9.9 million.