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The Potato Peeler (reverse: Self-Portrait with a Straw Hat)

Vincent van Gogh (Dutch, Zundert 1853–1890 Auvers-sur-Oise)

Oil on canvas
16 x 12 1/2 in. (40.6 x 31.8 cm)
Credit Line:
Bequest of Miss Adelaide Milton de Groot (1876–1967), 1967
Accession Number:
  • Gallery Label

    This painting from February/March 1885, with its restricted palette of dark tones, coarse facture, and blocky drawing, is typical of the works Van Gogh painted in Nuenen the year before he left Holland for France. His peasant studies of 1885 culminated in his first important painting, The Potato Eaters (Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam).

  • Provenance

    private collection, Asnières (possibly comtesse Clara Levaillant de La Boissière and her daughter Eugénie Jeanne Levaillant de La Boissière, Asnières, later elsewhere), gift of the artist ca. 1887–88; sold by 1927, reportedly through an intermediary, to Charpentier; [Galerie Charpentier, Paris, until 1927; sold through Bogdanoff to Bammann]; [Galerie Hans Bammann, Düsseldorf, from 1927; cat., 1927, ill.]; [Justin K. Thannhauser, Berlin and New York]; Adelaide Milton de Groot, New York (by 1936–d. 1967; on loan to MMA, 1936)

  • Exhibition History

    New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Van Gogh as Critic and Self-Critic," October 30, 1973–January 6, 1974, no. 1a.

    New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Vincent van Gogh: The Drawings," October 12–December 31, 2005, not in catalogue.

  • References

    Vincent van Gogh. Letter to his brother Theo. [on or about May 20, 1888] [Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam, inv. nos. b529 a-c V/1962; pub. in Van Gogh Letters 1958, letter no. 489; Van Gogh Letters 2009, letter no. 611], mentions four small paintings that he has given or is planning to give to the comtesse de La Boissière, possibly including this picture.

    Alte Meister: Deutsche und Französische Kunst des 19. Jahrhunderts. Düsseldorf, 1927, unpaginated, as "Kartoffelschälerin"; mentions it as on the back of the self-portrait with a straw hat (MMA, 67.187.70a).

    J.-B. de La Faille. "Unbekannte Bilder von Vincent van Gogh." Der Cicerone 19 (February 1927), pp. 101–2, ill., states that it is at the Kunsthandlung Hans Bammann, Düsseldorf.

    J.-B. de La Faille. L'Oeuvre de Vincent van Gogh: Catalogue Raisonné. Paris, 1928, vol. 1, pp. 102–3, no. 365 verso; vol. 2, pl. C [100], states that it was in a private collection, Russia, before going to the Hans Bammann Gallery in Düsseldorf.

    Ludwig Thormaelen. Letter to Hans Bammann. April 6, 1932 [see Ref. Dorn and Feilchenfeldt 1993], writes that there is no evidence against the attribution to Van Gogh.

    Harry B. Wehle. "A Loan of Paintings." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 31 (October 1936), p. 209.

    Walther Vanbeselaere. De Hollandsche Periode (1880–1885) in het Werk van Vincent van Gogh (1853–1890). Antwerp, 1937, p. 362, states that the model is the same woman seated at the right in "The Potato Eaters" (F77; Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam).

    J.-B. de La Faille. Vincent van Gogh. London, [1939], pp. 89, 559, 579, 587, no. 87, ill., dates it to the Nuenen period.

    Harry B. Wehle. "The de Groot Collection." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 6 (June 1948), p. 269.

    J. G. van Gelder. De Aardappeleters van Vincent van Gogh. Amsterdam, 1949, p. 9, calls it a study for "The Potato Eaters" in the Kröller-Müller Museum, Otterlo (F78).

    Vincent van Gogh. The Complete Letters of Vincent van Gogh with Reproductions of All the Drawings in the Correspondence. Greenwich, Conn., 1958, vol. 2, p. 568, under letter no. 489 (possibly this work).

    Fritz Erpel. Die Selbstbildnisse Vincent van Goghs. Berlin, 1963, p. 55, under no. 15 [English ed., "Van Gogh: The Self-Portraits," trans. Doris Edwards, Greenwich, Conn., [1969], p. 56, under no. 15].

    Paolo Lecaldano. "Da Etten a Parigi." L'opera pittorica completa di Van Gogh e i suoi nessi grafici. 1, repr. [1st ed., 1966]. Milan, 1977, pp. 100, 119, no. 119, ill., dates it February–March 1885 and calls it a study for "The Potato Eaters" (F77; Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam).

    J.-B. de La Faille. The Works of Vincent van Gogh: His Paintings and Drawings. Amsterdam, 1970, pp. 106, 170, 625, no. F365 recto, ill., dates it February–March 1885; substitutes the Charpentier Art Gallery, Paris, for the unknown Russian collector formerly included in the early provenance of the picture [see Ref. La Faille 1928], since this individual acted for the Charpentier Gallery.

    John Walsh Jr. Portrait of the Artist. Exh. cat., The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1972, p. 16, under no. 27, mentions it as a study for "The Potato Eaters".

    Matthias Arnold. "Duktus und Bildform bei Vincent van Gogh." PhD diss., Ruprecht-Karl University, Heidelberg, 1973, p. 192 n. 334.

    Anthony M. Clark in The Metropolitan Museum of Art: Notable Acquisitions, 1965–1975. New York, 1975, p. 86, ill.

    Jan Hulsker. The Complete Van Gogh: Paintings, Drawings, Sketches. [1st ed., Amsterdam, 1977]. New York, 1980, pp. 145, 150, 304, no. 654, ill., dates it to February 1885 on the basis of a passage in one of Van Gogh's letters (no. 395).

    Glenn Collins. "Is It or Isn't It? A Van Gogh Languishes in Limbo." New York Times (July 8, 1990), p. H31, ill.

    Roland Dorn and Walter Feilchenfeldt in "Genuine or Fake?—On the History and Problems of Van Gogh Connoisseurship." The Mythology of Vincent van Gogh. English ed. Tokyo, 1993, p. 296.

    Jan Hulsker. The New Complete Van Gogh: Paintings, Drawings, Sketches. rev. ed. Amsterdam, 1996, pp. 144, 152, 304, no. 654, ill. p. 145.

    Martin Bailey. "Cent Van Gogh remis en question." Journal des arts no. 39 (May 30, 1997), p. 25, discusses Feilchenfeldt's doubts concerning the authenticity of both sides of the painting, as well as Stein's defense of the work on stylistic grounds and her argument that the double-sided format is evidence for its authenticity.

    Martin Bailey. "At Least Forty-five Van Goghs May Well be Fakes." Art Newspaper 8 (July–August 1997), p. 23.

    Sjraar van Heugten. "Nuenen, 1883–1885." Vincent van Gogh, Drawings. 2, Amsterdam, 1997, p. 164, includes it in a series of drawings and paintings depicting women at work in the home, which he dates to March–April 1885 and which culminated in "The Potato Eaters".

    Louis van Tilborgh in "Dutch Period 1881–1885, Van Gogh Museum." Vincent van Gogh Paintings. 1, Amsterdam, 1999, p. 13 n. 43, pp. 14, 238.

    Susan Alyson Stein in Masterpieces of European Painting, 1800–1920, in The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 2007, pp. 168, 255, ill.

    Vincent van Gogh. Vincent van Gogh—The Letters. London, 2009, vol. 4, pp. 86–87 n. 3, under letter no. 611, identify it as possibly one of the four small paintings that Van Gogh mentions giving to the Countess de la Boissière.

  • Notes

    Van Gogh painted "The Potato Peeler" at Nuenen, The Netherlands, in February–March 1885. Later, in Paris, probably in 1887, he turned the canvas over and painted the "Self-portrait with a Straw Hat" on the other side.

  • See also