The art establishment has rejected them as fakes. But six drawings of well-known Arles landmarks bought for a song go on display in Paris this month as authentic works of Vincent Van Gogh.
Slightly yellowed by time, the charcoal and black chalk drawings surfaced three years ago in an antique shop outside that southern city.
“They were on the floor, fanned out because the frame was too small,” recalled Francesco Plateroti, the Italian collector who purchased the drawings for about $80. “The signature, Vincent, wasn’t visible.”
Plateroti believes the drawings once decorated Van Gogh’s room and surmises they vanished after the artist, who suffered from dementia and died in 1890, was confined to a hospital.
“The drawings probably were put into a drawer, and forgotten when his room was cleaned out,” Plateroti told reporters Wednesday.
The art world thinks otherwise.
“Obvious fakes,” sniffed the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam when the story broke in 1992. For the Orsay Museum of 19th-century art in Paris, the drawings were “childish.”
That did not deter Plateroti, who gave up his business dealings in real estate and tourism to work full-time on proving that the drawings are the real McCoy.
He plunged into Van Gogh’s correspondence with his brother Theo, and discovered dozens of references to the drawings - and most important - to the faces of artists such as Gauguin and Petrarch which he camouflaged behind the bucolic scenes.
X-rays of “Le Chateau de Tarascon,” and “Le Pont de Gleizes” reveal outlines of Van Gogh’s selfportraits worked into the drawings. Today, they are practically invisible to the naked eye.
Armed with a certificate of authenticity handed down by the Paris police laboratory, Plateroti plans to take on the skeptics in a worldwide, money-making tour.
He said he said he does not know how much the drawings are worth because they are not for sale. But he charges the equivalent of $10,000 for a two-week show.
“I have a police expert authenticating the drawings,” he said. “Now it’s up to somebody else to prove they’re fakes.”
Police experts analyzed the paper on which the drawings were executed and the art materials used. They also scrutinized the subject matter and themes, the use of perspective and the artist’s technique before deciding, in a report, to “authenticate these drawings as by the hand of Vincent Van Gogh.”
The Van Gogh Museum has not changed its position.
“We think that the drawings are not real, but Mr. Plateroti can do what he wants with them,” spokeswoman Rianne Norbart said in a telephone interview.
“Our experts were not convinced by his theories, but we are very interested in these drawings. We see fakes every day and it’s important for our experts to see what’s going on out there,” Norbart said.