April 17, 2024

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The painting in Ghent reveals the secret: it was not Van Gogh but the art student who painted the “self-portrait” in the 1990s

The painting in Ghent reveals the secret: it was not Van Gogh but the art student who painted the “self-portrait” in the 1990s

The story of the alleged van Gogh in the home of Hannes Verkamer and Laure Perem reads like a detective story. The couple made this discovery during renovation work. Behind the plaster wall appeared something resembling a self-portrait of the master.

Verkammer and Perem – and the children – hoped it was an authentic work by Van Gogh, and turned to experts. They received no response and took their story to VRT NWS. Hopes were dashed when Ghent University proved that the paint did not date back to the time of Van Gogh, but was more modern. So the work is newer.

The pieces of the puzzle fall together after Chris Van Elsen's testimony and a golden tip from De Gentenard.

Daughter of a Ghent hairdresser who studied art

“I lived in this house in the early 1990s,” says Chris Van Elsen. “I rented it with a good friend, Frank. The house was in a fairly dilapidated state. Two friends suggested adding some artistic decorations. They painted the walls and decorated the ceiling with a sky full of real stars.”

“I remember Ingrid, one of the women, painted a Van Gogh in the basement. After all these years I've forgotten her last name. She studied art and was the daughter of a hairdresser from Gentbruegge.” The location Van Elsen describes is correct. The work hangs in a place where there used to be a corridor.

“We didn't hide the painting, we left it there. The house was neglected. I think the owner renovated it and it ended up behind the wall.” The timing is right. The house was sold in 1993, and the new owner was unaware of the painting.

“It was a distant memory.”

Finding the woman proved to be an impossible task. Until she reports to De Gentenard. “It was my son who convinced me to go out with it,” says Ingrid Mosenbrock.

“When the news broke, I was in Milan with the students,” Mosenbrock says. She now teaches art education. “I missed it and heard it from my father. I told the story once. When I saw the pictures, it all came back again.”

I painted it one afternoon, after getting a little bored with the face

Ingrid Mussenbrock, the woman who painted Van Gogh's self-portrait

“Anushka was one of my best friends at the time. She was Chris's girlfriend. We actually renovated the house. I don't know why I chose Van Gogh, I thought it was a cute gimmick at the time.”

Mussenbrock remembers that after a few hours she got tired of drawing. “I started with the face, but I finished rough. I got tired of it. I remember we had a glass of wine afterwards.”

“It's great that this mystery has been solved.”

“It's incredible that this problem has been resolved. We really didn't expect it. The many question marks are now gone. It's nice to have a conclusion. It's a beautiful story and beautiful work,” he says. Hans Verkammer.

The Verkammer-Bertrim family, Ingrid Mussenbruck and Vincent van Gogh

© VRT NWS – Ward Shoppe

Daughters Lou and Zazza have to put their dreams aside. “I'm glad we finally know who drew it. It's a story I'll never forget. The mystery has been solved. That's the most important thing!”

The painting will remain where it is in the family's parents' bedroom. “Ingrid and her students are certainly welcome to come and have a look again, but preferably during office hours,” Hans says with a laugh.

The work has now also been signed, more than 30 years later

© VRT NWS – Ward Shoppe

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