The gun believed to have been used by Dutch painter Vincent Van Gogh to shoot himself. Picture: CHESNOT / GETTY IMAGES
The gun believed to have been used by Dutch painter Vincent Van Gogh to shoot himself. Picture: CHESNOT / GETTY IMAGES

It’s a 7mm pocket revolver found buried in the ground at Auvers-sur-Oise in the south of France in 1960 by a farmer. It’s also the gun that many believe was used by artist Vincent Van Gogh to end his life by suicide at the same place in July of 1890.

Van Gogh officially died as a result of injuries from a self-inflicted wound sustained two days earlier on July 29 1890. The gun went on auction at Remy Le Fur & Associates this week and sold for about $181,600 (R2,579,736), significantly surpassing the auction house’s presale estimate of $44,900-$67,300.

Since its discovery, the gun has been exhibited by the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam and has been the subject of a forensic investigation which showed that the weapon had been in the ground since 1890 and that the calibre of the bullets matches those retrieved from the artist’s body.

That’s in spite of recent theories which have questioned whether Van Gogh actually killed himself, including the idea put forward in a recent Willem Dafoe-starring biopic directed by artist and filmmaker Julian Schnabel, At Eternity’s Gate, that the artist was in a peak period of creativity at the time and that his death was the result of a shot fired accidentally by two local boys who were playing with the weapon in a nearby field.

The auction house, while acknowledging the recent alternative theories of Van Gogh’s death, has pointed out that the weapon they sold could still be “the gun”, irrespective of whether it was fired by the artist or someone else.

It’s still not the highest price fetched for a gun related to a creative artist’s death — that record belongs to a weapon sold two years ago for $460,000, which was used by French writer Paul Verlaine in the attempted murder of his lover and fellow poet Arthur Rimbaud.