There are two authentic versions of this portrait, both created in June 1890 during the last months of Van Gogh’s life. Both show Doctor Gachet sitting at a table and leaning his head onto his right arm, but they are easily discernible by the books on the table in the earlier version.
The portraits were painted in Auvers-sur-Oise, close to Paris, and depict Doctor Paul Gachet with a foxglove plant. Gachet took care of van Gogh during the artist’s last months. Gachet was a hobby painter and he became good friends with van Gogh. The foxglove in the painting is a plant from which digitalis is extracted for the treatment of certain heart complaints; the foxglove is thereby an attribute of Gachet as a doctor.
“I’ve done the portrait of Dr. Gachet with a melancholy expression, which might well seem like a grimace to those who see it… Sad but gentle, yet clear and intelligent, that is how many portraits ought to be done… They are modern heads that may be looked at for a long time, and that may perhaps be looked back on with longing a hundred years later.”
This painting, however, since the sale in May 1990, never turned up at auctions ever again. At that time the painting was sold to Ryoei Saito for $82.5 million. Unfortunately, Saito couldn’t enjoy his masterpiece for long. A few hours after he bought the painting he died. Rumors say that the painting was cremated with the owner.. Such a waste!
Current Location: Musée d’Orsay, Paris, France