Lot 18
  • 18

Vincent van Gogh

40,000,000 - 40,000,001 USD
Log in to view results
bidding is closed


  • Vincent van Gogh
  • L'AllĂ©e des Alyscamps
  • Oil on canvas
  • 36 1/8 by 28 7/8 in.
  • 91.7 by 73.5 cm


Marie & Joseph Ginoux, Arles

Henri Laget, Arles

Ambroise Vollard, Paris

Jack Aghion, Paris (by 1901 and sold: Hôtel Drouot, Paris, March 29, 1918, lot 13)

Galerie Bernheim Jeune, Paris

Paul Vallotton, Lausanne

Hans Mettler, St. Gallen, Switzerland (acquired from the above by 1918)

Mrs. A. Mettler Weber, Zollikon, Switzerland (by descent from the above)

Private collection (by descent from the above)

Sale: Christie's, New York, May 15, 1985, lot 25

Wildenstein & Co., Inc., New York (acquired at the above sale)

Private Collection, Japan

Sale: Christie’s, New York, November 4, 2003, lot 25

Acquired at the above sale by the present owner 


Paris, Galerie Bernheim Jeune, Exposition d'oeuvres de Vincent van Gogh, March 1901, no. 53

Berlin, Galerie Paul Cassirer, no. 40

Zürich, Kunsthaus, Vincent van Gogh, 1924, no. 40 (titled Graberstrasse in Arles)

Amsterdam, Stedelijk Museum, Stedelijke Tentoonstelling Vincent van Gogh en zijn Tijdgenoonten, 1930, no. 71, illustrated p. 15

Basel, Kunsthalle, Vincent van Gogh, 1947, no. 70, illustrated p. 26

Winterthur, Kunstmuseum, Europäische Meister, 1790 -1910, 1955, no. 102, illustrated p. 31

Schaffhausen, Museum zu Allerheiligen, Die Welt des Impressionismus, 1963, no. 52, illustrated in the catalogue

Tokyo, Wildenstein Tokyo Ltd., Masterpieces of European Painting, 1992, no. 13, illustrated in the catalogue

Chicago, The Art Institute and Amsterdam, Van Gogh Museum, Van Gogh and Gauguin: The Studio of the South, 2001- 02, illustrated in color p. 173 & p. 176

Paris, Musée d'Orsay, Van Gogh/Artaud, The Man Suicided by Society, 2014


Julius Meier-Graefe, Modern Art: Being a Contribution to a New System of Aesthetics, New York, 1904, vol. I, p. 120 (titled Chemin des tombeaux à Arles)

Théodore Duret, Vincent Van Gogh, Paris, 1924, pl. XXXI, illustrated

Hanna Kiel, "La collection Hans Mettler à Saint-Gall,” L'Amour de l'Art, vol. VIII, 1927, p. 231, illustrated, p. 230

Jacob-Baart de la Faille, L'oeuvre de Vincent van Gogh, vol. 1, Paris, 1928, no. 569, catalogued p. 161; vol. 2, illustrated, pl. CLV

John Rewald, "Van Gogh en Provence", L'Amour de l'Art, vol. XVII, 1936, illustrated p. 294

W Scherjon and Jos de Gruyter, Vincent van Gogh's Great Period: Arles, St. Rémy and Auver sur Oise, Amsterdam, 1937, no. 123, illustrated p.152

Jacob-Baart de la Faille, Vincent van Gogh, Paris, 1939, no. 552, illustrated p. 387

Jean Leymarie, Van Gogh, Paris, 1951, discussed p. 108

Henri Perruchot, "L'amitié de Gauguin et de Van Gogh," Le Jardin des Arts, 1957, no. 31, illustrated p. 415

The Complete Letters of Vincent van Gogh, London, 1958, vol. III, letter no.  B19a, mentioned p. 519

Abraham Marie Hammacher, A Detailed Catalogue with Full Documentation of 272 Works by Vincent Van Gogh Belonging to the Collection of the State, Museum Kröller-Müller, Otterlo, 1959, mentioned p. 81

Jacob-Baart de la Faille, The Works of Vincent van Gogh, His Paintings and Drawings, Amsterdam, 1970, no. F569, illustrated p. 238

Mark Roskill, Van Gogh, Gauguin and the Impressionist Circle, London, 1970, catalogued pp. 135-137 illustrated, p. 161 & pl. 109

Paolo Lecaldano, L'opera pittora completa di Van Gogh e i suoi nessi grafici, Milan, 1971, p. 215, no. 601, illustrated, p. 214

Jan Hulsker, The Complete Van Gogh, Paintings, Drawings, Sketches, New York, 1980, no. 1623, illustrated, p. 373

Bogomila Welsh-Ovcharov, Vincent Van Gogh and the Birth of Cloisonism (exhibition catalogue), Toronto, 1981, illustrated pp. 140-141

Ronald Pickvance, Van Gogh in Arles (exhibition catalogue), The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 1984, illustrated p. 199

Haruo Arikawa, Vincent van Gogh exhibition (exhibition catalogue), National Museum of Western Art, Tokyo, 1985, illustrated p. 186

Claire Freches-Thory, The Art of Paul Gauguin (exhibition catalogue), Washington, D.C., 1988, illustrated p. 112.

Johannes van der Wolk, Roland Pickvance and E.B.F. Pey, Vincent van Gogh, Drawings (exhibition catalogue), New York, 1990, illustrated p. 20

Roland Dorn, Décoration: Vincent van Goghs Werkreihe für das Gelbe Haus in Arles, Hildesheim, 1990, illustrated pp. 439 & 442

Giovanni  Testori and Luisa Arrigoni, Van Gogh: Catalogo completo dei dipinti, Florence, 1990, no. 589, illustrated in color, p.265

Ingo F. Walther and Rainer Metzger, Vincent van Gogh: The Complete Paintings, vol. II, Cologne, 1993, catalogued p. 443, illustrated in color p. 447

Jan Hulsker, The New Complete Van Gogh, Paintings, Drawings, Sketches, Philadelphia, 1996, no. 1623, illustrated pp. 368, 370 & 373

Bogomila Welsh-Ovcharov , Van Gogh in Provence and Auvers, New York, 1999, illustrated in color p. 98

Debora Silverman, Van Gogh and Gauguin, The Search for Sacred Art, New York, 2000, mentioned pp. 200-201, 401 & 413, illustrated in color p. 202

Walter Feilchenfeldt, Vincent van Gogh, The Years in France, Complete Paintings 1886-1890, London, 2013, illustrated in color p. 170

Leo Jansen, Hans Luijten and Nienke Bakkers (eds.), Vincent van Gogh. The letters, at http://vangoghletters.org/vg/, letters 716, note 5, letter 765, note 29


This work is in very good condition. The textured burlap canvas is lined. The surface retains a rich and textured impasto throughout. Aside from two spots of retouching in the blue sky above center and one small area at the lower right corner, visible only under UV light, this work is in very good condition.
In response to your inquiry, we are pleased to provide you with a general report of the condition of the property described above. Since we are not professional conservators or restorers, we urge you to consult with a restorer or conservator of your choice who will be better able to provide a detailed, professional report. Prospective buyers should inspect each lot to satisfy themselves as to condition and must understand that any statement made by Sotheby's is merely a subjective qualified opinion.

Catalogue Note

A majestic allée at the peak of its autumnal splendor is the subject of Van Gogh's magnificent L'Allée des Alyscamps, his Arles-period painting from November 1, 1888.  This was the very moment in Van Gogh's career when his most legendary expressions of great beauty and exuberance were captured on canvas.  Works such as Sunflowers, Self-Portrait, L'Arlesienne, the Night Café, The Sower and the postman Monsieur Roulin were all brilliantly realized with unparalleled creative force during this period, and the unrestrained passion of this artistic genius was at its apotheosis.  For two months during the fall of 1888 Van Gogh painted in the company of his close friend Paul Gauguin, who had come to the south of France for a shared artistic experiment known as the Studio of the South.  The artists would set up their easels side-by-side or back-to-back, tackling what are now some of the most famous subjects of their careers.  Their first shared experience to this end was a series of views of lovers strolling through Alyscamps, the ancient "Elysian Fields" just outside the walls of the city.  With its lush scenery, historic importance and romantic undertones the location was an irresistible starting point, resulting in four major oils by Van Gogh and two by Gauguin.  Over the passing weeks conflicts increasingly arose between the two artists, with the simmering tension ultimately resulting in Van Gogh's violent breakdown at the end of the year.  But the present work, created during those exciting first days of their time together, presents the glorious product of Van Gogh's ambitious undertaking.

The scene depicted here is the central thoroughfare of the Alyscamps, one of the most famous Roman burial grounds in all of Europe.  During the prime of Caesar's reign Arles was an important imperial outpost, boasting a stately amphitheater modeled after the Colosseum.  Alyscamps was central to city life, as it served as the great necropolis for the nobility of the empire and would later be a coveted Christian burial ground throughout Middle Ages.  Over the centuries Alyscamps was pillaged by the locals for building materials, souvenirs and museum displays, and the shaded ruins became an ideal setting for lovers' rendez-vous.  Much romanticized by 19th century Romantic writers, Alyscamps was well-known to artists during Van Gogh's time, and his choice to paint here would have been a foregone conclusion for any artist spending time in Arles.

In Van Gogh's depiction here, the ruins of  Romanesque sarcophagi are visible down the tree-lined promenade known as the Allée des Tombeaux, now a popular lovers' lane and parade ground for fashionable and single Arlesiennes of questionable virtue. ""The street girl is as much a lady as any other and looks as virginal as a Juno," Gauguin marveled after his first day on site.  Aside from its historic importance and illicit allure, Alyscamps offered an accessible place for tourists and locals to experience the tranquility and beauty of the Provençale countryside.  On October 29th, both artists completed views of the grounds, with Gauguin focusing on three women walking alongside the canal with the bell tower of the 12th century church of St. Honorat in the background.  Van Gogh, however, situated himself in the middle of the allée, painting the smokestacks of the railway workshop across the canal on the left and the archway of the church in the distance, while the ruins of ancient crypts flank a solitary couple taking a romantic stroll.  Two days later, on the Feast of All Saints', the artists returned to the allée, depicting the colorful foliage in all of its splendor.   Gauguin positioned his easel at the end of the promenade at the portico of the church, and Van Gogh looked down the dramatic allée towards the direction of Saint-Accurse chapel to paint the present picture.

L'allée des Alyscamps presents a more formal schematization and vastly grander perspective than did the one Van Gogh had painted two days earlier. While slightly larger in size, this second composition presents a vertical alignment of trees that creates an illusion of profound depth and frames the sky so that it appears to be a giant funnel lifting into the heavens.  All Saints' Day would have been a popular one to stroll through the  grounds of the sacred cemetery, Van Gogh captures the visitors as they walk from the church.  Figures appear in motion down the great expanse of the promenade, with the rhythm of their gate reverberating in the colored patches along the pathway.  In a letter to Bernard written on November 2, the artist described his Alyscamps picture as a "study of the whole avenue, entirely yellow." 

Van Gogh described the support on which he painted to be "burlap," but recent scholarship suggests that it is actually rough jute.  He and Gauguin had purchased this material in bulk and primed themselves, and Van Gogh used it for the first time for this picture.   Both artists were fascinated by the visual effect that the coarse surface lent to their compositions, and they exploited this property differently in their works.  Whereas Gauguin painted with thinner layers of paint that allowed the texture of the weave to appear more clearly, Van Gogh applied his paint impulsively and with thick slashes, building up the surface texture dramatically in areas and allowing colors to blend more fluidly.

But these different approaches to painting on jute became a point of debate, sowing the seeds for future conflicts between the two artists.  Writing to Émile Bernard in mid-November, Gauguin alluded to his lack of compatibility with his partner, taking issue with the very manner by which he paints: "In general, Vincent and I agree on very few topics, and especially not on painting...  He appreciates the hazards of thick paint as Monticelli uses it, whereas I detest any form of tampering by brushwork" (R. Brettell, op. cit., p. 113).  Van Gogh criticized Gauguin's highly controlled painterly style, which he believed was at the expense of authentic creative expression.  "Aren't we seeking intensity of thought rather than tranquility of touch?" he lamented.  "Under the conditions of working spontaneously, on the spot, and given the character of it, is a calm, well-regulated touch always possible?  Goodness gracious - as little, it seems to me, as during an assault in a fencing match (quoted in D. Silverman, op.cit., p.206)."  This last quip was apparently a thinly-veiled attack on Gauguin, who prided himself at being an accomplished fencer and was a believer that "the head, always the head" should prevail in painting.  Van Gogh, however, prided himself on the frenetic pace of his execution, and the slow and meticulous pace of his companion, who often completed his paintings within the studio, were antithetical to this approach.  In due time, the artists' ideological differences would send them on different courses, with Gauguin deciding to leave France for the South Pacific. The anxiety caused by Gauguin's scheduled departure, among other things, prompted Van Gogh to commit the legendary act of self-mutilation that December, which sent him to the hospital in Saint-Remy for a period of recovery.  But the present picture, created at the "honeymoon" phase of the Arles period, evidences the joyous expressive power that Van Gogh possessed at the beginning of this most important collaboration.  

In the days following his completion of the present composition, Van Gogh would go on to paint two other depictions of jute of Alyscamps, but in horizontal format. These pictures, both entitled Falling Leaves, would hang in Gauguin's room at the quarters the two men shared at the Yellow House and signified their important collaboration.  The present work, however remained with Mme Marie Ginoux, the beloved innkeeper at the Yellow House and the model for L'Arlesienne.  The picture then came into possession of Henri Laget, the editor of a journal called Provence artistique.  Laget sold this picture, as well as several others left with Mme Ginoux, to Ambroise Vollard.  Isaac (Jack) Aghion, the husband of Marguerite Bernheim, acquired the picture, presumably from Vollard, by 1901 and was sold at his Estate sale in 1918, when it was presumably purchased by his in-laws at Galerie Bernheim Jeune. Paul Vallotton, the art dealer and brother of the Nabis artist Felix Vallotton later acquired the picture for his private collection, and then it was acquired by Hans Mettler (1876-1945) and remained with his family until it was sold at auction in 1985.