Elizabeth Taylor’s Van Gogh Goes for Millions at Auction

Mike Krumboltz
Movie Talk

Say this for Elizabeth Taylor: She had great taste. Masterpieces by Vincent Van Gogh, Camille Pissarro, and Edgar Degas from her private collection were auctioned off at Christie's in London for millions. The oil paintings were expected to fetch around than $13 million. It turns out that estimate was a wee bit low. All told, the three paintings brought in over $21 million.

While each is a masterpiece and worth a fortune on its own, the fact that they belonged to the late Hollywood icon added a tidy premium to the final cost.

Of Taylor's three paintings up for auction, the Van Gogh brought in the most money. The Dutch master's "Vue de L'Asile de la Chapelle de Saint-Rémy" was painted in 1889 in Saint-Rémy. The painting came to Taylor through her father, who bought it at auction in 1963. According to the U.K.'s Guardian, Taylor's father paid $146,000, then a relatively modest sum. It ended up selling for an astounding $15,961,211, well above even the most ambitious estimate.

The Guardian interviewed Giovanna Bertazzoni, head of impressionist and modern art at Christie's. He remarked that Taylor's Van Gogh is "beautiful and very jolly, but it's got an intense tragic element. It's a view of the asylum where Van Gogh confined himself before killing himself six months later. It's the first time he was allowed out in the fields after six months in a cell, so he's drunk with joy and colour and happiness. There is also an element of tragic humanity which she empathised with."

News of the auction inspired renewed Web interest in Van Gogh. Over the past several hours, online lookups for "vincent van gogh" jumped 50% on Yahoo!.

This isn't the first time some of Taylor's possessions have been auctioned off. Late last year, some of her jewels, film memorabilia, and personal possessions were auctioned for more than $156 million, a total that far exceeded even the most ambitious projections.