Van Gogh Masterwork Discovered in a Family's Attic

09/09/2013 at 11:30 AM EDT

Van Gogh Masterwork "Sunset at Montmajour" Discovered in a Family's Attic
Van Gogh Museum director Axel Ruger (left) and a security guard, with Vincent van Gogh's "Sunset at Montmajour"
Peter Dejong/AP
Talk about hitting pay dirt while cleaning the attic.

In the ultimate Antiques Roadshow discovery, Amsterdam's Van Gogh Museum announced Monday that it has identified, for the first time in its history, the first major new painting by Vincent Van Gogh, which had previously languished in an attic for decades.

"Sunset at Montmajour" was painted in 1888, when, at the peak of his powers, the artist created such masterpieces as "The Sunflowers," "The Yellow House" and "The Bedroom," The New York Times reports.

"Sunset at Montmajour" depicts dusk in Montmajour in Provence, an area that the artist explored while creating work "en plein air," or in nature. The newly discovered work shows the hilly landscape of the area, with wheat fields and the ruins of a Benedictine Abbey in the background.



According to The Times, the painting was owned by Vincent's brother, Theo, exhibited in Paris and sold to an art dealer, who then sold it to a Norwegian collector in 1908.

The Van Gogh Museum says the painting was "declared a fake" and the collector banished it to his attic, where it remained until the current owners purchased it from him. Today's advanced research was lauded as the major reason for reversing that claim.

While officials would not speculate on "Sunset at Montmajour"'s value, van Gogh's "Sunflowers," painted the same year, sold at a 1987 Christie's London auction for nearly $40 million.

The "new" work will debut Sept. 24 at the museum as part of its current exhibition, "Van Gogh at Work."

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