Thank you very much! Your discovery is fantastic!!!As you can imagine, I would like to know how you have found thisphotograph of Vincent van Gogh as well as il would be very interretingto read the text by Albert Harper, even if, looking at this photographI have no doubt: this man is Vincent him-self.Let me apologise if I didn't gave you an answer immediately, but I amin charge of an exhibition to be opened at the end of the month here inParis (MOI! autoportraits du XXe sicle or if you Prefer I, selfportraits of the last century.) This exhibition will present more than150 pieces. As you can imagine I am a little bit busyBut, one more time, thank you very much for this wonderful discovery.Best regardsPascal Bonafoux
However, while I was away at the AWP conference in Boston in early March, I received an intriguing e-mail from one Hazel Smith, a Canadian who lives in Toronto, who loves Van Gogh, and who has been following this photo controversy with interest. According to Hazel, the photographer whose name is clearly plastered across the face of the photograph in question--Victor Morin of "42 Rue St. Francois, St. Hyacinthe"--was not a 19th century Parisian but a 19th century Canadian! There is a Rue St. Francois in Paris, but, to quote Hazel, "There is only one St. Hyacinthe in the world, and that is in Quebec, Canada." To further make her point, Hazel attached a photo of a page from a Quebecois business directory from the late 1800s. The name Victor Morin is clearly apparent (as part of the team of Morin & Messier). And the address? 42 Rue St. Francois! (I don't know if readers can enlarge the photograph above, but if you do you will see Morin & Messier listed on the first column of the first page. If anybody's interested I can email you this photograph. Just contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.) This puts to rest any possibility that a French photographer took the picture in question. And since Vincent never lived outside of Europe--he never so much as took an excursion trip to the New World--it's impossible that Morin took his picture during a time that Vincent happened to find himself in Quebec. Did Morin travel to Paris and set up shop temporarily as a portrait photographer in that city and thus happen to get Vincent's business one afternoon? Now we seem to traveling farther and farther from the reasonable. First, one would need to prove that Morin took such a trip, and so far no such proof exists. Second, why would a photographer working in Paris affix a Quebecois address on a picture that he took? He's not likely to drum up a lot of business in Paris for his portrait studio in Quebec!
That fact that Victor Morin worked in North America and not Paris certainly does clear up one question I've had from the beginning: How did the album (which, by the way, includes mostly pictures of clergymen) containing this photograph find its way to an antiques shop in Massachusetts in the first place? If it originated in Quebec rather than Paris, the travel distance to Massachusetts gets significantly smaller. I'm afraid Occam's Razor shows us the clearest path to the truth in this situation. The least complicated explanation among the various competing explanations is that man in the photograph is not Vincent Van Gogh but an anonymous, nineteenth century citizen of Quebec who bears some resemblance to Van Gogh but can't really be regarded as identical. Someone who bears a passing resemblance to famous person--that's not exactly rare is it?