I’ve always thought of Vincent Van Gogh as a permanently troubled artist I had no idea that in the final weeks before committing suicidet he painted a set of child portraits that radiate the optimism and purity of youth. One of these works is to go on sale. L'Enfant à l'Orange (The Child with an Orange) will be offered at the European Fine Art Fair in Maastricht next month for £15.3m. It has been placed on the market by the Swiss couple, Arthur and Hedy Hahnloser, who bought it in 1916.
The portrait is of Raoul Levert, the baby son of a local carpenter, was painted at the end of June 1890 at the Auberge Ravoux in Auvers where he had been a lodger. It was during a brief period of contentment before depression and mental illness led him to shoot himself in the chest the following month.
Van Gogh had spent a year in a mental hospital before moving to Auvers in May 1890. He was apparently ecstatic at being in a new environment and in a space of just 70 days he painted more than 80 works. The portraits he worked on during these last weeks included several pictures of children.
Raoul Levert is shown wearing the traditional child's smock of the time in L'Enfant à l'Orange, with a broad smile in soft and vibrant colours. The identity of the child was confirmed by the late Adeline Ravoux, the daughter of the innkeeper, who was photographed standing next to Raoul outside the Auberge Ravoux in 1890.