The gun believed to have been used by Dutch painter Vincent Van Gogh to take his own life was sold at the Drouot auction house in Paris.
The unnamed buyer bought the corroded 7mm caliber Lefaucheux revolver for about $182,000. The gun’s trigger is pulled back, frozen in place, some think cementing the moment in which it would have dropped from Van Gogh’s grasp.
Its purchase has reignited the debate over whether Van Gogh died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound.
In 1960, the weapon was found by a farmer in the French village of Auvers-sur-Oise, just north of Paris, reports NPR’s Eleanor Beardsley. It is there that Van Gogh is widely believed to have shot himself in the chest.
For years experts have questioned the theory of Van Gogh’s death, pointing to the uncertainty of the angle of the shot, the disappearance of evidence and the long trek the wounded Van Gogh would have made back to the inn before he died two days later in the hospital. Some researchers argue that Van Gogh was accidentally shot by two young boys playing with a gun near him.
Members of the family that once owned the inn where Van Gogh stayed decided to put the weapon up for sale after it was featured in a 2016 exhibit at Amsterdam’s Van Gogh Museum, in which the artist’s decline into mental illness was the focus, reports The Associated Press.
Van Gogh was long known to have a turbulent emotional life, plagued by bouts of unpredictable illnesses that would hinder him from working for days and weeks at a time. After he cut off his entire ear, neighbors reportedly petitioned to have him committed.
When Van Gogh lived with his brother Theo, an art dealer, he was introduced to the works of impressionist artists. Van Gogh’s work would be influenced by Claude Monet, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Georges Seurat and Paul Gauguin. Having witnessed a new form of painting, he tried mirroring their techniques by swapping out his dark palette for short brush strokes, according to the Van Gogh Gallery.
In 1888 Van Gogh left Theo’s home and moved to the south of France, where he rented rooms in the Yellow House in Arles. His dream of building an artists’ colony where he welcomed friends to stay wasn’t as successful as he’d hoped. Paul Gauguin was the only artist to join him. Van Gogh was highly productive during this period and spent a lot of time working in his studio.
Ultimately, frequent disagreements about art ensued between Van Gogh and Gauguin. As tensions grew, the distraught Van Gogh suffered from a mental breakdown, many say resulting in the now infamous story of his rived ear. This was one of several severe breakdowns that haunted him until he died.
Van Gogh painted about 70 works of art in the two months before his death on July 29, 1890.