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    Sale 7590

    Valuable Manuscripts and Printed Books

    4 June 2008, London, King Street

  • Lot 153

    VAN GOGH, Vincent (1853-1890). Autograph manuscript in English and Dutch, transcripts of two poems, n.d. [?1877], comprising on the verso Longfellow's poem 'Afternoon in February', six stanzas of four lines each, and on the recto a fragment of unidentified religious verse in Dutch, 29 lines in 8-line stanzas, 2 pages, 97 x 67mm, cut from a larger leaf, evidently from one of Van Gogh's commonplace books.

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    Estimate

    VAN GOGH, Vincent (1853-1890). Autograph manuscript in English and Dutch, transcripts of two poems, n.d. [?1877], comprising on the verso Longfellow's poem 'Afternoon in February', six stanzas of four lines each, and on the recto a fragment of unidentified religious verse in Dutch, 29 lines in 8-line stanzas, 2 pages, 97 x 67mm, cut from a larger leaf, evidently from one of Van Gogh's commonplace books.

    'The day is ending
    The night is descending
    The marsh is frozen
    The river dead

    Through clouds like ashes
    The red sun flashes
    On village windows
    That glimmer red ...

    Shadows are trailing
    My heart is bewailing
    And toiling [sic] within
    Like a funeral bell'.

    The combination of Longfellow's gloomy nocturne (with its appealing visual effects) and the religious verse in Dutch ('As a shield and buckler Your truth is offered to me ... Because His soul loves me dearly That is why God allowed Himself to come here') grants us an striking insight into Van Gogh's spiritual preoccupations. Van Gogh had a good knowledge of English from his period in England in 1873-6; the present fragment may well date from just after his return to Holland, when reluctantly he worked for six months in a bookshop in Dordrecht, and is said to have passed much of the time in the back of the shop engaged in transcriptions and translations. His letters to Theo at this time are full of transcriptions of religious verse similar to the present example, and indeed he sent him a transcription of Longfellow's 'The Light of the Star' on 26 February 1877 (see The Complete Letters of Vincent van Gogh (1978)).


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