By Stacey Leasca
January 21, 2020
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Vincent van Gogh fans can breathe a little easier, as a controversial self-portrait of the painter has finally been authenticated.

On Monday, art experts declared that the self-portrait of the artist, which hangs inside Amsterdam's Van Gogh Museum, is the real deal.

The authenticity of the masterpiece has long been questioned, as it happened to be painted in the summer of 1889 while Van Gogh was in an asylum in Saint-Remy, France, for psychosis, the BBC reported.

To authenticate the piece, the museum sent it over to Dutch art experts, who took X-rays of the work as well as studied the canvas, the brush strokes, and several reference letters Van Gogh wrote to his brother, Theo, during the time of the alleged painting.

"The Oslo self-portrait depicts someone who is mentally ill," museum officials explained to The Guardian. "His timid, sideways glance is easily recognizable and is often found in patients suffering from depression and psychosis."

According to The Guardian, officials were finally able to label the painting as a genuine piece after discovering a letter Van Gogh wrote to his brother while in the asylum. In the letter, Van Gogh alluded to a self-portrait “attempt from when I was ill.”

“He probably painted this portrait to reconcile himself with what he saw in the mirror: a person he did not wish to be, yet was,” Louis van Tilborgh, a senior researcher at the museum and professor of art history at the University of Amsterdam, told The Guardian. “This is part of what makes the painting so remarkable and even therapeutic. It is the only work that Van Gogh is known for certain to have created while suffering from psychosis.”

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The painting, Van Tilborgh explained, became controversial after it was discovered that the artist used a palette knife to flatten the paint — something which Van Gogh was not known for. But this move, Van Tilborgh said, was deliberate.

“He uses it often and there is another picture where he has used it to suppress the liveliness of the surface, it’s only strange that he has used it for the face,” Van Tilborgh said.

The painting is now on display at the Van Gogh Museum. However, it will soon return to Oslo and go on display at the Nasjonalmuseet as part of a permanent collection in 2021.