Vincent van Gogh notebook: Is it real?

Who could have imagined that a Greek woman could have caused such a stir in the international press and the Van Gogh Museum? The first to break the news was the BBC’s Greece correspondent Malcolm Brabant. According to the story, a writer named Doreta Peppa has in her possession a sketchbook belonging to Vincent van Gogh with sketches, some of which are signed «Vincent.» Other prestigious news services followed suit: Reuters, the Daily Telegraph, the Dutch television channel Nederland 1, and more. The story is as follows: Back in World War II, Doreta Peppa’s father, Meletios Peppas, a partisan, along with a group of other resistance fighters, raided a Nazi train carrying looted works of art, grabbed what they could and then stored the items in a safe place. Some 30 years after the death of her father (in 1973), Doreta discovers the wonderful sketchbook among her father’s manuscripts. The book is stamped with the words Royal Academy of Art, Brussels. She cannot believe her eyes. She shows it to her friends. Then she takes it to the head of conservation and restoration at the Greek National Gallery, Michalis Doulgeridis. «She had it wrapped in a cloth and asked me to take a look at it,» he explained after the event. «’What is it?’ I asked. ‘You tell me,’ she said. ‘Will you look at it?’ Everything pointed to the work of a great artist. ‘You have to investigate this,’ I told her.» Athens-born Peppa (1963), an art collector and president of the «» foundation for ancient Greek religion, believes the sketchbook to be a diary kept by the artist, which he intended to give as a present to his brother Theo. Her research, which has been published in a book that was launched at Zappeion Hall in late February, takes a novel approach to the work of the artist. According to Peppa, van Gogh hid within his works letters, numbers and symbols representing valuable lessons that he wanted to pass on to mankind. The sketchbook was authenticated for Peppa by a young artist called Athanasios Selia, a photograph in the book was said to be of van Gogh by a dentist called Dimitris Berdelis, and Peppa’s book was published by Giorgos Alexelis of Epos publications, who is co-author and Peppa’s husband. The sketchbook may be authentic or it may not. Only an expert can be the judge of that and, even then, there would be a margin of error. The Van Gogh Museum, after an initial series of contacts with Peppa, has now severed all communication. A spokesperson for the museum told the Daily Telegraph’s Damien McElroy (January 4, 2008), «We get quite a few requests for authentication from people who believe they have something by Vincent van Gogh.»

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