The sitter in Van Gogh’s Portrait of a Gardener, now owned by Rome’s Galleria Nazionale d’Arte Moderna e Contemporanea, can finally be named. He is identified in a note recording the memories of an orderly who worked in 1889-90 at the asylum of Saint-Paul-de-Mausole, where the artist was a patient.

Van Gogh’s portrait shows a lively young man with a friendly expression, dressed in bright clothing and standing confidently in a verdant glade. The setting is the garden of the asylum, with the rear wall that protected the patients.

The portrait, the finest painted by Van Gogh at the asylum, has always been something of a mystery. The sitter was recorded as “le jardinier” (gardener) when it was first exhibited in 1908 and he was later described as a farmer, peasant or harvester. Until now, efforts to identify him have failed. Read more