Doubts over the master's work cleared.

A still life once thought to be by Vincent van Gogh but later downgraded to the work of an anonymous artist because of doubts about its authenticity is indeed by the tormented Dutch impressionist, researchers said on Tuesday.

The process leading to the confirmation reads like a cold case detective story, with a new X-ray technique helping experts re-examine what they already knew about the painting and draw on a growing pool of scholarly Van Gogh research.

A detailed X-ray of an underlying painting of two wrestlers and knowledge of the painter's period at a Belgian art academy combined to lead a team of researchers to conclude that “Still life with meadow flowers and roses” really is by Van Gogh.

The painting is owned by the Kroeller-Mueller Museum in the central Netherlands and was being hung there on Tuesday among its other Van Gogh works.

The painting was bought by the Kroeller-Mueller Museum in 1974 as a Van Gogh. The work was thought to come from the artist's period living with his brother Theo in Paris from late 1886.

Experts thought the canvas was too large for that period, the depiction of a vase brimming over with flowers and yet more flowers lying on a table in the foreground was too exuberant, too busy. The signature was in an unusual position for Van Gogh the top right hand corner.

With the doubts piling up, the museum in 2003 decided to attribute the painting to an anonymous artist instead of to Van Gogh. But the detective work did not end there.

An X-ray taken five years earlier had already revealed an indistinct image of the wrestlers and continued to interest researchers. Now, a new more detailed X-ray has shown the wrestlers in more detail, along with the brush strokes and pigments used. They all pointed back to Van Gogh.

Van Gogh once wrote to his brother about needing the large canvas, new brushes and paint. Theo helped the penniless artist buy the materials and a week later Van Gogh wrote back that he was delighted with the painting of two wrestlers.

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