Maybe you’ve heard this story before, but I learned of it just few weeks ago, and was fascinated by how the inability of one person to see value in something cost a family a fortune.
Very early one winter morning in 1883 Félix Rey, a young medical intern who had yet to graduate, worked hard to save a hallucinating patient who had suffered blood loss. The patient was Vincent van Gogh and the blood loss involved a severed ear and a prostitute—but that’s another story!
For several weeks young Félix cared for van Gogh, saving him from infection and possible death. When he finally recovered and returned home, van Gogh painted this portrait of Félix Rey as an expression of his eternal gratitude. While Félix became both a friend and advocate of van Gogh, he wasn’t really a fan of van Gogh’s artistic representation of him. So the painting was left propped somewhere inconspicuous in his home—that is, until his mother noticed that her chicken coop had a hole!
For the next two years of so, this van Gogh original did nothing more than keep chickens in their place—until one day an admirer of Van Gogh’s work heard about the painting in the chicken coop and bought it from Félix’s family.
Today the Félix Rey portrait hangs in the The National Pushkin Museum in Moscow. Its estimated auction value is $50 million.