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Last Updated: Wednesday, 1 February 2006, 15:26 GMT
Rare Van Gogh painting for sale
L'Arlesienne, Madame Ginoux
Both Van Gogh and Gaugin used the local people in Arles as models
A rare painting by Van Gogh, due to go under the hammer at Christie's auction house in New York in May, is expected to fetch more than $40m (22.5m).

Van Gogh's L'Arlesienne, Madame Ginoux, is one of a series of five paintings by the Dutch artist, which pay homage to the artist Paul Gauguin.

The oil painting, created in 1890, was intended as a gift for friend Gauguin.

Madame Marie Ginoux was the owner of Arles' Cafe de la Gare, where Van Gogh and Gauguin lived for a brief time.

It was during this period that Van Gogh famously cut off a piece of his ear. The painting was created while the artist recovered at an asylum in Provence, France.

'Enormous pleasure'

Writing to Gauguin in 1890, Van Gogh said of his work: "It gives me enormous pleasure when you say the Arlesienne's portrait, which was based strictly on your drawing, is to your liking.

"I tried to be respectfully faithful to your drawing, while nevertheless taking the liberty of interpreting, through the medium of colour, the sober character and the style of the drawing in question.

"It is a synthesis of the Arlesiennes, if you like; as syntheses of the Arlesiennes are rare, take this as a work belonging to you and me as a summary of our months of work together."

The Van Gogh painting will be auctioned as part of the Impressionist and Modern Art Evening Sale, at New York's Rockefeller Center on 2 May.

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