Vincent van Gogh was even more camera shy than anyone thought.
The Van Gogh Museum in the Netherlands has long thought to have been home to one photo of the Dutch painter at age 19, and another of him at 13. But forensic testing has proven the photo of a younger van Gogh actually shows his younger brother Theo at 15, the museum announced Thursday.
"Vincent van Gogh was not fond of portrait photography, certainly not in later life," the museum said in a Thursday press release. So when a Dutch TV program found what might have been a third photo, it had to compare it to the only two photos of van Gogh thought to be authentic. The program then found something surprising: Not only was the third photo not of van Gogh, but the two verified photos likely weren't even of the same person.
The van Gogh Museum quickly launched a further investigation and found that the photo was taken in Brussels in 1873 — the same year Theo was in the city and mentioned being photographed in a letter. Theo also had striking blue eyes and "more delicate features," which are obvious in the mystery photo, researchers said.
The questionable photo has been in the museum's collection since 1957 and "has since been used in countless biographies," The Telegraph writes. But van Gogh's descendants and museum curators aren't upset about the mix-up. "This discovery means that we have rid ourselves of an illusion while gaining a portrait of Theo," the museum's director said in the release. Theo's great grandson, meanwhile, said he was "pleased that the mystery has been solved." Kathryn Krawczyk