The authenticity of "Head of a Man," displayed for more than 60 years at the Melbourne gallery, has long been suspect, but an investigation wasn't conducted until it was on loan to a gallery in Edinburgh, Scotland, the Australian Broadcasting Corp. reported Friday. It was flown to the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam, where experts determined it wasn't a Van Gogh.
The finding doesn't mean "Head of a Man" is a forgery, the National Gallery of Victoria says, merely that it was by an unknown artist who may have studied alongside Van Gogh in the 1880s.
"The person who painted this picture was not trying to pretend that it was a work by Vincent van Gogh," gallery Director Gerard Vaughan said. "Why would an artist in the mid-1880s forge a painting by Van Gogh? He was regarded as a madman by his contemporaries, no one liked his work, he didn't sell a single painting to anybody in this period, so there'd simply be no reason why an artist would try to forge his work."