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updated 12/3/2003 11:04:06 PM ET 2003-12-04T04:04:06

A museum in southern Holland opens an exhibition this weekend of what it claims is a previously unknown painting by Vincent van Gogh, and says there may be more among a collection of 250 works once regarded as worthless.

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The painting, “Houses Near the Hague,” was investigated by a team of experts who concluded it was among van Gogh’s early works. It may have been left with his mother when van Gogh left for France in 1885, and the work ended up with an obscure Dutch collector, said the Breda Museum.

It goes on display Saturday in the museum as part of an exhibition entitled “Vincent van Gogh: Lost and Found,” which closes Feb. 1.

However, the authenticity of the work has not been confirmed by outside experts, and the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam said Wednesday that it was skeptical the painting was genuine.

“The chances are very small that more paintings will be discovered, but you can never exclude it,” said Heidi Vandamme, a spokeswoman for the Van Gogh museum, which evaluates about 300 claims of new finds every year.

Van Gogh committed suicide in 1890 after a career of only 10 years, having sold virtually none of his work. But in the 20th century, his paintings, especially his later work, fetch such high prices that Vandamme said nearly all authentic pieces have been found.

Determining authenticity
Vandamme said the museum’s experts had not yet examined the latest purported discovery, and the museum had declined an invitation by the Breda Museum to cooperate in the exhibition.

The museum in Breda, a town about 6 miles from van Gogh’s birthplace in Zundert, said the painting was among a collection first discovered in 1939 in the attic of collector Barend den Houter. The entire collection was examined in the 1940s by the Stedelijk Museum of modern art in Amsterdam and dismissed as unimportant, containing forgeries and works by little known contemporaries of van Gogh.

But the Breda Museum said that in re-examining the collection, it uncovered a connection between den Houter and van Gogh’s mother, who became a tenant of the future collector’s uncle when she moved from Breda to Leiden in 1889.

The work on canvas, measuring 6.5 inches by 9.6 inches, shows a row of red-roofed houses set back behind a plot of brush and sand.

Using X-rays, researchers also found that “Houses Near the Hague” was painted over an earlier work showing a woman knitting. The concealed painting was similar to a known watercolor by van Gogh, said the Breda Museum.

“The authenticity of the small painting strengthens the supposition that the collection from which it comes also contains more works by van Gogh,” the museum said in a statement.

Many of van Gogh’s works from the early 1880s have been lost. In 1902, a large number of paintings and drawings that his mother had put in storage were found and put on sale in the street.

A few items in the so-called “Breda crates” were later authenticated as genuine van Goghs, but many others are regarded as controversial.

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