The gun which Vincent van Gogh may have used to kill himself has sold for €162,500 (£144,000; $182,000) – almost three times more than expected.
The rusty revolver was purchased by a private collector via telephone.
It was found by a farmer in 1965 near the village where the artist spent his final days. It was approximately the right age, and used the same calibre of bullet van Gogh shot himself with.
However, doubts have been raised about the authenticity of the gun.
On 27 July 1890, the troubled Dutch artist walked into a field near Auvers-sur-Oise, a village a few miles north of Paris, and shot himself in the chest.
The pocket-sized revolver had limited power, and it took days for van Gogh to die from his injuries.
More than seven decades later, a corroded gun was found in a field behind the chateau where he stayed. Analysts suggested that the pistol had been in the ground for between 50 and 80 years.
But doubt has been cast on whether the revolver, which had previously been kept at the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam, was the actual weapon van Gogh used to kill himself.
The Van Gogh Institute, which oversees the house where he saw out his final days, criticised the auction.
“Nothing suggests that the remains (of the gun) are formally linked with the death of Van Gogh,” it said in a statement, deploring the “commercialisation of a tragedy which deserves more respect”.
Art Auction, which sold the weapon, admitted that there was no way of guaranteeing the gun was the same one, but said the dates matched up.
“Technical tests on the weapon have shown the weapon was used and indicate that it stayed in the ground for a period that would coincide with 1890,” it said.
“All these clues give credence to the theory that this is the weapon used in the suicide.”
Other strange historic items sold at auction
A slice of the Queen’s wedding cake
A piece of cake from the wedding of Queen Elizabeth II and the Duke of Edinburgh – then Princess Elizabeth and Philip Mountbatten – was sold for £672 in 2013.
The cake was presented in its original Buckingham Palace case dated 20 November 1947 and came with a card reading: “With the best wishes of Their Royal Highnesses The Princess Elizabeth and The Duke of Edinburgh.”
Lee Harvey Oswald’s gold wedding ring
The ring belonging to the man who assassinated President John F Kennedy was sold for $118,000 in 2013.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, the Texan buyer wanted to remain anonymous.
In 2013, a violin that was apparently played to calm passengers on the Titanic as it sank was sold for £900,000 in just 10 minutes.
It was played by band leader Wallace Hartley, who died along with 1,517 others as the ship went down. It had a guide price of £300,000.
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