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The Van Gogh Sketchbook That Might Not Be by Van Gogh

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Art authentication can be a tricky business. Seasoned experts can be fooled by forgeries or miss important clues that could cement the authorship of a particular piece. At stake: reputations of museums and millions of dollars.

The art world’s latest controversy arrived Tuesday, when two prominent scholars of Post-Impressionist artist Vincent van Gogh declared that a 65-page sketchbook passed down as a family heirloom in France was once owned by the uni-eared painter.

Amsterdam’s Van Gogh Museum, however, fired back with an open letter claiming the sketchbook was not the genuine article. Using their library of more than 500 van Gogh drawings as a reference, museum staffers wrote that the illustrations aren’t indicative of the artist’s development circa 1888 and that the brown ink used was inconsistent with his preference of black or purple ink.

It’s believed that van Gogh gifted the proprietors of a hotel in Arles, France with the sketchbook after he had been remanded to a mental institution after slicing off his ear; van Gogh had asked his doctor, Felix Rey, to pass it along to the Ginouxs, who welcomed the artist as their guest and had given him a ledger in which to draw. The museum argues that Rey had left Arles by then and had never come to visit him.

One of the scholars endorsing the work as genuine, Bogomila Welsh-Ovcharov, is a highly-respected van Gogh expert who has just issued a book titled Vincent van Gogh: The Lost Arles Sketchbook, featuring commentary and reproductions of select illustrations. Welsh-Ovcharov spent three years researching the sketches after discovering them in 2013. The book, she said, was in the Ginoux family for decades before it came into the possession of a neighbor, who was unaware of its significance. The neighbor's daughter thought little of it until a friend suggested she show it to an art historian.

Welsh-Ovcharov maintains that an entry in the hotel’s 1890 date book supports her version of events. In it, an employee of the Ginouxs wrote: “Monsieur Doctor Rey left for M. and Mme. Ginoux from the painter Van Goghe [sic] some empty olive boxes and a bundle of checked towels as well as a large book of drawings and apologizes for the delay.”

[h/t The New York Times]

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Watch a Chain of Dominos Climb a Flight of Stairs
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Dominos are made to fall down—it's what they do. But in the hands of 19-year-old professional domino artist Lily Hevesh, known as Hevesh5 on YouTube, the tiny plastic tiles can be arranged to fall up a flight of stairs in spectacular fashion.

The video spotted by Thrillist shows the chain reaction being set off at the top a staircase. The momentum travels to the bottom of the stairs and is then carried back up through a Rube Goldberg machine of balls, cups, dominos, and other toys spanning the steps. The contraption leads back up to the platform where it began, only to end with a basketball bouncing down the steps and toppling a wall of dominos below.

The domino art seems to flow effortlessly, but it took more than a few shots to get it right. The footage below shows the 32nd attempt at having all the elements come together in one, unbroken take. (You can catch the blooper at the end of an uncooperative basketball ruining a near-perfect run.)

Hevesh’s domino chains that don't appear to defy gravity are no less impressive. Check out this ambitious rainbow domino spiral that took her 25 hours to construct.

[h/t Thrillist]

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A Secret Room Full of Michelangelo's Sketches Will Soon Open in Florence
Claudio Giovannini/AFP/Getty Images
Claudio Giovannini/AFP/Getty Images

Parents all over the world have chastised their children for drawing on the walls. But when you're Michelangelo, you've got some leeway. According to The Local, the Medici Chapels, part of the Bargello museum in Florence, Italy, has announced that it plans to open a largely unseen room full of the artist's sketches to the public by 2020.

Roughly 40 years ago, curators of the chapels at the Basilica di San Lorenzo had a very Dan Brown moment when they discovered a trap door in a wardrobe leading to an underground room that appeared to have works from Michelangelo covering its walls. The tiny retreat is thought to be a place where the artist hid out in 1530 after upsetting the Medicis—his patrons—by joining a revolt against their control of Florence. While in self-imposed exile for several months, he apparently spent his time drawing on whatever surfaces were available.

A drawing by Michelangelo under the Medici Chapels in Florence
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Museum officials previously believed the room and the charcoal drawings were too fragile to risk visitors, but have since had a change of heart, leading to their plan to renovate the building and create new attractions. While not all of the work is thought to be attributable to the famed artist, there's enough of it in the subterranean chamber—including drawings of Jesus and even recreations of portions of the Sistine Chapel—to make a trip worthwhile.

[h/t The Local]

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