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Experts Say Portrait Donated To St. Olaf Could Be Authentic Munch Painting

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- It turns out, a painting that has been at St. Olaf College for nearly 20 years may be more than just a generous gift.

Experts are now analyzing it because they believe it may be the work of Norwegian artist Edvard Munch. The portrait depicts violinist Eva Mudocci.

It was donated to St. Olaf College in 1999 as part of a gift of 2,000 pieces of art from alumnus Richard Tetlie.

There's now belief the portrait is far more valuable than anyone imagined.

The painting shows a woman standing on an ornate rug with a piano in the background.

"Recently, it hung in the president's residence in the dining room above the credenza," said Jane Becker Nelson, director of the Flaten Art Museum at St. Olaf. "President Anderson and his wife loved to talk about it at dinner parties."

Art experts believe the portrait was created between 1900 and 1904 when violinist Eva Mudocci posed for painter Edvard Munch in Berlin, Germany.

A woman writing a book about Eva recently contacted St. Olaf when she discovered letters the violinist and painter wrote to each other and auction records that identify the existence of an unfinished portrait.

"It was then that we learned a lot more about the relationship between Eva and Edvard, and we learned there is really good reason to believe it may be an authentic Munch painting," Nelson said.

Experts from the Scientific Analysis of Fine Arts are now collecting samples from the portrait so they can conduct tests.

"Being able to zero in on exactly what pigments were used helps us understand if it's viable that Edvard Munch did paint this picture," Nelson said.

Munch is famous for "The Scream," which sold at auction for $120 million.

So what if the portrait of Eva turns out to be the real deal?

"We jump for joy. We are thrilled and like everything in our museum we keep using it as a research tool and a teaching tool," Nelson said.

It should take about six weeks to see what test results reveal about the painting. The portrait will remain at St. Olaf College and not be sold.

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