One of van Gogh’s closest friends and favorite sitters in Arles was the local postman, Joseph Roulin. While painting this work, van Gogh wrote to his brother, “I am now at work with another model, a postman in blue uniform, trimmed with gold, a big bearded face, very like Socrates.” Indeed, the modest postman has all the authority of an admiral. Van Gogh also painted several portraits of Madame Roulin (for example, MFA object no. 48.548), as well as images of their children, delighted, as he wrote, to depict “a whole family.”


  • Title: Postman Joseph Roulin
  • Creator: Vincent van Gogh
  • Date Created: 1888
  • Physical Dimensions: 81.3 x 65.4 cm (32 x 25 3/4 in.)
  • Provenance: 1889, given or left by the artist to Joseph and Marie Ginoux, Arles; July 9, 1897, sold by the Ginoux, through Henri Laget, to Ambroise Vollard (b. 1867 - d. 1939), Paris [see note 1]; probably September 1, 1897, sold by Vollard to Cornelis Hoogendijk (b. 1866 - d. 1911), The Hague [see note 2]; May 21-22, 1912, posthumous Hoogendijk sale, Frederik Muller, Amsterdam, lot 26, to Galerie Bernheim-Jeune, Paris (stock no. 19248) and Paul Cassirer, Inc., Berlin; 1916, sold by Cassirer to Carl Sternheim (b. 1878 - d. 1942) and Théa Sternheim (b. 1883 - d. 1971), La Hulpe, Belgium [see note 3]; February 11, 1919, Théa Sternheim sale, Frederik Muller, Amsterdam, lot 8, not sold [see note 4]; until 1928, in the Sternheim collection [see note 5]; 1928, sold by Théa Sternheim, through Alfred Flechtheim, to the Galerie Étienne Bignou, Paris [see note 6]; 1928, sold by Bignou to M. Knoedler and Co., New York (stock no. A289) and Alex Reid and Lefèvre, Ltd., London [see note 7]; 1928, sold by Knoedler to Robert Treat Paine, 2nd (b. 1861 - d. 1943), Boston; 1935, gift of Robert Treat Paine, 2nd, to the MFA. (Accession Date: December 5, 1935)
  • Medium: Oil on canvas

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