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Travel ban for 'fragile' Van Gogh's 'Sunflowers'
Conservation and restoration specialist Ella Hendriks explains the restoration process of De Zonnebloemen (The Sunflowers) by Vincent van Gogh, on January 24, 2019, in Amsterdam. The world famous painting undergoes restoration work over the course of six weeks in the restoration studio of the Van Gogh Museum. Olaf Kraak / ANP / AFP.

THE HAGUE.- The Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam said Thursday its version of "Sunflowers" will no longer be allowed to travel after restoration work showed it was in a "fragile" condition.

The museum in the Dutch capital is one of only five in the world with a copy of Vincent van Gogh's masterpiece, and it rarely goes abroad, with the last time being in 2014.

But international experts involved in the restoration said that even that was too much for the 130-year-old painting, meaning that it will now "stay at home in Amsterdam".

"An important conclusion of the research is that the soil and paint layers are stable, but very sensitive to vibrations and changes in air humidity and temperature," Van Gogh Museum director Axel Rueger said.

"It is therefore important that the painting is moved as little as possible and in a stable climate. To avoid taking any risks, the museum has decided that it will no longer be possible to let Sunflowers travel."

The restoration found that the painting was "stable but fragile", the museum said in a statement.

It will go back on display in February.

"Sunflowers" has been lent out only six times since the museum opened in 1973 with the last time to the National Gallery in London in 2014, so it could hang next to that museum's own version.

The other versions are in the Neue Pinakothek in Munich, the Philadelphia Museum of Art and the Seiji Togo Memorial Sompo Japan Nipponkoa Museum of Art in Tokyo.

The Tokyo version briefly set the record for the world's most expensive artwork when it was sold to a Japanese firm in 1987 for 40 million dollars, before losing the crown a few months later to Van Gogh's "Irises".

The Dutch master painted a series of Sunflowers paintings, which rank among his most famous works, while he lived in Arles in the south of France between 1888-89.

Sunflowers had a special significance for Van Gogh, who once wrote in a letter to a friend that they conveyed "gratitude".

Van Gogh committed suicide at the age of 37 in 1890.

© Agence France-Presse

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