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Munch or not? Experts set to tackle art mystery at Minnesota college

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St. Olaf College painting
Jane Becker Nelson, director and curator at Flaten Art Museum on the St. Olaf College campus in Northfield, Minn., displays the painting known as "Eva" in the collections storage area. The painting is rumored to be a creation of famed Norwegian artist Edvard Munch.
Photo courtesy of St. Olaf College

A longtime Minnesota art mystery may soon be solved, as a new effort launches this week to determine whether a painting at St. Olaf College is by famed artist Edvard Munch — or an imposter.

On Monday, a group of art authenticators will examine an unfinished painting of violinist Eva Mudocci that has long been rumored to be one of Munch's works.

Munch, who died in 1944, is a Norwegian artist best known for his work "The Scream" — a version of which sold a few years ago for $120 million. 

Experts set to tackle Munch art mystery at St. Olaf.
A new effort was launched this week to determine whether a painting at St. Olaf College is by famed artist Edvard Munch -- or an imposter.
Will Cipos

The unfinished painting known as "Eva" was donated to St. Olaf in Northfield, Minn., in 1999, part of alumni Richard Tetlie's 2,000-piece art collection. 

"While long-rumored to be an unfinished Munch, recently discovered correspondence and auction records corroborate the existence of this unfinished painting," St. Olaf officials said in a news release.

The group of experts visiting the college on Monday will run a battery of tests on the painting, including X-rays, sampling the paint with a mass spectrometer, and comparing the results with Munch's more well-known works. 

Edvard Munch's "The Scream"
People look at Edvard Munch's "The Scream" at Manhattan's Museum of Modern Art in October 2012 in New York City.
Spencer Platt | Getty Images 2012

Results won't be available until later this year, but two of the experts will speak about the process on Tuesday from 4-5 p.m. in Viking Theater at Buntrock Commons on campus. It's open to the public.

The potential Munch painting isn't the first art mystery at St. Olaf. Another painting donated by Tetlie was thought to be by a famed artist — Renaissance painter El Greco. But testing conducted several years ago showed paint pigments that did not exist until after El Greco's death.