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One of my favourite news stories of the past week concerned the discovery, after 128 years, of the remains of a grasshopper, which had been trapped in the paint of Vincent Van Gogh’s 1889 picture Olive Trees.

Rather like those gorgeous pieces of amber you occasionally see at auction, which trapped unrecognisable insects sometimes hundreds of millions of years ago as tree sap before fossilising, the discovery creates a seemingly direct link to a specific moment in time, compressing the years in between so that you can almost see and hear Vincent slapping the paint onto the canvas.

These direct connections are what many people look for when buying things at auction and explain the huge price differences between artworks described in the catalogue as ‘follower of’ (someone unidentified working in the style of a well-known artist at around the same time), ‘school of’ (a work of the time in the style of the artist), ‘studio of’ (a work from the artist’s studio or closely associated with them), ‘attributed to’ (probably, but not certainly, by the artist) and ‘autograph work’ (categorically by the artist).

In the art world, there is nothing quite like being close enough to touch the hand of the creator.