Helen Mirren, 70, insisted the praise was "for real"

By Kathy Ehrich Dowd
Updated April 20, 2016 01:10 PM
Credit: Michael Stewart/WireImage

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No, apparently Helen Mirren doesn’t resemble The Starry Night, or Sunflowers or even a member of the tortured artist’s family.

Instead, the Oscar-winning actress was once told she resembles the peasant women in The Potato Eaters – and she considers it the greatest compliment she’s ever received.

When Mirren, who is included in PEOPLE’s 2016 World’s Most Beautiful special issue, was asked to name the most beautiful thing someone has said to her, the 70-year-old revealed the surprising answer.

Mirren said she was once told: “You look like a painting by Van Gogh … The Potato Eaters!”

For more on Mirren, pick up the World’s Most Beautiful issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands Friday

And sorry, Taylor Hackford, the star says the comment came not from her husband of 18 years, but “from a former lover.”

“This is for real,” she insisted of her unorthodox answer.

The vivid painting of five peasants carb-loading around a square table, illuminated by an oil lamp above, is considered by some to be the Dutch artist’s first great masterwork.

“I wanted to convey the idea that the people eating potatoes by the light of an oil lamp used the same hands with which they take food from the plate to work the land, that they have toiled with their hands – that they have earned their food by honest means,” Van Gogh wrote to his brother, Theo, about the painting now on display at the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam.

Mirren has a deep understanding of the artist who famously died by suicide at age 37. In 2013, she recorded an audiobook titled Van Gogh: Struggle and Success, which was written by the Van Gogh Museum’s former chief curator.

WATCH: When Was the Last Time You Were Told You Are Beautiful?

Mirren’s also a veteran of receiving praise for her good looks, even winning the “Body of the Year” title in 2011 at age 66, in a survey commissioned by the L.A. Fitness gym chain.

It’s a notable honor considering the star’s humorous approach to fitness.

When PEOPLE asked the Trumbo star to share her fitness advice last year, she joked: “Buy yourself a fabulous workout outfit, put it on and do four sit ups and take it off and get in the shower.”

Reporting by JULIE JORDAN