Tuesday, 05 May, 2009 Current Events

Historians Claim It Was Paul Gauguin Who Cut Off Van Gogh's Ear


Van Gogh is considered to be a mad genius who cut off his ear while suffering from mental illness that occurred after his friendship with one of the leading Post-Impressionist painters, Paul Gauguin, got to an end. However, a new study says that the Dutch Post-impressionist might have made up the whole story with his cut off ear in order to protect his friend, who in fact cut the ear off with a sword during a quarrel with Van Gogh.

According to German historians, the two artists decided to keep a "pact of silence" in order to protect Gauguin from prosecution and try to maintain a friendship, which is why the true events were not unveiled.

In their work, entitled "Van Gogh's Ear: Paul Gauguin and the Pact of Silence", Hans Kaufmann and Rita Wildegans write that the ear of the famous artist was cut off with a sword when he was attacked by Gauguin and that it was not Van Gogh's metal illness, which later made him commit suicide.

It is worth mentioning that Gauguin was a very good fencer. He had plans to leave the "Yellow House" of Van Gogh, located in Arles, southwestern France, after a somewhat unhappy stay. Hans Kaufmann and Rita Wildegans in their work say that Gauguin had walked out of the house, carrying his baggage and epee. Van Gogh decided to follow his estranged friend after previously throwing a glass at him. Their quarrel got more intense as they came closer to a bordello. It is either of anger or self-defense that Gauguin cut off the left earlobe of his former friend there. After that he threw the weapon in the Rhone.

The hurt Van Gogh then brought his cut off ear to a prostitute and walked unsteadily home. The next day police arrived at his house. It was found that Gauguin had stayed with Van Gogh, though most experts believe that he left Van Gogh's home before the accident took place. Despite the fact that historians do not have enough evidence to prove their claims, they say that the explanation they have in regard to the accident is the most logical. They back their claims by Van Gogh's final recording words to Gauguin, in which the artist writes: "You are quiet, I will be, too".

The historians cite correspondence between the Dutch artist and his brother, Theo. In the letters addressed to Theo, Vincent provides hints at what really happened, though he does not get into details with breaking the "pact of silence".

Mr. Kaufmann says: "He writes that it's lucky Gauguin doesn't have a machine gun or other firearms, that he's stronger than him and that his 'passions' are stronger." Van Gogh refers to a French novel in which the storyteller considers that he has taken the life of his friend by cutting the climbing rope that linked the two.

"Afterwards, he says to himself: 'nobody has seen me commit my crime, and nothing can prevent me from inventing a story which would hide the truth'. This was a message to his brother," said Mr. Kaufmann.

The historian also made a reference on one of the artist's sketches of an ear, where one can see the sword "ictus", which is a Latin term that was used to characterize a hit. Kaufmann and Wildegans consider that the zigzags that can be seen above the ear may represent the Zoro-like stroke of a sword used by Gauguin.

"That was propaganda and all part of Gauguin's self-defense strategy. But it was a shock from which Vincent never recovered, led to the aggravation of his disease and paved the way to his suicide," said Kaufmann.

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