It Was Gauguin Who Cut Off van Gogh's Ear

Historians say Dutch painter loss his ear in a fight
By Jason Farago,  Newser Staff
Posted May 5, 2009 8:26 AM CDT
A visitor looks at Vincent van Gogh's 'Self-Portrait with Japanese Print' (1887), pictured in the art museum of Basel, Switzerland, Thursday, April 23, 2009.   (AP Photo/Keystone, Georgios Kefalas)
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(Newser) – Vincent van Gogh's fame derives not only from his paintings, but from the legendary story that he sliced off his own ear and presented it to a prostitute. But two art historians now say that the Dutch painter didn't mutilate himself. After a decade of research, they argue that Paul Gauguin, van Gogh's friend and colleague, lopped off his ear with a fencing sword during a fight, the Guardian reports.

A new book by the two historians, published in Germany, claims that the self-mutilation story is inconsistent and that both artists hinted at the real truth. Curators at the van Gogh museum in Amsterdam aren't convinced by the new theory, but the scholars point to a passage in a letter from the artist to his brother Theo: "Luckily Gauguin is not yet armed with machine guns and other dangerous war weapons."