New Theory on Van Gogh's Ear: Blame Brother Theo
Vincent was worried about losing his financial aid, says scholar
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 26, 2009 4:45 PM CST
An author says this painting by van Gogh shows that he was worried about losing the financial support of his brother.   (Wikimedia Commons)
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(Newser) – An art scholar says he's figured out why Vincent van Gogh cut off his ear—the unstable genius had just learned that his brother Theo got engaged, and he worried that he would lose his brother's financial and emotional support. Martin Bailey says the clue lies in a painting van Gogh completed about a month after his self-mutilation: Still Life with Drawing Board.

The painting includes an envelope on a table, and Martin's microscopic examination of it suggests it's the one Theo sent announcing his intent to marry, reports the Times of London. Vincent told Theo upon learning of the engagement that "marriage ought not to be regarded as the main object in life." Because Vincent received a monthly allowance from his brother, he felt his life was about to unravel, Bailey theorizes.