On Christmas Eve 1888, little-known Dutch painter Vincent Van Gogh stumbled into a brothel and opened up his bloody hand to present a piece of his own ear to a prostitute, Rachel, with the words "Keep this object carefully." Most people remember hearing that Van Gogh sliced off his own ear, even if they don't remember he was a painter. But now, some academics are challenging the assertion that this was an act of self-mutilation. According to Telegraph, art historians Hans Kaufmann and Rita Wildegans now claim that fellow painter and recent roommate Paul Gauguin cut off Van Gogh's ear with a sword in a fight.
This claim doesn't seem totally out of the blue. According to this book on Van Gogh, Gauguin is known to have been involved in the ear incident. Although historians have different theories about how he was involved, many believe Van Gogh cut off his own ear in desperation after his failed friendship with Gauguin.
So, if it's true that Gauguin sliced of Van Gogh's ear, why have we been hearing a different story for so long? Kaufmann and Wildegans say that the two had a "pact of silence" to hush up the truth. Gauguin didn't want to be prosecuted, and Van Gogh was eager to maintain his friendship. The two had had a rocky experience living in the same house, and Gauguin was ready to leave. But Van Gogh protested, and this led to the fight when Gauguin supposedly sliced off the ear.
The historians can't offer hard evidence, but they say it makes the most sense. They point to various pieces of correspondence that supposedly hint at the incident. It helps that Gauguin was also a fencer. Check out the evidence from the news story and see if you accept this new theory.
Check out this condensed biography of Van Gogh:
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