The Severed Ear of Vincent Van Gogh

The severed ear of Vincent Van Gogh

Vincent van Gogh is remembered as a brilliant, temperamental artist who sliced off his left ear in a fit of insanity. But like the ear itself, the veracity of this story is only partial.

Throughout his life the great Dutch artist was plagued by a wide range of physical and mental ailments, including epilepsy, lead poisoning, bipolar disorder, and depression. As a child, he was withdrawn and suffered from social paralysis, and his anxiety increased greatly after he was sent away to boarding school.

Van Gogh did indeed take a whack at his left ear, but he only severed part of the earlobe. This act of self-mutilation happened when he was spending time with his friend and fellow artist Paul Gauguin in Paris. actually the word friend may be imprecise here. Van Gogh and Gauguin off and drank heavily together and ended up in heated arguments. On the Parisian social and artistic scene, absinthe was a popular libation, and Van Gogh had a particular fondness for it. At the time it was thought that people who consumed too much of the powerful liquor were prone to Violent Behavior.

During a spat with Gauguin on Christmas Eve in 1888, Van Gogh attacked him with a razor. When he failed to cause Gauguin any harm, then go fill the emotional void by razoring off a piece of his own ear lobe. He gave the bloody chunk to his prostitute friend Rachel, advising her to keep it as something precious. Laugh if you wish but think about it what would it be worth today?

The incident happened about two years before Van Gogh shot himself to death. It’s reasonable to assume that his suicide was connected to a general and final psychological collapse, another irrational, self-harming Act.

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