Book: Friend Chopped Off Van Gogh's Ear

"Van Gogh painted this portrait of himself in 1888, mimicking an earlier portrait by another Dutchman, Rembrandt van Rijn. The painting is part of the collection of the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam." AP

Friendship for Vincent Van Gogh apparently had no limits.

A pair of art historians suggest the painter did not lop off his ear himself - instead, his friend, fellow famed artist Paul Gauguin - sliced it off with a sword and the two vowed a "pact of silence," the Telegraph in London reports.

The common story is that Van Gogh, during a bout of insanity, took off his ear with a razor, wrapped it in cloth and gave it to a prostitute.

However, the two German scholars and authors of the book "In Van Gogh's Ear: Paul Gauguin and the Pact of Silence," Gauguin stormed out of Van Gogh's house in southwestern France after an unhappy visit.

After having a glass of wine tossed at him and with Van Gogh following him into town arguing all the while, Gauguin, an excellent fencer, chopped off his tempestuous friend's ear with the epee he kept at his side.

Gauguin then tossed his sword into the Rhone river; Van Gogh delivered the ear to a prostitute at a nearby brothel, the authors speculate.

The authors, Hans Kaufmann and Rita Wildegans, say their main source of proof rests with Van Gogh's last words to Gauguin: "You are quiet. I will be, too."


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