Did Gauguin cut off Van Gogh’s ear?

Van Gogh, Self-portrait with bandaged ear

From British daily The Guardian:

Art historians claim Van Gogh‘s ear ‘cut off by Gauguin

* Angelique Chrisafis in Paris
* Monday 4 May 2009 21.55 BST

Vincent van Gogh‘s fame may owe as much to a legendary act of self-harm, as it does to his self-portraits. But, 119 years after his death, the tortured post-Impressionist’s bloody ear is at the centre of a new controversy, after two historians suggested that the painter did not hack off his own lobe but was attacked by his friend, the French artist Paul Gauguin.

According to official versions, the disturbed Dutch painter cut off his ear with a razor after a row with Gauguin in 1888. Bleeding heavily, Van Gogh then walked to a brothel and presented the severed ear to an astonished prostitute called Rachel before going home to sleep in a blood-drenched bed.

But two German art historians, who have spent 10 years reviewing the police investigations, witness accounts and the artists’ letters, argue that Gauguin, a fencing ace, most likely sliced off the ear with his sword during a fight, and the two artists agreed to hush up the truth.

In Van Gogh’s Ear: Paul Gauguin and the Pact of Silence, published in Germany, Hamburg-based academics Hans Kaufmann and Rita Wildegans argue that the official version of events, based largely on Gauguin’s accounts, contain inconsistencies and that both artists hinted that the truth was more complex.

See also here. And here.

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