Tuesday, May 5, 2009

By the Sword

Ah, just when I thought there was nothing left to uncover about your life Vincent, another tale surfaces. A woman, another painter (who happened to be an excellent fencer)and a story of love and honor. Read on from Britain's Daily Mail:

(May 4) - For more than a century, Vincent Van Gogh has been known as the tortured genius who sliced off his own ear in a fit of madness. But a new study claims Paul Gauguin lopped off the organ with a sword as the two artists argued over a prostitute.

In a new book, German art historians Hans Kaufmann and Rita Wildegans contend Van Gogh let everyone think he had mutilated himself in order to protect Gauguin from prosecution, Britain's Daily Mail and Daily Telegraph reported Monday.

The generally accepted story is that Van Gogh, the Dutch impressionist famed for works such as 'Sunflowers' and 'Starry Night,' slashed off his ear with a razor in Arles, France, on Dec. 23, 1888. He was then said to have wrapped it a cloth and presented it to a prostitute at a local brothel.

'Van Gogh's Ear: Paul Gauguin and the Pact of Silence' contends Van Gogh and Gauguin got into an argument over a prostitute named Rachel outside the brothel where she worked. Gauguin, an excellent fencer, drew his sword and cut off Van Gogh's left ear.

"The left ear fell. We cannot say if it was deliberate or an accident. In this situation, the protagonists vowed to keep silent. Then Gauguin disappeared, abandoning his friend," Kaufmann said, according to the Daily Mall.

Gauguin, according to the book, dumped the sword in the nearby Rhone River. Van Gogh handed the severed ear to the prostitute and then staggered home, where police found the injured artist the next day. Van Gogh did not give the police any information and ended up letting them think he had mutilated himself.

Gauguin kept silent because he didn’t want to face charges and Van Gogh didn’t tell because he was infatuated with Gauguin, the book says.

"Subsequent behavior and numerous allusions by the protagonists suggest they were hiding the truth," Kaufmann told French newspaper Le Figaro.

Based on their correspondence, it's likely Van Gogh's brother, Theo, knew the truth but also kept silent, the book says.

"[Van Gogh] writes that it's lucky Gauguin doesn't have a machine gun or other firearms, that he's stronger than him and that his 'passions' are stronger," Kaufmann told the Daily Telegraph.

Two years after losing his ears, Van Gogh, at the age of 37, shot himself. In his final recorded words to Gauguin, he wrote: "You are quiet, I will be, too."

The year after Van Gogh'ss suicide, Gauguin traveled to Tahiti, where he painted several of his best-known works. He died of a stroke in French Polynesia in 1903.


Renee said...

That is so interesting.

I like the original story better.

I wonder if maybe they were lovers.

Thank you so much for your comment on my blog. I was looking all over for that exact quote yesterday. Everywhere and couldn't find it.

Thank you.

Love Renee xoxo

Cecile/DreamCreateRepeat said...

What a fascinating story/revelation! Highly creative people seem to so often be complicated and tortured people....

Natalie said...

Happy to see you too, dear Yoli,
I’ll be gone again in one week (much farther than the local Court House!!) but will be checking your posts, it always gives me positive vibes…
P.S. Love your new "look" but will miss the old one!

Annie Coe said...

You learn something new everyday :-). And I am not so sure the tortured part has to go along with being creative, I know for me it is not true. It seems romantic, but
it is not.

dutchbaby said...

This is a fascinating story you have here. The fencing perspective rings more true to me. I'm a huge Van Gogh fan and I appreciate you keeping us up to date on all the latest.

A Cuban In London said...

I read the story yesterday and it reminded me of you, the fencing bit, obviously. I love your new header and as for the Daily 'Hate' as we call the Mail over here, well, let's just say that luckily they did not run the headline 'Failed French Asylum Seeker Kills Impressionist Master' :-).

Greetings from London.


Interesting post Yoli!
Thank you for dropping by & your kind words...I'm glad That I found yours too! You have such a beautiful spirit indeed. ~Blessings*

Poetikat said...

Imagine the prostitute with the ear. Did she keep it in a box by her bedside, I wonder? Rather a strange talisman to hold onto.


Lonnie Hanzon said...

The thought plickens.

I am loving it.
Just when you didn't think he could be more dramateak!

willow said...

Interesting new twist to the story. I bet the fencing part caught your eye, Yoli!

Your new header is ultra FAB!!!

From This Moment to That said...

That's just fascinating! I missed reading it over here in the newspapers. Thank you so much.. seems like a plausible explanation to me.

ps.Just to let you know that i@ve had to delete my blog. Someone has the address and on flickr and I don't like the way it is going. I hope you will allow me to still visit your lovely blog though?
I really like your photograph of the lady with the sword too!
Do take care.

M.M.E. said...

So cool!! My boyfriend and I dressed as Van Gogh and the prostitute last Halloween. I got to wear a clay ear around my waist in a little box tied with string. Very romantic. I think we're going as Sherlock Holmes and Watson this year. I get to be the fat old guy and stick on facial hair. :)

Carolyn said...

What a great story. I love Van Gough. Thank you so much for your comment on my blog :)

Björnik said...

Hmmm... More versions surface each day. I wonder which is the truth. Very interesting.:)