I saw this thread on Shelley’s Art History Blog and I couldn’t pass it up. The blog reviews a new book out called Van Gogh’s Ear: Paul Gauguin and the Pact of Silence that takes the stance that Gauguin went after Van Gogh (instead of Van Gogh cutting off his own ear). However, I’m not sure Shelley was all that convinced either way about who done it:
It is a fact that Vincent wound up missing most of his left ear lobe that night… Both artists were right-handed, so either would have targeted the left ear. Beyond that … I’m not seeing anything to convince me that Gauguin did it. If he did, it would put an entirely different spin on the last 20 months of van Gogh’s life: betrayal by a friend, possible sepsis at the hand of a friend… and so on.
I go into pure shock reading about it, so repulsive is the whole thought. But I’m more shocked about the antics of two grown men living in the South of France at that time — antics that were peripheral to the ear incident. Wow!
Also, if you haven’t read The Yellow House — a quick read that chronicles the short and fiery nine months that the two “Go’s” lived together in Arles, Provence, France — you should (in fact, it’s a fun, yet literary beach read. Impress your beach volleyball friends!). Only a smidgeon is written (at the very end) about the “ear” episode (most of the book talks about their obsession with absinthe, their obsession to out-do each other, and their obsession with the brothel).