You know how that story about Vincent Van Gogh cutting off his own ear in a fit of insanity and giving it to a prostitute as a grisly, deeply awkward gift always seemed too crazy, too perfect, too good to be true?
Yeah, well, about that.
It turns out that, like George Washington chopping down a cherry tree or Robert Oppenheimer quoting Kali as the first atomic bomb exploded, Van Gogh slicing his own ear off may be just one more piece of apocrypha that makes a great story, but didn’t so much happen. The good news, though, is that the story of how Van Gogh actually lost his ear is almost as cool as the popular myth.
In a new book, German art historians claim that Van Gogh lost his ear in a fight. Outside of a brothel. When Paul Gauguin cut it off with a sword.
As for how the myth sprung up, historians believe that Van Gogh was just trying to protect his friend Gauguin, who, for the record, was easily as mentally ill as his better known Dutch contemporary, a fact that should only cause the artists legacy to become greater. Think of it this way – after a probably drunken brawl, Van Gogh perpetuated a story that made him look like one of history’s craziest bastards in the interest of making sure his buddy, who had just hacked his ear off with a sword, stayed out of lockup. The conclusion: in addition to being one the most influential artists of the modern era, Van Gogh was also among the most stand up bros of all time.
I figure it’s only a matter of time before Van Gogh’s portrait of himself with a bandaged ear starts appearing alongside Tony Montana posters above beer pong tables around the world, so what better place to start than here?
Vincent Van Bro, we salute you.