Art & History

Self-Portrait with Bandaged Ear | [HR] Painting & The Story

Self-Portrait with Bandaged Ear is a 1889 self-portrait by Dutch, Post-Impressionist artist Vincent van Gogh.

In this self-portrait, Van Gogh is shown wearing a blue cap with black fur and a green overcoat, with a bandage covering his ear and extending under his chin. He is in a traditional three-quarter view, and his forward gaze falls slightly to the right, out of the frame. Behind him is an open window, assumedly letting in a winter breeze, a canvas on an easel, with a few indistinguishable marks, as well as a Japanese woodblock print.

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The story

Van Gogh moved from Paris to Arles in hopes of creating a community for artists to exist in mutual supportiveness and encouragement. He invited Paul Gauguin, an artist whom he had befriended in Paris, to come stay with him. They proved to be a disagreeable pair and quarreled often, sometimes violently.

The evening of December 23, 1888 during one of their arguments, Van Gogh had a seizure during which he threatened Gauguin with a razor, but then injured himself, severing part of his left ear. In a state of excitement, he then brought the dismembered lobe to the Maison de Tolérance bordello where he presented it to a prostitute named Rachel.

When Gauguin returned the following morning he discovered that the police had arrived at the house, and blood was splattered in every room. Van Gogh had severed an artery in his neck, and was in grave health after losing so much blood. He was removed to the hospital, and he confessed to having no recollection of what happened during this fit. Throughout his life, Van Gogh continued to suffer from similar fits, sometimes characterized by acute paranoia.

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