What Have We ‘Ear? New Theory About Van Gogh’s Ear Loss

6 05 2009

Van Gogh's Self-Portrait with Bandaged Ear and Pipe.

 Please accept my humble apologies for the appallingly cheezee header. Couldn’t resist. And it was either that or “Did you ‘ear the one about Van Gogh and Gauguin?”

Anyway, it seems that ears are the new black in the art world. Who’d have thought? On the one hand, we have a new theory from two German art historians who claim that Van Gogh didn’t sever his own ear, proposing instead that it was slashed off by the artist’s roommate, Paul Gauguin, during a quarrel. In their book, Van Gogh’s Ear: Paul Gauguin and the Pact of Silence, the title of which sounds suspiciously like it’s been borrowed from a Harry Potter tome, Hans Kaufmann and Rita Wildegans conclude that the two artists agreed to cover up the fracas by inventing the story that Van Gogh cut off his ear himself to offer as a love trophy to a favourite prostitute. It was that, or Gauguin would have faced prosecution. And so the myth of crazy old Van Gogh was born, and Gauguin took off for the South Pacific. The rest, as they say (who ‘they’ may be, I am not entirely sure), is history.artist Stelarc

Elsewhere, stalwart Australian performance artist, Stelarc, who has had a stellar career based on the transformation of his own body, has had an ear implant placed under the skin on his forearm. He plans to have it wired up so that people can phone his ‘ear’, and when they speak the sounds will come out of his mouth.

Shame Van Gogh isn’t still around, really. These two artists were born for each other. I can hear the conversation between him and Stelarc now –

Ring, ring… [Stelarc answers his arm-ear/phone]

“Hello, Stelarc here. Who’s speaking?”

“Stelarc… Maaate… It’s Vincent. Can you lend me an ear?”

It’s all very ear-ie. Tee hee.

Images: Van Gogh – The Age; Stelarc – The Mirror

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