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Dutch Scientists Solve Mystery Behind Vincent Van Gogh’s 'Self-Portrait With Bandaged Ear'

Dutch painter had lost his left ear under mysterious circumstances that led some scientists to speculate over the years that the iconic painter was attacked.


Dutch painter Vincent van Gogh’s ‘Self-Portrait with Bandaged Ear’ painting that has long been drawn to arguments “Why did Van Gogh cut off his ear?” has finally got a credible answer. The Dutch painter had lost his left ear under mysterious circumstances that had led some scientists to speculate over the years that the iconic painter was probably attacked by his French rival painter Paul Gauguin. While some others argued that Gogh’s mental health condition could have been directly associated with the artists’ injury. 

Recently, the researchers at the University Medical Center Groningen, Netherlands, have established the theory of an act of self-mutilation related to Gogh’s borderline personality disorder. In open research published in Qualitative Psychology journal scientist Runyan had outlined 13 hypotheses about psychological causes that may have been involved in the incident and evaluate each of them using a Popperian methodological approach of “conjecture” and “refutation”. The author first sorts hypotheses with respect to three questions: Why did the ear-cutting event occur when it did? Why did Vincent mutilate himself as part of this event? Earlier the Vincent Gogh Museum Chicago had claimed that Van Gogh cut off his ear following a furious row with Gaugin at Yellow House Stone, and was admitted to hospital in Arles. 

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📝 ‘I’m (…) so totally absorbed these recent superb days with square no. 30 canvases, which wear me out considerably and I intend to use to decorate the house’, wrote Vincent to his friend Émile Bernard. Vincent decided to paint a series of paintings to display all around the Yellow House. The ‘square no. 30’ refers to canvasses about 72 x 92 cm. He wanted to combine these works, like The Sower and Ploughed Fields. In this letter, Vincent sketches how he imagined it looking. 🌻 Vincent van Gogh, Ploughed Fields ('The Furrows') (1888); Letter from Vincent van Gogh to Theo van Gogh with sketches of The Sower and Ploughed Field with a Tree Trunk #Exhibition #Amsterdam #VanGoghMuseum #VanGogh #ArtExhibition #DailyArt

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Acute alcohol withdrawal

Scientists at University Medical Center Groningen (UMCG)  in joint research with the activity of the University of Groningen and the Academic Hospital Groningen (AZG) food that Gogh’s mutation of the ear was related to the acute alcohol withdrawal symptom. The team investigated 900 handwritten letters that the Dutch artist dispatched to his brother Theo and others that revealed Gogh’s psychopathology and his personality disorder.

“In these letters, he described what he went through in his life, including his mental health problems, although it must also be clear that Van Gogh wrote his letters not for his doctors but for his brother Theo and other relatives to inform or to calm them down,” the researchers wrote.

While 35 doctors, psychiatrists, and international art historians could not conclude the cause of Gogh’s one lost ear, UMCG scientists said that “Van Gogh suffered twice from delirium caused by alcohol withdrawal” according to a Posthumous psychiatric diagnosis. Gogh died on 29 July 1890 as a result of a suicide attempt earlier. 

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