Did Van Gogh Slash His Ear Because of the Letter in This Painting?
In December of 1888, Vincent Van Gogh cut off the lobe of his left ear with a razor. Many explanations have been offered for this bizarre behavior. Now a scholar claims to have found an explanation in the portrayal of a letter in Van Gogh’s Still Life: Drawing Board, Pipe, Onions and Sealing-Wax, painted the following month.
Bailey concludes that this letter was written by [Van Gogh's brother] Theo from Paris in December 1888 and contained news of his engagement. This, he believes, tipped Vincent, who was already psychologically disturbed, into self-harm. “Vincent was fearful that he might lose his brother’s emotional and financial support,”writes Bailey in the January edition of The Art Newspaper.
The postmark depicted on the letter corresponds to that which would have been used by Van Gogh’s brother, and the date would agree with the transmital of the engagement news.