According to a book that is based on the police investigation of the ear cutting drama, Paul Gauguin, a fellow artist chopped Van Gogh ear with a sword fighting outside a brothel. The original story was that Van G was mentally unstable and he choppes his own ear.
The book, titled In Van Gogh’s Ear: Paul Gauguin and the Pact of Silence, is the product of 10 years of research by German academics Hans Kaufmann and Rita Wildegans.
They looked at witness accounts and letters sent by the two artists, concluding that the row ended with Gauguin – a keen fencer – cutting his friend’s ear off.
Van Gogh then apparently wrapped it in cloth and handed it to a prostitute, called Rachel.
Mr Kaufmann said it was not clear whether it was an accident or a deliberate attempt to injure Van Gogh, but afterwards both men agreed to tell the police the self-harm story to protect Gauguin.
He said the traditional version of events is based on contradictory and improbable evidence, and no independent witness statement exists.
“Gauguin was not present at the supposed self-mutilation,” he told Le Figaro newspaper in France.
“As for Van Gogh, he didn’t confirm anything. Their behaviour afterwards and various suggestions by the protagonists indicate they were hiding the truth.”
Gauguin later moved to Tahiti, where he produced some of his most famous works. Van Gogh died in 1890 after shooting himself in the chest.