Buying or making gifts for another person can be a bit of a minefield. I can remember my first shopping spree for my first girlfriend and the rising panic in my chest when I realised I hadn't a clue about buying a present for a girl. Looking back I received advice from my mother which was gratefully acted upon and saved the day.
Thank goodness I didn't do what Vincent van Gogh resorted to as a gift!
Apart from his paintings Vincent was almost as famous for cutting off part of his ear. There has been intense speculation about the incident and the reasoning behind the self-inflicted mutilation.
There have been questions about the artist's state of mind; the possibility of a chemically enhanced state; and, mental illness. All of these could provide the explanation but none the amount of the ear that was severed.
The above self-portrait would suggest that he severed the right ear, but there have been several suggestions as to how much. Popular opinion, until now, is that it was just the lobe that was hacked off. Gruesome enough, but then there is the question of what happened to the horrible hunk of flesh.
The facts of the case were that Vincent severed his ear as a result of a mental breakdown in 1888. He was found the day after the incident by the police. Two years later the artist took his own life.
However, it would seem that there may have been a woman involved. Van Gogh's Ear: The True Story is a book by Bernadette Murphy which claims to have the facts.
It seems that a farmer's daughter, Gabrielle Berlatier, was the recipient of the offensive article.Gabrielle was working as a maid in a brothel when she was given the strange gift, according to the new research.
Van Gogh is said to have handed over the ear to her with the words "keep this object carefully".
Martin Bailey of the Art Newspaper followed up Murphy's research and discovered that Gabrielle may have worked as a cleaner at the Cafe de la Gare, which was run by two friends of the artist. This in turn opens the possibility of a romantic element to the tragic life of Vincent van Gogh.