When we were kids, we were told he cut his own ear off after being jilted by the love of his life. When we were teenagers they finally told us that he was a bit deranged and the “love of his life” was really a local prostitute.
Now it seems the mystery has even deeper and smellier layers of onion [Ed Note -- I'm pretty sure I'm using this metaphor incorrectly].
The researchers claim that Van Gogh did not even cut his own ear off. Instead it was severed by…
… his contemporary artist Paul Gaugin!!
Van Gogh and Gauguin’s troubled friendship was legendary. In 1888, Van Gogh persuaded him to come to Arles in the south of France to live with him in the Yellow House he had set up as a “studio of the south”. They spent the autumn painting together before things soured. Just before Christmas, they fell out. Van Gogh, seized by an attack of a metabolic disease became aggressive and was apparently crushed when Gauguin said he was leaving for good.
Kaufmann told the Guardian: “Near the brothel, about 300 metres from the Yellow House, there was a final encounter between them: Vincent might have attacked him, Gauguin wanted to defend himself and to get rid of this ‘madman’. He drew his weapon, made some movement in the direction of Vincent and by that cut off his left ear.” Kaufmann said it was not clear if it was an accident or an aimed hit.
Of course they didn’t have Twitter back then, so we’ll never really know what happened. What we do know is that Van Gogh proceeded to deliver his ear to the brothel with a note that said “Ear you go!” Haha just kidding. It said “Sorry for being so ear-rational!”