The Mystery of Van Gogh's Ear (ctd.)

July 22 2016

Image of The Mystery of Van Gogh's Ear (ctd.)

Picture: BBC

Last week I reported on new research by Bernadette Murphy on how, when and why Van Gogh cut off his ear. Now, Martin Bailey (himself a Van Gogh scholar) has published in The Art Newspaper the name of the lucky recipient of the ear:

The young woman in the brothel who was given Van Gogh’s ear can be revealed for the first time by The Art Newspaper as Gabrielle Berlatier, a farmer’s daughter. This solves a mystery that has remained unsolved for nearly 130 years.

Although not named, the woman was referred to in Bernadette Murphy’s book, Van Gogh’s Ear: The True Story, published by Chatto & Windus last week. Murphy wrote that she made a promise to Gabrielle’s descendants: “Until I am given permission by the family to reveal her surname, I will respect their wishes and keep it private.” Murphy kept to her word.

The Art Newspaper has followed up details given in her meticulously researched book by using an open archive. We tracked down the woman’s name in the records of the Institut Pasteur in Paris, where Gabrielle had been treated for rabies. Identifying her throws fresh light on the bizarre incident in which Van Gogh cut off nearly all his ear.

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