The truth behind Van Gogh’s ear

Van Gogh could be the very face of a tortured artist, who in an act of rage or lunacy severed his own left ear with a razor in 1888. 

Until now, there have been several disputed versions of just how much Van Gogh really cut off his ear. Some accounts say that he severed only his earlobe, while others say he hacked away at the entire lower portion of his ear.

An archived document at UC Berkeley’s Bancroft Library that’s been recently rediscovered reveals just how much he really mutilated himself.

And it’s not pretty.

The document is a sketch of Van Gogh’s severed ear by Felix Rey, the physician who treated him. Rey’s drawing and note shows that Van Gogh in fact, sliced off most of his ear with only a tiny flap of lobe remaining. 

Ouch.

Watch this video to find out what the rest of the note says.

The skull with the seashell ear: A female Neolithic skull and its prosthetic seashell ear dating to approx. 300BC, found in a megalithic chamber tomb in Roque dAille in the Var. 


The skull shows evidence the woman had survived trephination and gone on to live for many ears. The artificial ear also shows signs of wear and tear, possibly from the woman playing with it.


Photo by Gustaf Sobin, published in “Luminous Debris: Reflecting on Vestige in Provence and Languedoc” (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1999).