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Vincent van Gogh: doctor's note concerning his severed ear



Transcript

Five or six years ago, a researcher in France, an English woman who lives in the south of France, found a reference to a document in the papers here at Bancroft and contacted a colleague of mine to see if he could find this document relating to Vincent van Gogh. So this is one of several hundred boxes that make up the papers of Irving Stone that are held here at the Bancroft Library. This box contains the research notes and draft documents of his book, Lust for Life, which documents the life of the artist, van Gogh.

Here, you can see an example of the material that he gathered-- notes, printed documents relating to van Gogh. But hidden in this folder was this very special document here, which ends decades dispute about how much of van Gogh's ear he actually cut off. This was a document written at Stone's request by the doctor who treated van Gogh after the incident. And the doctor, you can see, drew these diagrams illustrating through this dotted line how much of the ear was removed by van Gogh's razor. And as you can see, pretty much all of the ear was removed with just a little bit of a lobe remaining.

Well, the note is so small and unassuming, it would easy to miss it if you were looking through the archive, even though it is so important. But it's also curious that it was done, I think, 42 years after the incident itself. So the doctor clearly had a strong memory of it. He hoped Irving Stone would write favorably of van Gogh, who he respected as an artistic genius.

Normally, this is not framed. But it is framed right now for an exhibition in Amsterdam. When it returns, it will be removed from the frame and put back in this folder and back on the shelf at Bancroft. Discoveries of this level don't happen very often in any archive in the world. This was a major document that would change the story of van Gogh's life forever.
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