What Really Happened To Van Gogh's Ear?

So the story goes like this: Vincent Van Gogh, a Dutch gentleman living in France with a lot of feelings, liked a girl very much. So much did he like this girl and so French was he about liking her that he cut his ear off like a slice of gushing honeydew. He then had the disembodied ear sent to his lady love in history's first recorded case of a man offering unreciprocated aural.

As tales of hopeless romantics cutting off their body parts go, this one is pretty much at the front of the pack. Is any of it real? Probably not. Let's dig in.

Ear we go

There are a number of theories as to why Van Gogh actually went all choppy on the side of his own head on December 23rd, 1888. Historians have pointed to a heated argument with his frenemy and roommate, Paul Gauguin. It's been reported that on the night of the incident, Gauguin and Van Gogh had a particularly intense disagreement, culminating in Gauguin departing in a huff. According to Van Gogh's website (which, and this is true, Van Gogh himself has never operated) Vincent took a straight razor and followed Gauguin, possibly with the intention of creating the world's first Jackson Pollock painting with his arteries. Failing to catch up with him, Vincent instead returned home and took out his frustrations on his own ear.

But history is as much fan fiction as it is actual truth, and there have been other accounts of what took place that Christmas Eve Eve. Some have speculated that Gauguin himself severed the ear with a sword, although if this occurred, the sword was never found and both men kept things mum for the rest of their lives. A more recent theory posited in the book Studio of the South: Van Gogh in Provence states that Van Gogh had received news that his brother, the man who supported him his entire adult life, was going to be married, and that either out of fear for his own stability or a bad case of the "look-at-me's," Vincent threw a big old temper tantrum.

Vincent Van goes hard in the paint

In any case, Vincent was next seen making a personal delivery to a maid at a local brothel, presumably performing the drop off himself because they didn't have UberEars back then. As The Guardian reports, the woman in question was Gabrielle Berlatier, and she was only working in the area because she needed to pay off medical debts incurred after she was bitten by a rabid dog earlier that year. Also, she was 18. Life was just more colorful back then.

Anyway, as inevitably happens when a boy cuts off part of his body and gives it to a girl he's sweet on, they fell in love and nothing bad ever happened to Vincent Van Gogh again.

Or, if you want to be a killjoy, she fainted and then avoided the painter until he killed himself in 1890. Or maybe he didn't kill himself, but was accidentally murdered by a kid putzing around with a gun. Or maybe werewolves did it.

In any case, in 2015, scientists created a new ear from Van Gogh's DNA. No, really. History, man. It's all fan fiction.