Vincent van Gogh and the series La Berceuse, Arles 1888–1889


The period that Vincent van Gogh spent in Arles and Saint-Rémy from 1888 to 1890 undoubtedly belongs to the most creative phase of his artistic career. The existence of the almost identical paintings of Madame Augustine Roulin, the wife of the Arles postmaster, is consequently all the more surprising. We encounter her portrait – generally known in English as Madame Roulin Rocking the Cradle (La Berceuse) – in five international museums, and until 1970 there even existed a sixth version of the portrait, which was then discovered to be a copy by Emile Schuffenecker and consequently removed from the de la Faille catalogue raisonné.1
In the case of the versions housed in Boston, Chicago, New York, Amsterdam and Otterlo2, however, we have firm evidence that they were executed by Vincent van Gogh in the period between the end of December 1888 and the end of March 1889.
Despite this documented source material, however, the question as to the "why" of these repetitions, which exhibit only marginal variations, has to date neither been raised nor answered. A lack of models cannot have been the reason, not least since in the weeks preceding this series, van Gogh painted all five members of the postmaster's family, of whom only the portrait of Madame Roulin was then repeated four times.
The following study therefore examines the question of whether Vincent van Gogh, in a similar fashion as with his multiple repetitions of the portrait of Madame Ginoux as the embodiment of the emblematic L'Arlésienne, portrayed his neighbour Augustine Roulin as a symbol of maternity and womanly comfort and solace, as art historians have held up till now. The results of this investigation contradict existing findings and lead to surprising conclusions.

By his own account, van Gogh arrived at the motif of La Berceuse through reading the novel Pecheur d'Islande ("Icelandic fisherman") by Pierre Loti.3
"On the subject of [La Berceuse], I've just said to Gauguin that as he and I talked about the Icelandic fishermen and their melancholy isolation, exposed to all the dangers, alone on the sad sea, I've just said to Gauguin about it that, following these intimate conversations, the idea came to me to paint such a picture that sailors, at once children and martyrs, seeing it in the cabin of a boat of Icelandic fishermen, would experience a feeling of being rocked, reminding them of their own lullabies."4

Photograph © Museum of Fine Arts Boston

Vincent van Gogh's portrait shows Madame Roulin seated in a brown wooden armchair in front of multi-coloured French floral wallpaper that occupies the upper two thirds of the background.5 The lower third reproduces the red of the floor, against which the sitter's pale green skirt stands out clearly. Her plain, long-sleeved, dark green top reveals a pale blue lining at the neck and cuffs and emphasizes the blue of her eyes, which are gazing downwards, lost in thought, at an indeterminate point in the room. Her reddish blonde hair is combed back severely from her face. Her plait is pinned up like a crown on the back of her head, lending the face of this mother-of-three grace and dignity. It is clear from her hands, which are folded calmly in her lap, that the composition was originally conceived without the rope. The looped end of the cord is covered by the sitter's hands, while its two fraying lengths are cut off by the lower edge of the picture. Madame Roulin wears a double band on the fourth finger of her left hand, which lies outstretched and relaxed on top of the right. The gleams of light on her skirt and the suggestion of gathered folds are conveyed through small brushstrokes in a darker shade of green, which were evidently only laid down after the rope had found its clearly visible place.
Van Gogh wanted the painting to sing "a lullaby in colour" that radiated soothing tranquillity and comfort through its graduated colour contrasts.6
In 2001 Kristin Hoermann Lister published a comprehensive analysis of the five versions of La Berceuse based on art-historical scholarship, a detailed study of painting technique and scientific examinations, and ordered the paintings into chronological sequence.7 It was revealed by these researches that van Gogh had employed a tracing technique that enabled him to copy portraits he had painted earlier. But whereas Vincent freely confessed to the use of a perspective frame, nowhere in his writings does he make reference to tracing. X-ray analyses clearly show that the artist was familiar with the various methods of tracing and employed them in his multiple repetitions of the Berceuse motif.8 Tracings were generally made by placing a thin, translucent sheet of paper on top of the original and drawing over its contour lines. By going over these lines in charcoal or chalk on the reverse of the tracing paper and then placing the sheet on top of a fresh canvas, the outlines of the original could be transferred to the new support.

Hoermann Lister's investigations into van Gogh's painting technique not only prove that the artist used tracings in his work on the portrait series La Berceuse, but also point up the difficulties that he experienced with seemingly insignificant and subordinate details, such as the painting of the hands and the rope on the lap of Madame Roulin's skirt. The hand/rope combination is different in each of the five versions, and yet all of them seem strangely unsatisfactory, leading Hoermann Lister to conclude that "The hands and rope were the aspects of La Berceuse that troubled van Gogh most".9

At first sight, the rope in Madame Roulin's hand appears a minor attribute worthy of no special attention. X-ray and microscopic examinations of the Boston original10 reveal, however, that van Gogh added the hands and rope at a very much later stage.11 This finding has been disregarded in previous scholarship and no further conclusions have been drawn from it. When and above all why the relatively innocuous portrait of the artist's neighbour was transformed, simply via the addition of a rope, into La Berceuse – which in French means "lullaby" as well as "woman rocking the cradle" – nevertheless deserves closer attention.

After his breakdown on 23 December 1888, his subsequent admission to hospital in Arles and his discharge on 7 January 1889, Vincent van Gogh himself mentions four times in one week – in letters to Paul Gauguin, his brother Theo van Gogh, his friend Arnold Koning and again to Theo12 – that he has resumed work on the portrait of Madame Roulin. In the letter of 21 January 1889 addressed to Gauguin, we read surprisingly of a "lullaby":
"Today I made a fresh start on the canvas I had painted of Mrs Roulin, the one which had remained in a vague state as regards the hands because of my accident... As an Impressionist arrangement of colours, I've never devised anything better. And I believe that if one placed this canvas just as it is in a boat, even one of Icelandic fishermen, there would be some who would feel the lullaby [Fr. berceuse] in it."13 Further on in the same latter, van Gogh writes that, during his illness, he seems to have sung a lullaby: "I who can't sing on other occasions, [sang] to be precise an old wet-nurse's song while thinking of what the cradle-rocker sang as she rocked the sailors and whom I had sought in an arrangement of colours before falling ill."14
In this letter to Gauguin, the notion of the lullaby (berceuse) appears for the first time in the sources. The next day Vincent also mentions having completed "the hands that hold the cradle cord" in his letter to Koning and hopes (as cited above) that he may have "sung a lullaby in colour".15 In his letter to Theo of 28 January 1889, Vincent then writes – in words very similar to those used in his letter to Gauguin – of having painted a picture that would remind Icelandic fishermen of lullabies.16

The conviction that La Berceuse was originally laid out simply as a portrait and only became "The Lullaby" through the addition of the rope was voiced as long ago as 1992 by Jan Hulsker: "The implication that she was sitting by a cradle was probably introduced with the late addition of the two pieces of cord. If one looks at the picture closely, eliminating for a moment those two insignificant details at the bottom, it becomes evident that the hands hold nothing; they are quietly lying in the woman's lap, consistent with the pose of a seated figure (as seen, for example, in van Gogh's portrait of a lady seated by a cradle [F369, JH 1206] and in the two portraits of Père Tanguy [F 363, JH 1361 and F 354, JH 1352]). It is not clear exactly when van Gogh added the two pieces of cord to the original picture. What we know for certain is that the portrait had for a time remained unfinished as far as the hands were concerned ("restée à l`état vague pour les mains" was the phrase van Gogh used in his letter to Gauguin). It was not before 22 January 1889 that he mentioned 'the hands holding the rope of the cradle' in his letter to Koning, and from that moment onwards the portrait of Madame Roulin could enter history as 'La Berceuse'."17

It should be noted that van Gogh had not yet completed the portrait of Madame Roulin when the final argument with Gauguin erupted on 23 December 1888 and he found himself the following morning in Arles hospital with a serious injury to his left ear. He was discharged on 7 January 1889, apparently recovered.

It was a full fortnight after leaving hospital that Vincent wrote the letters to Gauguin, Theo and Koning in which he reports that he has resumed work on the portrait of Madame Roulin. When, according to his own information, he was once more able to devote himself to the portrait on 21 January 1889, he not only completed the hands but added an attribute. Through the addition of the rope, the portrait of Madame Roulin thus underwent a metamorphosis and became "The Lullaby", La Berceuse. But why?

What prompted van Gogh to place a rope belatedly in Madame Roulin's lap, given that the postmaster's wife remains without eye contact and wholly unconcerned with the fictive infant in the fictive cradle? Stoic and with an absent air, she gazes into the middle distance. The cradle cord – wiegetouw, as van Gogh calls it in Dutch18 – appears like a foreign body that is partially covered by Madame Roulin's hands but not interlaced with them.

A cultural history of the cradle19 reveals that, in 19th-century France in particular, cradles were commonly rocked by means of a strap system – but never with a rope. A cradle was normally furnished with three or four pommels along its sides, to which the rocking strap was fastened. Starting with one end, the strap was laced in a criss-cross fashion over the coverlet and the infant tucked beneath. This prevented the child from falling out when the cradle was rocked. As a rule, the strap was a flat, woven band measuring some 3–5 cm wide, with a woven pattern or finely embroidered. The mother or nurse wound the loose end around her hand so that, by pulling the strap taut, she could start rocking the cradle. The mother-and-baby portrait of Madame Roulin and her daughter Marcelle, painted by Vincent van Gogh a few weeks earlier, shows the infant dressed in the style befitting the child of a postmaster.20 If Madame Roulin had used a strap to rock the cradle, it would undoubtedly have been an embroidered band and not a rope. It is therefore to be assumed that van Gogh added the rope on the basis of his imagination and not from direct observation, all the more so since he has painted two strands of rope instead of just the single end of a normal rocking strap.21

In none of the five versions may the belated addition of the rope attribute be considered altogether resolved from a formal point of view. Explanations put forward to date similarly fail to convince. Thus the suggestion that van Gogh was simply not very good at hands, for example, is hard to credit.22 Equally problematic are the confusing titles given to these works in different languages. They reveal the visible discrepancy between Madame Roulin's hands lying calmly in her lap and her supposed activity. Thus all five versions of the portrait are called Madame Roulin Rocking the Cradle (La Berceuse) in the English catalogue accompanying the 2001–02 exhibition Van Gogh and Gauguin. The Studio of the South, organized by the Chicago Institute of Art and the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam. This title is contradicted, however, by the German edition of the same catalogue, where the official translation is Madame Roulin beim Spinnen (La Berceuse), which translates as "Madame Roulin Spinning".23 While it is true that the French word berceuse can mean both "lullaby" and "woman rocking a cradle", all of these titles are unconvincing since Madame Roulin is quite clearly neither rocking a cradle nor spinning.

On the contrary, the strange insertion of the rope, which was only added after Vincent's discharge from hospital and was not part of the original design24, points to a more complex level of meaning.

In a long letter written on 17 January 1889, ten days after he left hospital, Vincent aims to fulfil his brother's request for an explanation of his disastrous row with Gauguin.25 He informs Theo about the disappointing behaviour of his artist colleague before, during and after the momentous argument of 23 December 1888, in the course of which Vincent lost an ear. In relating what happened, however, van Gogh evidently found himself in a profound dilemma. On the one hand he wanted to clarify the situation for his brother, while on the other he had evidently made a promise to Gauguin not to talk about the incident, at which there were no other witnesses.

Gauguin confirms this first of all in the account of the events of 23 December 1888 that he gave in person to Emile Bernhard, who repeated it partly verbatim in a letter to Albert Aurier of 1 January 1889. According to Bernard, immediately after their argument van Gogh said to Gauguin: "You are silent, but I shall be so too."26
There was a promise, in other words, to keep quiet about the incident. Consequences arising out of this for art-historical scholarship were for a long time disregarded in the almost boundless literature on van Gogh and Gauguin. Only in a study on van Gogh and Gauguin's stay in Arles, published in 2008, was it possible, on the basis of this and other previously neglected sources, to decipher with great plausibility the true course of the violent confrontation between the two artists.27

In order to resolve the dilemma facing him in the above-mentioned letter of 17 January, namely to explain to Theo the dramatic events of 23 December without breaking his oath of silence to Gauguin, Vincent van Gogh – as so often when describing certain situations in his life – turns to literature.
The close relationship between literature and van Gogh's visual language was underlined more than two decades ago by Judy Sund: "As in other times of crisis [...] van Gogh, in the wake of his first nervous collapse, took refuge in literature. He found that fictional situations not only provided escape from his own problems and anxieties, but also suggested metaphors for his dilemma and modes of describing and explaining the events he sought to reconstruct."28 In the present case the artist refers to a passage from a book that he could be sure both Theo and Gauguin had either already read or would read in full.

In the same reply to Theo of 17 January, Vincent thus writes: "Has Gauguin ever read Tartarin sur les Alpes, and does he remember Tartarin's illustrious pal from Tarascon who had such an imagination that in one fell swoop he imagined an entire imaginary Switzerland? Does he remember the knot in a rope rediscovered high up in the Alps after the fall? And you, who wish to know how things happened, have you ever read the whole of Tartarin? That would teach you to recognize Gauguin pretty well. I urge you in all seriousness to look at that passage in Daudet's book again."29

A parallel reference appears in Vincent's letter to Gauguin of 21 January: "Have you read Tartarin in full by now? The imagination of the south creates pals, doesn't it, and between us we always have friendship."30

In these two letters, in other words, Vincent asks both his brother and Gauguin to read Tartarin in full.

Tartarin sur les Alpes by Alphonse Daudet appeared in 1885 as the second part of a trilogy31 and recounts the adventures of Tartarin and his friend Bompard in the Alps. Like the trials endured by the two friends in the mountains, Vincent perceived living and working together in the South of France as a challenge for Gauguin and himself. Similar to Daudet's heroes, he also believed that intensely shared experiences in the South could turn two men into close comrades.

He thus makes specific reference to one of the adventures shared by the two protagonists at the very end of the book, when Tartarin and Bompard embark on a hazardous expedition to climb Mont-Blanc. Struggling through the snow, roped together, they lose sight of one another when Tartarin disappears behind an arête. The rope suddenly snags on a rock; both parties feel a violent tug and assume that the other has taken a fall. To prevent themselves being dragged to their death, each cuts the rope, one with a knife and the other with an ice-axe.
Each is then convinced that he has sacrificed his friend to save himself. Bompard descends the mountain alone and announces that the rope broke and Tartarin is lost. A search is launched, but no trace of Tartarin is found. All that is discovered is "a section of rope trapped in a crevice of ice at the Dôme du Goûter. But this rope, strangely, was cut at both ends as if with a sharp implement."32

The following are illustrations of the cutted rope in three different editions (1885, 1885 and 1886). As can be proofed, one of them was located in the "Yellow House". It was used by van Gogh when finishing "La Berceuse" as a symbol of lie and treachery.


Alphonse Daudet, Tartarin sur les Alpes, Paris Calman-Levy, 1885, p.334


Alphonse Daudet, Tartarin sur les Alpes, 1886, p.334

It was convincing proof of the deceitful lie that Bompard had invented and which was subsequently accepted by the people of Tarascon, being a "race so at ease with tall stories, with audacious and quickly refuted lies".33 The novel closes with the illustration of a rope as the corpus delicti.34


Alphonse Daudet, Tartarin sur les Alpes, 1885, p.348

If Vincent van Gogh, requested by his brother to describe the course of the drama, only refers him to the end of Daudet's novel, makes explicit mention of "the knot in a rope" and associates Gauguin with the "illustrious [Bompard], who had such an imagination that in one fell swoop he imagined an entire imaginary Switzerland", it must necessarily be assumed that the account given out by Gauguin, according to which van Gogh allegedly cut off his ear with a razorblade, is likewise different to the true version of events.

The rope that Vincent belatedly places in Madame Roulin's lap upon resuming work on her portrait consequently becomes a metaphor for a lie told to people who are happy and willing to believe it.

Analagous to Tartarin and Bompard, van Gogh and Gauguin had ample reasons to conceal their behaviour on the evening the catastrophe occurred. Van Gogh felt himself to a certain extent jointly responsible for the argument, since he had been trying with all his means to keep his collaborative studio project with Gauguin alive. This latter, however, had already signalled his desire – even before 23 December 1888 – to terminate his stay in Arles, something that may have triggered the escalation. If van Gogh kept silent in line with his promise to Gauguin, it was because he was still hoping that the two of them would be able to continue living and working together. Gauguin, by contrast, was justifiably afraid of a criminal prosecution.35
When questioned by the police, he came up with a fabricated story that exonerated him of all blame and then fled to Paris. He made sure that he never met Vincent van Gogh again.

Vincent, by contrast, asked Gauguin in vain if they could talk things over. On 17 January 1889 Vincent complained to Theo: "How can Gauguin claim to have feared disturbing me by his presence when he would have difficulty denying that he knew I asked for him continually, and people told him time and again that I was insisting on seeing him that very moment? Precisely to tell him to keep it between himself and me without disturbing you. He wouldn't listen."36 Instead of providing Theo with an account of the events of the night before Christmas Eve, upon returning to his still unfinished portrait of Madame Roulin Vincent laid the rope in her lap. In order to be sure the allusion would be understood, van Gogh expressly requests both his brother and Gauguin to read Tartarin in full, since the key significance of the "rope" is only revealed at the end of the novel.

Van Gogh competed the first version of La Berceuse after 21 January 1889. The second and third versions followed in rapid succession. On 3 February 1889 Vincent announced that he was starting work on a fourth Berceuse, but the ritual character of these compulsive repetitions led to a second health crisis. On 7 February Vincent van Gogh was again admitted to hospital. At this point he was weeping continuously and unable to speak.

Van Gogh intended a copy of La Berceuse for each of the people most important to him at that time: Theo van Gogh, Paul Gauguin, Emil Bernard and the Roulin family. He kept one version for himself.37 All five portraits of Madame Roulin, called La Berceuse, are today on display in public museums.



1. Faille, Jacob Baart, de la, The works of Vincent van Gogh, His paintings and drawings, Amsterdam 1970

2. Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Vincent van Gogh, F 508, 22.01.1889; The Art Institute of Chicago, Vincent van Gogh, F 505, 29.01.1889; The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Vincent van Gogh, F 506, 29.01.1889; Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam, Vincent van Gogh, F 507, 22.01.1889; Kröller Möller Museum, Otterlo, Vincent van Gogh, F504, 29.03.1889

3. Pierre Loti, Pecheur d'Islande, Paris 1886

4. "Je viens de dire à Gauguin au sujet de cette toile que lui et moi ayant causé des pecheurs d`Islande et de leur isolement mélancolique, exposés à tous les dangers, seuls sur la triste mer, je viens d'en dire à Gauguin qu'en suite de ces conversations intimes, il m'était venue l'idée de peindre un tel tableau que des marins, à la fois enfants et martyrs, le voyant dans la cabine d'un bateau de pecheurs d'Islande, éprouveraient un sentiment de bercement leur rappelant leur propre chant de nourrice." Vincent to Theo van Gogh, letter 743, 28.01.1889, in: Leo Jansen, Hans Luijten, Nienke Bakker (eds.) (2009), Vincent van Gogh – The Letters. Version: December 2010. Amsterdam & The Hague: Van Gogh Museum & Huygens ING. Cited here from

5. The description in the following passage is based on the Boston painting of La Berceuse, which Kristin Hoermann Lister convincingly identifies as the first version of the portrait. See Kristin Hoermann Lister, "Tracing a transformation: Madame Roulin into La Berceuse", in: Van Gogh Museum Journal 2001, Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam 2001, pp. 63–82.

6. "Heb ik met kleur reeds een wiegeliedje gezongen". Vincent van Gogh to Arnold Koning, letter 740 of 22.01.1889, in: Jansen/Luijten Bakker 2010. Cited here from

7. Hoermann Lister 2001, op. cit.

8. Van Gogh's use of tracings was first proposed by Roland Dorn in "The Arles period: symbolic means, decorative ends", in: Van Gogh face to face, exh. cat. The Detroit Institute of Arts, Detroit 2000, pp. 140–141. When Hoermann Lister laid transparent scans of the portraits on top of each other, she observed that "the similarities thus revealed were so astonishing, that it was immediately obvious – even without primary evidence – that the artist had indeed used the tracing method."

9. Hoermann Lister 2001, op. cit., p. 65

10. This author accepts Hoermann Lister's conclusion that the Boston version of La Berceuse was the prototype from which the other four followed. See note 5.

11. "Microscopic examination has revealed that the Boston and Amsterdam versions had areas that were completely dry when subsequent layers, including the hands and rope, were added and that the Chicago and New York versions were painted very quickly, wet-into-wet, as was the Otterlo version." Hoermann Lister 2001, op. cit., p. 73

12. Vincent van Gogh to Paul Gauguin, letter 739 of 21.01.1889; to Theo van Gogh, letter 741 of 22.01.1889; to Arnold Koning, letter 740 of 22.01.1889; to Theo van Gogh, letter 743 of 28.01.1889, in: Jansen/Luijten Bakker 2010.

13. "Aujourd'hui j'ai récommencé la toile que j`avais peinte de Madame Roulin, celle que pour cause de mon accident était restée à l'état vague pour les mains […] Comme arrangement de couleurs impressioniste je n'ai jamais inventé mieux. Et je crois si on plaçait cette toile telle quelle dans un bateau de pêcheurs même d'Islande, il y en aurait qui sentiraient là-dedans la berceuse." Vincent van Gogh to Paul Gauguin, letter 739 of 21.01.1889, in: Jansen/Luijten Bakker 2010.
Cited here from

14. "…moi qui ne sais pas chanter en d'autres occasions, justement un vieux chant de nourrice en songeant à ce que chantait la berceuse qui bercait les marins et que j'avais cherchée dans un arrangement de couleurs avant de tomber malade." Ibid. It is assumed that the little sketch of a fish containing the word ictus in the space after the end of van Gogh's sentence "avant tomber malade" ("before falling ill") was added by Gauguin (see, note 10). Given that Gauguin was not a doctor but an accomplished fencer, he evidently used the word ictus in a sense more familiar to him. In fencing circles it means to make a pass, lunge or thrust. On the significance of the word "ictus" in Gauguin, see Hans Kaufmann and Rita Wildegans, Van Goghs Ohr: Paul Gauguin und der Pakt des Schweigens, Berlin 2008, p. 326

15. Vincent van Gogh to Arnold Koning, letter 740 of 22.01.1889 (as note 6)

16. Vincent van Gogh to Theo van Gogh, letter 743 of 28.01.1889 (as note 4)

17. Jan Hulsker, "Van Gogh, Roulin and the two Arlésiennes: Part I", The Burlington Magazine, vol. 134, no. 1074, September 1992, pp. 570–577 (here p. 577)

18. Vincent van Gogh to Arnold Koning, letter 740 of 22.01.1889 (as note 6)

19. Cf. Friedrich von Zglinicki, Die Wiege, volkskundlich, kulturgeschichtlich, kunstwissenschaftlich, medizinhistorisch, Regensburg 1979; cf. also Ferdinand Fellinger, Das Kind in der altfranzösischen Literatur, Göttingen 1908, esp. p. 121

20. Vincent van Gogh, Portrait of Madame Roulin and Baby Marcelle, December 1888, F 490, JH 1637, Philadelphia, Philadelphia Museum of Art

21. The idea of a cradle rope or cord may have been prompted by memories of the short period during which he lived with the impoverished prostitute Sien and her children, including a newborn.

22. "The loving grip and tension on the rope presented a special challenge for an artist who always had trouble with hands." Steven Naifeh, Gregory White Smith, Van Gogh, The Life, New York 2011, p. 701

23. Douglas W. Druick and Peter Kost Zegers., Van Gogh and Gauguin: The Studio of the South, exh. cat. Chicago Institute of Art and Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam, London 2001, fig. 141, p. 261; fig. 14, p. 271; figs. 19, 20 and 21, p. 273; idem., Van Gogh und Gauguin, Das Atelier des Südens, Belser 2002, ibid.

24. In advance of the exhibition Van Gogh and Gauguin, The Studio of the South (see note 23), the majority of the paintings produced by the two artists during Gauguin's stay in Arles, including the series La Berceuse, underwent a range of scientific investigations (details in Hoermann Lister 2001, p. 63f., note 2). The results showed that "the rope was not part of the initial underdrawing" (idem. p. 76). The question arises as to whether the indication made by a brush in the first wet underlayer signifies the future course of the rope or the shape of a fold in Madame Roulin's skirt.

25. Vincent van Gogh to Theo van Gogh, letter 736 of 17.01.1889, in: Jansen/Luijten Bakker 2010

26. "Vous êtes taciturn, mais moi je le serai aussi." Letter from Emile Bernard to Albert Aurier, postmarked 1.1.1889, facsimile and transcript Nouveau Drouot auction house, Paris, 29.03.1985.
Cited here from

27. Kaufmann and Wildegans 2008

28. Judy Sund, True to Temperament: Van Gogh and Naturalist Literature, Cambridge 1992, p. 215.

29. "Gauguin a-t-il jamais lu Tartarin sur les Alpes et se souvient-il de l'illustre copain Tarasconais de Tartarin qui avait un telle imagination qu'il avait du coup imaginé toute une Suisse imaginaire? Se souvient-il du noeud dans une corde retrouvé en haut des Alpes après la chute. Et toi, qui désire savoir comment étaient les choses, as tu déjà lu le Tartarin tout entier.... Cela t'apprendrait passablement à reconnaître Gauguin. C'est très serieusement que je t'engage à revoir ce passage dans le livre de Daudet." Vincent van Gogh to Theo van Gogh, letter 736 of 17.01.1889, in: Jansen/Luijten Bakker 2010.
Cited here from

30. "Avez vous déjà lu Tartarin en plein maintenant? L'imagination du midi rend copains, allez, et entre nous nous avons amitié toujours." Vincent van Gogh to Paul Gauguin, letter 739 of 21.01.1889 (as note 13).

31. Alphonse Daudet, Tartarin sur les Alpes, Calmann-Lévy, Paris: Edition Figaro 1885. A second edition appeared that same year, published by Dubuisson in Paris, followed by a third edition in 1886, and so on in a succession of different editions, published at short intervals by different publishers and featuring different illustrations, including of the rope. I base myself here upon the first, November1885 edition by Calmann-Lévy, Paris.

32. "On trouva seulement au Dôme du Goûter un bout de corde resté dans une anfractuosité de glace. Mais cette corde, chose singulière, était coupée aux deux bouts comme avec un instrument trenchant." Ibid., p. 319

33. "si facile aux histoires invraisemblables, aux mensonges audacieux et vite refutes". Ibid., p. 333

34. Ibid., p. 334

35. Gauguin left Arles in great haste and left behind not only his fencing mask, fencing gloves and sketchbooks but even his house key. At his request, his things were sent on after him.

36. "Comment Gauguin peut il prétendre avoir craint de me déranger par sa présence alors qu'il saurait difficilement nier qu'il a su que continuellement je l'ai demandé et qu'on le lui a dit et redit que j'insistais à le voir à l'instant. Justement pour lui dire de garder cela pour lui et pour moi sans te déranger toi.– Il n'a pas voulu écouter." Vincent van Gogh to Theo van Gogh, letter 736 of 17.01.1889 (as note 29).

37. Vincent van Gogh later considered making a La Berceuse portrait the central panel of a triptych, flanked by two of his Sunflowers in a Vase pictures that had hung in Gauguin's bedroom in Arles. See Vincent van Gogh to Theo van Gogh, letter 776 of 23.05.1889, in: Jansen/Luijten Bakker 2010.