XIII. Did Van Gogh give any hints in his artworks?


Apart from the remarkable hints in his letters, Van Gogh reacted to Gauguin's defamatory legend also in some artworks. Early in January 1889, a few days after having provisionally recovered he was released from the hospital and returned to his Yellow House where he painted the famous two versions of "Self-Portrait with Bandaged Ear". These self-portraits do not at all represent a man who had harmed himself a short time ago, in a fit of madness, and might be ashamed. To the contrary, they show the bandaged ear, traces of the injury in a proud and accusatory way. They should be seen as an indictment against Gauguin.

At the same time, there is also reason to reinterpret Van Gogh's paintings of Madame Roulin ("La Berceuse") with a piece of rough rope in her hands.42 Van Gogh was just working on the first version of that portrait when he was interrupted by the ear-cutting incident. After his recovery, he resumed working on it and with reference to Daudet's novel "Tartarin sur les Alpes" (see Question 12), he added a rope with cut ends to it.

Read more about the portraits of Mme Roulin, "La Berceuse" in our special.


42. F 508, JH 1671; reproduced in Druick/Zegers 2001, p. 261



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