London, May 5 (ANI): Vincent Van Gogh's ear was cut off by his friend Paul Gauguin during an argument, and the Dutch artist may have cooked up the story that it was his own doing to protect his pal, claims a new study.
It has been previously believed that Van Gogh lopped off part of his left ear in 1888 following a breakdown in his friendship with Gauguin after which he suffered recurrent bouts of mental illness, which led to his suicide.
German art historians have always cast a shadow of doubt over the true nature of events, which were never revealed as both the men kept a "pact of silence" over the incident.
And now experts Hans Kaufmann and Rita Wildegans, in Van Gogh's Ear: Paul Gauguin and the Pact of Silence, allege that it was the sword assault, not Van Gogh's madness, which drove him to suicide two years later.
The historians, in Hamburg, cited correspondence between Van Gogh and his brother, Theo, in which the Post-Impressionist painter seemed to suggest what happened without directly dropping the "pact of silence".
"He writes that it's lucky Gauguin doesn't have a machine gun or other firearms, that he's stronger than him and that his 'passions' are stronger," the Telegraph quoted Kaufmann as saying.
The boffins further drew attention to one of Van Gogh's sketches of an ear, with the word "ictus", the Latin word meaning a hit in fencing, and suggested the zigzags above the ear were Gauguin's Zoro-like sword-stroke.
But many other experts have reasons to disagree with the new account since the historians confessed having no "smoking gun" to validate their claims.
Nina Zimmer, the curator of a major Van Gogh exhibition in Basel, told Le Figaro: "Perhaps they're right, but all the hypotheses are valid given the lack of material." (ANI)