TRIVIAL PURSUITS: Why Did Vincent Van Gogh Cut Off His Ear?

Why Did Vincent Van Gogh cut off his ear, and to whom did he give it?

According to, in 1888, Van Gogh, who suffered from severe depression, rented a house in Arles in the south of France, where he hoped to found an artists’ colony. Another artist Paul Gauguin came to stay with him in Arles and the two men worked together for almost two months.   

However, tensions developed, and on December 23, in a fit of dementia, Van Gogh threatened his friend with a knife before turning it on himself and mutilating his ear lobe. Afterward, he allegedly wrapped up the ear and gave it to a prostitute at a nearby brothel.   

Following that incident, Van Gogh was hospitalized in Arles and then checked himself into a mental institution in Saint-Remy for a year. During his stay in Saint-Remy, he fluctuated between periods of madness and intense creativity, in which he produced some of his best and most well-known works, including Starry Night and Irises.  

In May 1890, Van Gogh moved to Auvers-sur-Oise, near Paris, where he continued to be plagued by despair and loneliness. On July 27, 1890, he shot himself and died two days later at age 37.