The Art Newspaper
reports, "An envelope depicted in a Van Gogh painting provides a clue that could help to explain why the artist slashed his ear. The envelope, in Still Life: Drawing Board with Onions
, 1889, is addressed to Vincent from his brother Theo. Until now, no one has considered whether the artist was illustrating a specific letter."
Reporter Martin Bailey pens, "In the still-life, the handwriting on the envelope is clearly Theo’s, and the letter is addressed to Vincent in Arles. Although the postmarks lack a legible date, one contains the number “67”, enclosed in a circle. This was used by the post office in Place des Abbesses, close to Theo’s Montmartre apartment."
It is speculated that the letter contained news that Theo had fallen in love. As a result, Vincent, who was emotionally unstable to begin with, became fearful that he might lose his brother’s emotional and financial support and decided to slice off his ear.
According to the article, "Still Life: Drawing Board with Onions
was painted just a few days after Vincent returned to the Yellow House on 7 January 1889. News of the love affair could well have been a trigger for the self-mutilation, although there was probably no one simple explanation for the incident and there were also serious tensions with Gauguin. Vincent may have feared (wrongly) that he would lose the support of Theo. For years, Theo had provided money and friendship."
Over 35 original letters, rarely exhibited to the public due to their fragility, will be on display at the Royal Academy of Arts in London, Jan. 23 - Apr. 10, 2010. Titled The Real Van Gogh: The Artist and His Letters
, will also feature paintings and drawings that express the principal themes to be found within the correspondence.
Shown above, Still Life with a Plate of Onions
, 1889. Note letter with stamp in lower right hand corner of the painting.
To learn more about the exhibit, click here