Legend vaguely has it that Van Gogh got into some kind of squabble with his pal Gauguin in the south of France. Later, after the most artsy pissing match in the history of artists, Van Gogh sliced his ear lobe off with a razor blade in a fit of tortured genius.
Then, like a cat wanting to show off its slain treasure, Van Gogh dashed around the corner with blood gushing out the side of his head and showed the bloody thing to his favorite prostitute at the local bordello. She gagged and fainted.
Van Gogh hobbled back home, feeling a little dizzy, and crawled into bed.
When the prostitute was over her case of the staggering vapors, she alerted Gauguin. Van Gogh was found in his blood-soaked bed babbling incoherently about the rising price of oil paints and was hauled out of his apartment feet first and admitted to the local quackery for medical treatment and supervision. That’s the official myth.
What really happened was a scene right out of countless drunken frat parties. After a serious bout of drowning themselves in absinthe, Van Gogh and Gauguin retreated back to their apartment with a few plump ladies of the night.
Gauguin made the mistake of drinking himself into a psychedelic stupor on an empty stomach and passed out on the apartment floor. Much to the delight of the giggling prostitutes, Van Gogh set about painting, in his signature style of impressionism, a one-eyed Jim and the twins (a Dutch expression for male genitalia) covering the expanse of Gauguin’s bare chest.
Van Gogh also painted a colorful, lively and swirling piece on his face which would be the inspiration for one of his most famous painting, A Starry Night.
Van Gogh awoke to a pricking feeling on the end of his nose. He opened his eyes to discover Gauguin, standing above him, his mustachioed face rendered blue, yellow, green and filled with the lamps of the firmament, and a colossal twig and beans on his chest.
The pricking sensation was due to Gauguin pointing a fencing sword straight at Van Gogh’s nose.
“What is the meaning of this?” Gauguin demanded. “Stand and take your punishment, you whoreson.”
“Eat shit,” said Van Gogh, “I’m sleeping.”
Gauguin brought the fencing sword down on Van Gogh so fast it made a whistling noise as it sliced through the air. The deed was done, and Van Gogh’s ear popped off the side of his head and bounced and rolled across the floor.
“You odious prick!” exclaimed Van Gogh. “You sliced off my fbleeping ear!”
Realizing what he had done, Gauguin apologized profusely, bandaged his friend and got him to the local quackery as fast as he could.
“Let’s see here,” said the doctor in a blood stained smock, without looking up from hisclipboard. “A severed ear — no insurance…” The doctor looked up and dropped his clipboard. One man had swirls and stars all over his face and an enormous johnson on his chest, and another was laying on the hacking table holding bloody cloths to the side of his head, his eyes big with pain and shock.
“Absinthe, heh?” said the doctor.
“I brought the ear,” said Gauguin. “Can you sew it back on?”
The doctor shook his head, and clucked his tongue. “If you had insurance, sure.” The doctor quoted him the price to sow the ear back.
“What?” said Van Gogh, “How much? I can’t hear you?” The doctor yelled the price, which was roughly equivalent to $5,000, adjusted for inflation. “That’s out of the fbleeping question,” Van Gogh spit.
“Let me see it,” said the doctor. “We’ll at least get you stitched up. Say, that’s a sword cut. You boys playing with swords? I’ll have to call the constabulary. Sword fighting is illegal in city limits.”
Gauguin looked at Van Gogh with pleading eyes. Van Gogh looked at Gauguin with a diabolical smile. “May I have a moment alone with my best friend in the world?” Gauguin asked the doctor.
“Hurry up,” said the doctor. “Time is money,” he said leaving the room and shutting the door behind him.
Gauguin was able to convince Van Gogh that the true story would ruin both their careers. After all, they were mad geniuses, not slap-stick screw-jobs.
The doctor came back in. “So what happened?” he asked looking at the two artists suspiciously. “I have to put something in my report with your charts,” he said tapping the clipboard impatiently.
“Um,” said Gauguin. “Uh,” said Van Gogh. “Ah!” said Gauguin struck with artisticinspiration. “This is what happened — I swear on all that is holy, good doctor.”
Gauguin explained how Van Gogh and he had argued about who would get which whore that evening, and that Van Gogh went psycho-livid. He swore that if he couldn’t have his favorite whore, then neither could Gauguin. In a fit of tortured genius he cut his ear off to give to the prostitute in question, and thereby ruin her appetite to render services. “Works for me,” said the doctor.