In its September issue, The Art Newspaper ran an article revealing the name of the recipient of Van Gogh's severed ear. Too young to be a registered prostitute, Gabrielle Berlatier was a maid at the brothel that inspired Van Gogh's painting, The Night Cafe. Although the details are sketchy it seems that Van Gogh gave the girl his ear as some type of sympathetic gesture because her ear was bitten by a rabid dog and had to be cauterized, leaving 18-year-old Gabrielle permanently scarred. Both the dog bite and the incident with Van Gogh's ear happened in 1888, but the girl's name and the details of the incident remained a mystery for decades. Almost 50 years later, a 1936 newspaper article revealed her first name but no other details. That's until last July when a book devoted to the topic was published.
Talk about having a bad year! That poor woman! Van Gogh is one of my favorite painters but I never understood the whole self-mutilation thing. Now, thanks to The Art Newspaper, I at least have more facts about the incident.