Thursday, September 3, 2009

Van Gogh: ear we go again...

I was amused to read Ann Landi's interesting bibliographical review on ARTnews online of the various mythologies that have grown up around van Gogh's ear over the decades (yes, that's it on the left).

Among the texts they refer to is German writer and van Gogh scholar Stefan Koldehoff's book Van Gogh: Mythos und Wirklichkeit (Van Gogh: Myth and Reality, DuMont 2003), which explored the circumstances of the Dutch painter's lobe-otomy (ouch!).

During his research, Koldehoff "found not even the smallest piece of truth" for the 2001 thesis expounded by Hamburg-based scholars Hans Kaufmann and Rita Wildegans (Van Goghs Ohr: Paul Gauguin und der Pakt des Schweigens (Van Gogh’s Ear: Paul Gauguin and the Pact of Silence, Osburg) in which they venture that Vincent lost his ear during a sword fight with Gauguin during their tumultuous time sharing a house in Provence.

Be that as it may, what interested me most about the ARTnews piece was Koldehoff's reference to a satirical story I penned in 2003 (which he also discussed in his book (right) and which, incidentally, can still be read online here).

Koldehoff told ARTnews, "In 2003, on the 150th anniversary of van Gogh’s birth, a British colleague [he meant Percy Flarge] put on his Web site a photo of a glass [above left] supposedly containing the artist’s ear," claiming it had been found recently in southern France and that there was now a dispute between the Netherlands and France as to where it should go as a national treasure. "Of course it was an ironic comment on the big brouhaha over the anniversary, but several serious news agencies and newspapers printed it as fact."

I only bring this up in the hope that Stefan Koldehoff can enlighten me as to which serious news agencies and newspapers fell for that story. Or is he, perhaps, confusing it with the Belgian broadsheet De Morgen's credulous re-publishing of my satirical Parthenon Marbles article which claimed that the Marbles were not, in fact, made by a Greek but by an Englishman who changed his name to Pheidias. Just for the record, that news item and The Guardian's follow-up can also still be read online here.

I mention this not merely to drive traffic to that humble piece of internet real estate where the flag of art satire still flutters in the gentle breeze, but also to ensure that the British Museum's unethical stance over the Parthenon Marbles doesn't entirely slip from the agenda now that the New Acropolis Museum is open and drawing huge visitor numbers.


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