There were debates about whether Vincent Van Gogh cut his whole ear or just a part of it. A book named Van Gogh’s Ear: The True Story by Chatto & Windus cleared all the debates by revealing he cut almost his whole ear. The mystery woman who received Van Gogh’s ear was referred in the book but not named. The young woman is revealed for the first time by The Art Newspaper as Gabrielle Berlatier, a farmer’s daughter. This solves a mystery that has been remained unsolved for nearly 130 years.
The research team in The Art Newspaper has followed up the details in the book by using an open archive. They track down the woman’s name in the record of the Institut Pasteur in Paris, where she had been treated for rabies.
The medical records reveal that 18-year-old Gabrielle lived at the Mas de Faravelle in Moules. She had been bitten on her left arm by a dog and then the dog was shot and foud to have had rabies. Gabrielle then suffered the painful process of having the wound cauterized with a red-hot iron, leaving a disfiguring scar. Imagine the trauma she had been through by working in a brothel at nights after such an incident.
There are some evidences suggested that Gabrielle may have also worked as a cleaner at the Café de la Gare, which was run by Van Gogh’s friends. The artist had a room and stayed there from time to time. Three months before the ear incident Van Gogh completed a painting of the café and called ‘The Night Café’. He told his friend Emile Bernard that the Café de La Gare was a “house of assignation, and from time to time you see a whore sitting there at a table with her fellow.” Such a couple can be seen in his painting, at the back of the room.