Man in Vincent van Gogh’s ‘Self-Portrait’ Turns Out To Be His Brother

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Ilvy Njiokiktjien / Getty Images

When it comes to van Gogh, it all comes down to the ears.What was thought to be a self-portrait of the artist—known for expressive brush strokes and for cutting off his ear—is likely to a depiction of his brother Theo. And his ear — not its number, but its shape — was the key to revealing the 125-year-old secret.

Theo, who was five years younger than Vincent, was the lonely artist’s lifetime confidant and supporter, but until now there was no known portrait of the brother, save a few sketches until the recent discovery.

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Louis van Tilborgh, the Van Gogh Museum’s senior researcher, explained the reasoning behind his conclusion. It is “based on a number of obvious differences between the two brothers.” He pointed out the neatness and color or the beard and the shape of the ears. In van Gogh’s numerous self-portraits, his ears are long and pointy, and the beard, dark auburn-colored and messy, whereas the portrait in question depicts rounder ears and lighter beard minus the sideburns.

But honestly, it’s hard for an average viewer like NewsFeed to tell the difference. Experts say that the brothers actually looked alike in real life.

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The past controversy of his ear involves another famous post-impressionist artist, Paul Gauguin. Originally, van Gogh is said to have sliced off a part of his ear in a fit of madness after a big fight with his artist friend. But two historians wrote a book arguing that story was made up by van Gogh to protect his friend, who had accidentally chopped off van Gogh’s earlobe with a sword during a heated argument. Tragically, van Gogh ended his own life, shooting himself in a wheat field two years later in 1890.

More than a century has passed, but mysteries of the tortured artist’s life keep coming back to haunt us. (via AFP)

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