One of the most told stories in the art world is the one about Vincent Van Gogh chopping off his ear and sending it to his beloved in a mad attempt to prove his loyalty to her.

Since then, though, several accounts have emerged about the incident, some even suggesting that Van Gogh wasn't even the person responsible for his injury. One theory suggests that fellow artist Paul Gaugin lopped the other artist's ear off in a duel, although most still believe that it was a self-inflicted injury.

Also, Van Gogh didn't send the ear to a girlfriend. Instead, Gaugin later stated that the ear was left for him as a memento of their friendship.

Until recently, though, the only evidence of the ear incident was a self-portrait painted by Van Gogh of a bandage over his ear. This led to speculation about just how much ear he lost at the time. Most experts believed that it was only his ear lobe that got detached from the rest of his body. Now, though, new evidence indicates that Van Gogh actually lost his whole left ear.

This evidence comes in the form of a sketch made by the doctor who treated Van Gogh at the time, Dr. Felix Rey. Rey's sketch and accompanying letter was previously held in a collection owned by Oliver Stone, who directed the film Lust for Life, a docudrama based on the artist. Historians found the collection in the archives of the University of California, Berkeley's Bancroft Library. The full story is in the book Van Gogh's Ear: The True Story by British author Bernadette Murphy.

"This investigation has been an incredible adventure and discovering the document was an extraordinary moment," Murphy said. "From my little house in Provence I couldn't believe I had found something new and important about Vincent van Gogh, but it was a vital detail in my complete re-examination of this most famous of artists, the key people he met in Arles and his tragic end."

The Bancroft Library recently loaned the sketch and letter to the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam as part of an exhibit called "On the Verge of Insanity."

The letter and sketch also clear up how the ear came off and confirms that the injury was self-inflicted, which means that Gaugin had nothing to do with Van Gogh's missing ear. The rest of the exhibit also includes evidence of Van Gogh's mental illness, including the gun he used to kill himself in 1890, putting to rest previous accounts that the artist did not commit suicide.

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