van-gogh-earThough Vincent Van Gogh is universally recognized as the tortured and crazy painter who sliced off his own ear, he may also be a liar. A new study suggests the disturbed Dutch artist made up the story to protect Paul Gauguin, a fellow painter and object of his affection, who cut it off with a sword during a quarrel between the two.

Gauguin, an excellent fencer, was planning to leave Van Gogh’s “Yellow House” in Arles, southwestern France, after an unhappy stay.

He had walked out of the house with his baggage and his trusty épée in hand, but was followed by the troubled Van Gogh, who had earlier thrown a glass at him.

As the pair approached a bordello, their row intensified, and Gauguin cut off Van Gogh’s left earlobe with his sword – either in anger or self-defence.

He then threw the weapon in the Rhône. Van Gogh delivered the ear to the prostitute and staggered home, where police discovered him the following day, the new account claims.

Of course, there’s no absolute proof for this version of events but it would explain why Van Gogh’s last words to his sword-swinging friend: “You are quiet, I will be, too.”