It has finally a visage the young woman to whom Vincent gave his left ear, cut in the night of 23rd December 1888, rather 2 visages. They are works by two painters of van Gogh circle, who depicted her between March and the end of 1888. The first portrait it is by Christian Mourier Petersen, who contacted daily van Gogh from March to mid May 1888. It is in a museum in Kopenagen. The second is by Gauguin, sketched before 23 December 1888, and ended in Paris three weeks after. The date 1889 and the title in catalogue, “Jeune Bretonne” are misdleadings … Two Italian experts discovered it, Antonio De Robertis and Emanuele Della Bella, who distinguished a strong similarity between the two portraits. Gaugin in particular, had included an unequivocable….. stylized jewish symbol: the Juda’s lyon. It has been logical to link this symbol with the name of the young girl of the bordel in Arles, Rachel, obviously of jewish origin. The young woman in the two portraits could be 16 years old and it is a mystery how she could be arrived in Arles between the end of 1887 and the beginning of 1888. The two experts have found a reliable link in the Calvin barracks in Arles, frequented since 1881 by the third Zouave regiment settled in Constantin, Algeria. From there were provenient a lot of at least twenty years old guys, for the enrolment lasting one year and a lot of more old reservists for an exercitation lasting only a month. At least certain, one of these, father, brother or relative could have driven the young Rachel looking for a work. Van Gogh become friend of a lieutenant of the third Zouave’s regiment, settled in Guelma, Algeria, Eugene Milliet, to whom he depicted a portrait in September. It comes more and more realistic the hypothesis of a love fight between van Gogh and Gauguin, because both had fall in love with the girl. A last doubt remains. Which was the role played inside the bordel no1 of rue bout d’Arles? The honorable role of domestic, involved in washing blankets and other clothes, or the other more unscrupulous of prostitute? The first hypothesis is more realistic, taking into account the young age of the woman, at least 16 /18 years old. It must be said that in those years, anonymous letters were received by the Police in Arles, reporting the presence of “petit provençales” as prostitutes. Van Gogh came back in February 1889 in this bordel, to greet Rachel, that in a letter to Theo is defined as a nice and wise girl, beloved by everyone. Then she disappeared, and Pierre Leprohon in a famous biography of van Gogh, reports that she died in 1952 at the age of 80. She could be born in 1872 or maybe in 1875? According to researches on anagraphical registers of Arles municipality, she could have died in 1954, when was 78, a certain Rachel Z…. provenient precisely from Constantine town in Algeria. She had a cousin and a brother in Arles in Zouave corps in the same period of September 1888, a little after than Vincent in June had portraited one in two famous paintings, plus a watercolour given as a gift to Emile Bernard and two drawings. The two Italian experts with this discover are in position to deny Bernadette Murphy, that in his book “THE TRUE STORY VAN GOGH’S EAR” of 2016, had affirmed that Rachel was Gabrielle Berlatier, young woman at the service of Ginoux and in the bordel, that in this time was 19 years old. But this thesis is not real, because Gabrielle was not jewish and, the most, because as said by Bernadette Murphy, that has seen some photos of the time, Berlatier was not looking alike to the young woman working at the Café in Place du Forum, portraited by Mourier Petersen, lodging there in 1887/88 and, as a consequence to whom portraited by Gauguin. To the honour of the chronicle, the experts add a third portrait of a young jewish woman by Jacob Mejeer de Haan, become friend and partner of Gauguin, around January/February 1889. To a clever eye cannot escape the strong similarity to this portrait with the one of Mourier Petersen and Gauguin.
Left: Christian Mourier Petersen, YOUNG WOMAN OF ARLES, 1887/1888.
Right: Paul Gauguin, JEUNE FILLE BRETONNE, January 1889. The title is wrong and misleading. The girl depicted is from Arles.
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