Van Gogh's ear was cut off by friend Gauguin with a sword

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He is known as the tortured genius who cut off his own ear as he struggled with mental illness after the breakdown of his friendship with a fellow artist.

But a new study claims Vincent Van Gogh may have made up the story to protect painter Paul Gauguin who actually lopped it off with a sword during an argument.

German art historians say the true version of events never surfaced as the two men both kept a "pact of silence" – Gauguin to avoid prosecution and Van Gogh in a vain attempt to keep a friend with whom he was hopelessly infatuated.

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