Van Gogh’s Nose

Van Gogh, Details of Self-Portraits (1886, 1887, 1889)

Noses are important in art history. Ovid's middle name was Nose, or naso in Italian, and his Metamorphoses were for centuries artistic fodder for painters and sculptors alike. Maybe that's why Michelangelo was so interested in his own nose, telling Vasari, it seems, numerous stories about it. Paul Barolsky's beautiful book, Michelangelo's Nose, traces that history.1

Fast forward four centuries.

Has anyone noticed that Van Gogh's nose keeps changing: sharp and pointed in one portrait, short and bulbous in another? Given how many self-portraits he painted, the story of Van Gogh’s nose is a long one and worth nosing around. Might he, perhaps, have identified with Rembrandt's nose or, even, Millet's? Who knows?

1. Barolsky, Michelangelo's Nose: A Myth and Its Maker (The Pennsylvania State University Press) 1990, pp. 4-13

Reader Comments

This is one for the psychoanalysts, because artists with self image disorders who also paint self portraits and self referential pictures need help to avoid hating themselves and or distorting their selves like Gregor Hamsa in the Metamorphoses.

03 Jul 2013

Vincent might well had identified with Rembrandt’s nose. Who knows for sure? Well I might have an input on that. I bought a color pencil drawing of Vincent that I believe only he would have drawn himself with such a nose and with all the rest of his known techniques talk about on this sight that I know so well that he had used. I look it over many time, enhancing it and looking at every aspect of the drawing while coming to the conclusion it was only drawn by his hand before buying it. The nose was the main reason I really wanted it and it was more that likely the reason I was able to make such a tremendous buy on eBay at the time of its purchase. The gal selling it said an art expert she contacted said it was by another artist hand take it to a local auction.

Bob Miller
14 Aug 2016

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