PHOTO: Living replica of Van Gogh’s ear

"Self-portrait" by Vincent van Gogh. (AP)
“Self-portrait” by Vincent van Gogh. (AP)

In 1888, Dutch artist Vincent Van Gogh cut off his ear during a psychotic episode. Using living cells supplied by the great-great-grandson of Van Gogh ‘s brother Theo, U.S.-based artist Diemut Strebe created a replica of the missing ear — a “living art-piece,” according to the museum where it is displayed in Germany.

The exhibition also allows visitors to speak into the ear through a microphone. A computer converts the sound to simulate the ear’s nerve impulses in real time. The ear doesn’t talk back — or even wiggle, unfortunately.


A replica of Vincent van Gogh’s ear created by artist Diemut Strebe on display in Karlsruhe, Germany. (AP Photo/Diemut Strebe.Sugababe)

The ear was grown from cartilage at Boston’s Brigham and Women’s Hospital. Strebe used a 3-D printer to shape the cells and create a replica “identical” to the organ once mutilated by the painter of “Sunflowers.”

And this ear needs fuel. It’s stored in a box which contains nourishing liquids that could hypothetically keep it alive for years.

Nick Kirkpatrick is a digital photo editor at The Washington Post. Follow him on Instagram or on Twitter.
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