A Shakedown of The Scarlet Liar Part II

The key to understanding Amanda Knox is knowing how she delights at being the center of attention. In the opening seconds of this video one senses that giddy joy in being at the epicenter of her own story. She’s completely unaware that her involvement in the murder of Meredith Kercher does actually involve another person. Invariably Knox pays lip service to Kercher, by ticking off a few boxes. Kercher was friendly, a nice person, and with that done, she’s now free to marinade in her own story.

Anyone who has listened to Knox’s audiobook, in which Knox herself narrates her story, will have picked up what a performance artist she is. Even though Knox didn’t actually write her memoir herself, she sort of pretends she did. She regales the reader, in her mind, with her breathless adventures, and wows her audience with her impressive command of Italian. Because that’s what matters.

Was it Donald Trump who tweeted something along the lines of: Amanda Knox went to Italy to learn Italian. Well, she learned Italian…

It’s not enough to say Knox has an abnormal fixation with herself. It’s not sufficient to say she’s a self-centered narcissist. We have to ask why? What’s the seat of that deep psychological need, always, desperately wanting to be noticed? We may assume Knox was born that way, and that’s at least partly true. I mean, in the sense that as she grew up, she felt increasingly neglected. She was perhaps a very conscientious school kid, and I think she’s very conscientious in terms of dotting i’s and crossing t’s, in the academic sense. But a broken marriage and her mother jumping ship to shack up with a young stud, given the moral confines of the school community in which she was raised, created a psychological conundrum.

Knox soon found she was competing with her own young stepfather for her mother’s attention. She also learned how scandal could get you love and attention, something she experienced with her own mother. And she learned how to keep one’s cool, and surf the wave of scandal. We shouldn’t forget, though, that Knox’s insatiable appetite for attention was rooted in the excruciating inadequacies of a young daughter, and then a young teenager who, no matter how rigorously she obeyed the rules, simply couldn’t earn the love she needed. Every child deserves to be loved by their parents. When that love is simply not there, or replaced by a kind of cold, anal, homework ethic, then a hole forms in the soul of that person, a hole that can never be filled.  It’s like a bucket with a hole in it.  You can keep filling it, but it will always end up empty.

What Meredith Kercher did, was remind Knox in her fairy tale abroad about that hole. Kercher had two loving parents, who maintained very close contact with her despite them being divorced and her being abroad. Knox realized divorce wasn’t an excuse for her own parents to take such a minimal interest in her interior life.

One fathoms the shallowness of it all when eavesdropping on Knox’s mother visiting her in jail, just days after the murder. Her daughter’s implicated in a brutal murder, and yet the conversation – about lip balm, a nice new digs in Italy, and silly news reporters – couldn’t be more superficial. If this was all a joke to Edda, some issue that needed to be dealt with, like a test that needed to be marked, we can see how Knox would have no clue how to deal with complicated emotional or financial issues in her own life, other than to lie and mislead endlessly on these topics.  She was simply extremely naive, and caught up in fantasies and fairy tales, primarily Harry Potter, but wasn’t a terrible storyteller either.

Now, I don’t mean caught up like a normal person.  I mean so caught up, so immersed, that fiction begins to supplant reality. It’s someone who is completely out of touch with the real world, and with society, and all of this is exacerbated by an uptick in substance abuse – alcohol, marijuana, other recreational drugs [heroine perhaps, cocaine…]. Add to all this a sexual dimension, and a newfound “power” over Italian yobs, then one can see how being the center of attention in Italy could have gone to Knox’s head. From having a slew of Italian deplorables running after her, to the media salivating on her every outfit, her every kiss and smile, that’s not such a long walk in the walk after all, is it? That Amanda and this Amanda are still one and the same.

Society’s obsession with her mirrors Knox’s obsession with herself, and, ironically, our own fixations with ourselves.

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At about 4:55 in the video, Knox whines about not knowing how “big and all-encompassing” the media obsession regarding her was, until she “got out”. That’s not true. And far from being a victim of the media, her PR worked very skillfully to turn the tide in the media, especially from across the Atlantic, in her favor. And it worked. Not only did it work, it set the tone for her world record breaking publishing deal. So, far from the media being a wolf at her door, the media really saved her, and paved the yellow brick road that got her back home.

04:55: I finally saw it, I finally saw in the flesh…where…on the way out of the prison, I am being chased by paparazzi.

Shakedown: One has to do a sort of double-take here, as if a bang to the head might fix the glitch in our processors. Because this really IS alternate reality. In Knox’s reality, as soon as she was acquitted, as soon as the prison doors cranked open, she’s suddenly confronted by a phalanx of media, rapacious like wolves, their camera lenses gleaming like so many teeth and claws.

None of it’s true, but to expose the ruse for what it really is, and how cleverly the untruths are disguised in vague comments, we must slow it down and go through it bit by bit.

In the video, while Knox is talking, we see her being acquitted, and the tears and emotion following. The first factual issue to establish is when did this happen? Knox appealed her December 25, 2009 conviction in a trial that ran from November 2010 to her acquittal on October 3rd, 2011. The footage shown in the Facebook video are scenes outside court following her acquittal in October, 2011.

Note the date at the far right, top corner. Gosk was reporting from Seattle on October 4th, eagerly awaiting the return of America’s innocent sweetheart. Below that, holding her hand to her face, that’s Knox at Seattle airport, about to give a press conference [we’ll come back to that]. Top left, that’s the scene outside the court. Most of those people aren’t paparazzi, but students loudly protesting against Knox’s acquittal.

Say what?

On October 4th, the BBC summarized the media’s response to Knox’s acquittal. Fortunately, the BBC also provided samples from the European media, and not just American outlets. The above link is well worth serious study. At the screengrab below it’s made explicit:

Never before has the media aspect of a trial so outstripped the judicial aspect. The English media, who are on the side of the victim, the poor Meredith Kercher, renamed the pretty Amanda “Foxy Knoxy” just to underline her elusive craftiness. The American media, on the other hand, all support her… If you add this to the mess of the investigation and the disavowal of the expert [analysis], you see how far the story [and the court case] has gone off the rails of a judicial investigation and onto the more fanciful, popular ones of TV.

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I guess Knox forget to add that part. And the American media washed like a tsunami over the other media, soon engulfing it. But what did Corriere della Sera mean when they said:

Never before has the media aspect of a trial so outstripped the judicial aspect… 

Simply that this was the first time the media dominated the result of a court case. That sounds to me like the media played in Knox’s favor, doesn’t it?

Coming back to the photo of the large crowd outside the court, following Knox’s acquittal. What was happening there? In fact, of the three defendants, Knox had been sentenced to the most time in jail, not only for murder but for defeating the ends of justice and falsely accusing her boss. None of her co-accused did any of that, only Knox.

Now have a look at La Repubblica’s coverage, for October 4th:

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After all that, let’s come back to Knox’s alternate reality, and why it’s alternate reality. What did she say on that video again?

I finally saw it, I finally saw in the flesh…where…on the way out of the prison, I am being chased by paparazzi.

The video is showing a mob outside the court, and reporters in Seattle. Where were the paparazzi when Knox left the prison? Well, there was at least one photographer stationed near the prison who managed to snap this photo.


Far from being hounded by paparazzi, when Knox arrived in Seattle, the first thing she did was give a press conference.

That dude with the beard, giving Knox a friendly punch of support, is none other than Dave Marriot, the man Knox’s father turned to just three days after her arrest, and a decision Kurt Knox described as the the best he’d made regarding his daughter’s predicament.  Hiring an elite PR guru so soon after her arrest tells you a lot about what Kurt Knox thought about his daughter, and also, how urgently he felt he had to defend his own prestige – at the time Kurt Knox was a vice president of finance at Macy’s.

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I finally saw it, I finally saw in the flesh…where…on the way out of the prison, I am being chased by paparazzi.

Do you see what she’s doing? She’s pretending to be wholly unaware of the Knox side of the paparazzi equation – where the media was organized, websites and blog sites were set up, all to defend Knox’s image. Her Facebook and MySpace pages were quickly deleted for the same reason – anyone think Knox was unaware of this?

Her lawyers were aware of it. The Italian court was aware of it.

On october 4th, 2011 the New York Times published their commentary on the issue, describing Knox’s acquittal as a 4 year battle “over an image”.

The British tabloids took to calling her Foxy Knoxy, adopting a nickname she had used herself on her Facebook and MySpace pages. (Her family said later that the nickname referred to her soccer skills, not her love life.) But by the time she was freed from an Italian prison on Monday, her public portrayal was very different: Many media accounts in the United States, at least, portrayed Ms. Knox as a nice young woman, a linguistics major at the University of Washington, who had fallen victim to the Italian justice system while on her junior year abroad.

No one can say for sure whether the painstaking and calculated rehabilitation of her image helped sway the Italian courts. Ultimately, it was an official report casting doubt on the DNA evidence in the case that led to her exoneration. But the media frenzy was mentioned by both the prosecution and the defense last month in court.

One of the prosecutors, Giuliano Mignini, complained in court of “the media’s morbid exaltation” of Ms. Knox and her former boyfriend, Raffaele Sollecito, who had also been convicted of the murder, along with a second man, Rudy Guede. “This lobbying, this media and political circus, this heavy interference, forget all of it!” he told the court, according to The Associated Press. Ms. Knox’s lawyers countered that their client had been “crucified” in the news media.

But the judges and jurors didn’t forget the media noise buzzing in and outside court, filling up the airwaves.  And Knox’s lawyers were right; their client had been skewered by the Italian and British press, and rightly so.  But that’s what made it so weird. On one side of the Atlantic [the Marriot side] Knox was an innocent angel, on the other, she was a she-devil. These contrasting narratives neutralized one another, and created doubt, which is gold to a defense case.

That being said, Knox was found guilty of slandering her boss, and her four year sentence upheld, so technically her acquittal didn’t mean she was innocent, just found to be not guilty of murder. So even the court that ultimately set her free, nevertheless regarded the attractive American student, as a liar.

So Knox saying, repeating, in 2018 that she “finally” saw it, “finally” saw the media in the flesh is a clever way of pretending she didn’t know about the media if she didn’t see it. Well, we know even before her acquittal, Knox was corresponding directly with journalists like the Guardian’s Simon Hattenstone from inside prison.

It was important that she hijack the UK narrative, because it was very negative towards her. So by having a UK journo from the fairly reliable Guardian at her beck-and-call was something of a coup.

At the same time, Knox’s mother was giving the same guy – Hattenstone – exclusive interviews. She did it following Knox’s original conviction, and after giving her own character evidence for her daughter in court, in June 2009, they didn’t have much to lose. Edda infected the UK narrative with “her side” of the story, and ultimately, the influence campaign and interference worked.

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Hattenstone, believe it or not, was in Knox’s home in Seattle, reporting en plein air, as it were, when Knox faced the 2014 court verdict. In the same Guardian article, Hattenstone is clear about corresponding with Knox “since 2009” – in other words, for at least two of her four years in jail. Do you think Knox was only corresponding with Hattenstone? And would Hattenstone [and her parents, and her lawyers, and the PR man Marriot] not have updated her regularly on the media sentiment surrounding her? Would she not have regularly asked, and followed the news, from her in situ television?

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I finally saw it, I finally saw in the flesh…where…on the way out of the prison, I am being chased by paparazzi.

5:27: I thought [after her acquittal] I was just going to go home. And for me, like, [looks up] it was just so overwhelming, the smell, I smelled home [starts crying] and it smelled like home. I smelled the grass, and the Earth and the rain. And it smelled so different than the place that I’d been in for so long, and…[looks up]…I was so overwhelmed by the smell, and then suddenly I was like, I guess I have to talk to a hundred people…

Video clip from October 4th, 2011 press conference at Seattle airport: I’m very overwhelmed right now. I was looking down from the airplane, and it seemed like everything wasn’t real [bursts into tears].  My family’s the most important thing to me right now [well, them and Dave Marriot]…and I just want to go, and be with them. 

Shakedown: What is it with murder defendants and smells? When Oscar Pistorius [now a convicted murderer] did his PR, he spoke in a crybaby voice of smelling Reeva Steenkamp’s blood, as if by smelling it, he proved how sensitive he was to her death, and to her blood, presumably. It didn’t work.

When Knox trembles and sniffs as she talks about the smell of the rain [doesn’t it ever rain in Italy] it’s easy to feel emotional. But what are we being led to feel emotional about? That Nature’s touch is tender, or that Knox’s touch is? It’s a deception.

So what do we make of Knox pontificating about smell? She’s returned triumphantly to Seattle, and all she can do is smell. She can’t see anything, seems not to want to hear questions, she’s deaf and dumb to all, except smell.

In her memoir, Knox also spoke of being “hit immediately by the wet earthiness of Seattle…”  I’ve no doubt that this is true. The issue is why are you talking about the most superficial crap, when the real issue is did you kill Meredith Kercher, and if you didn’t, why were you convicted? What happened? All of this smelliness is a distraction from those inquiries. And just as Oscar Pistorius howled with anguish whenever the prosecutor asked him difficult questions about his intentions in front of the toilet door, Knox also knows just when to turn on the water works.

What she really needs is an interviewer who says: Hold on, what the fuck are you so emotional about now, eleven fucking years later? Why isn’t it a happy memory, the memory of coming home, beating a 25 year prison sentence. Who cares about the rain and the dirt, how do you feel about your conviction for slander being upheld? Are you going to appeal that? Is it true that your mother is being accused of slandering the Italian police?

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Why does thinking back on how you beat the Italian court system make you cry? Tell us, instead, how those emotions helped you win your case,  how the sentimental PR flew your flag, how feelings flying in the face of very compelling circumstantial and forensic evidence, won your case for you?

Explain how the PR campaign after your conviction changed, and what lessons were learned that fed into winning your acquittal? How did your dress code change, in court, from the first trial to the appeal? Who was in charge of choosing your outfits, and Sollecito’s? Was cutting your hair, and Sollecito cutting his, also part of trying to appear more appealing in your appeal?

Who cares what she thinks about smells, what matters is what she thinks about being found not guilty of murder.  How did that happen?  But, she doesn’t want to talk about that. She wants America to see her the way they’ve read about her, as the poor American victim tortured by the Italian justice system.

…suddenly I was like, [crybaby voice] I guess I have to talk to a hundred people…

Taking to hundreds of people – that’s never been a problem for Knox. These Knox is taking appearance fees to talk to hundreds of people.

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Even then, though, she was a person who sometimes sang at the top of her voice in restaurants, and as the comments in the previous post attest, headbanged to classical music despite being surrounded by [one images] a mature, cultured audience. Her constant loudness annoyed the hell out of her housemates. Even in prison, Knox strung her guitar and sang.

In court, Knox had no problem standing up and addressing the judge multiple times, in fluent Italian. A few days after Kercher’s murder, Knox was back in class, happy to read out her homework assignment to class. Her family, including her younger sister Deanna, gave press statements on the steps of the court, even went on Oprah, following her acquittal. Knox followed her acquittal with an exhaustive book tour, taking on the American talk show circuit. She was interviewed by heavyweights like Diane Sawyer and Chris Cuomo.

…suddenly I was like, [crybaby voice] I guess I have to talk to a hundred people…

Knox has since starred in her own eponymous movie, and she’s still at it.


Sorry, when was appearing in front of people something that ever scared her, or something she didn’t want to do? Through the murder of Meredith Kercher, Knox got to be exactly who and what she wanted to be: the star of her own show. Suddenly she’d been propelled out of insignificant anonymity, and who cared why, this was all about her and she loved it.  She could act out and everyone would watch, take notes…how wonderful!

Meanwhile, at the press conference, Marriot and Knox met for the first time. Knox, probably saying exactly what he’d told her to say, her affect, precisely as he’d instructed her, said she just wanted to go home and be with her family; well, she’d been with them for many months in Italy. They’d been with her each day in court, and visiting her in prison. But it played well on TV.

06:13: And while I was overwhelmed with this, I was being asked to be ready to stand up to the judgement of others. [Soft, sympathetic piano music playing in the background]. I don’t get to be anonymous, ever. Ever. [Clip of Knox browsing for books on a public sidewalk]. And I think that’s a thing that people don’t get to think about very often. Because most people get to be anonymous at least…sometimes.

Knox was so desperate to be private, she wrote a book about her experience, providing details about her sex life in it, in the fact the word sex or sexy appears 116 times in her memoir.

…I was overwhelmed with this, I was being asked to be ready to stand up to the judgement of others… I don’t get to be anonymous…

People who want to be anonymous don’t court the limelight. People who are overwhelmed don’t hire PR people and teams of lawyers. As for being “ready” to stand up to judgement, in the immediate aftermath of the murder, Knox had accused her own boss, defied the police, even did gymnastic or yoga poses in the corridor of the police station while she and Sollecito were being questioned about Kercher’s murder.

In Italy, after the murder, the only person who wanted to go back to normal was Knox herself. All of Kercher’s friends left Perugia, and the villa itself emptied and closed. But Knox wanted to go back to school, wanted to continue living where she was, wanted to remain in Italy as if nothing happened.

Today, Knox continues to act in precisely that way – as if nothing has happened, and as if the notoriety surrounding her, is all about her.  It’s not. The only reason people care about Amanda Knox is because of Meredith Kercher, because of the trauma she suffered when she died.

I was looking down from the airplane, and it seemed like everything wasn’t real…

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Knox’s relationship with reality wasn’t that great in 2007, and today, has she really come into her own as a real person, living a real life, in the real world? Does she have a family? Does she have a job in the real world that doesn’t involve regurgitating her assumed Victimhood [a myth in itself]?

According to the latest version of herself, Knox has always wanted to be anonymous, that’s what Meredith and her weren’t fighting about, and why she wrote a book, and why she continues to trade on the legacy of the Kercher murder.

At the end of the day, that’s all she is, an afterthought, an echo, to someone else’s life.

There are still 2 minutes remaining of the Scarlet Letter video. I’ll post more analysis in a third blog post, so watch this space.

Can Vincent van Gogh’s ear be rescued from the towering haystack of mainstream mythology?

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Finding one’s way to the true Vincent van Gogh, it turns out, is like searching for a needle in a haystack. The problem isn’t that there’s not enough information, but the opposite: there’s so much hay that it’s all-too-easy to get muddled and mixed up.

Take the ear narrative.  Even the newspapers of Van Gogh’s day couldn’t agree on whether he was Polish, whether he carried the severed ear holding it against his head, or wrapped in a newspaper, or what exactly he said to Rachel when he gave it to her. No one is certain who Rachel was either. A prostitute or a “respectable” cleaning girl?

To be fair, finding one’s way to the truth about anyone isn’t necessarily simple, or easy. Even those who have their hearts on their sleeves – on social media for instance – aren’t necessarily telling us who they are, as much as who they wish us to see. In a real sense, Van Gogh’s frenetic output of expressionist art was like so many Facebook posts, telling the world where he was, and what he saw. He was also very fond of selfies; even after cutting off his ear, he wasted little time in painting himself wrapped in a bandage.  In fact he did so twice, both times the bandaged ear facing towards the viewer.

Because of the mystery surrounding the ear [primarily why he did it], many have turned to these painted selfies as “self-harm” notes. It makes sense to do that, even if the analysis sometimes gets a little kookoo. That’s what I want to expose here: the experts trying to reconcile art history with a true crime scenario.

In a previous post, I provided a glimpse of my analysis of the bandaged ear portraits. In this blog, I want to look at the myth surrounding Still Life with a Plate of Onions.  This painting [below], was executed around January 7th, 1889, very soon after Van Gogh cut off his ear and was discharged from hospital. Take a good, long look at it. What does it say to you about self-harm? Does it say anything?


Now,  if you click on the YouTube clip below, it opens at 39:09, precisely the moment the Van Gogh’s Ear documentary interrogates the heresy of this particular still life.  Check it out.

BBC: We’re now closer than ever before to the true picture of what drove Vincent, the night he cut his ear. And there’s also evidence, in the paintings, for what was really on his mind…it has proved a mine of clues for experts, as to Vincent’s state of mind that night…

According to the Kröller-Müller Museum, an hour’s drive south east of Amsterdam, which today holds Van Gogh’s Still Life with a Plate of Onions, the objects in the painting are:

…the plate of onions, the pipe with tobacco, the bottle of wine or absinthe, the pot of coffee, the calendar with the burning candle, the stick of sealing wax, the box of matches, the book Annuaire de la santé about good nutrition and hygiene and a letter from Theo.

The BBC quotes the museum, which holds the second largest collection of Van Gogh’s art [90 paintings and over 180 drawings] prevaricating over the portent of the letter from Theo. That letter, painted upside down, is the reason – they say – Van Gogh sliced off his ear. In it, Theo [GASP] tells his brother he’s decided to marry Johanna.

Think about that for a moment. Has one of your siblings ever announced their plans to get married? How did you react? Ever want to cut off your ear because someone else is getting married?

The Kröller-Müller Museum reckon Van Gogh’s reaction to this news was to cut off his ear. It doesn’t really ring true, unless one throws a large helping of madness into that theory. So that’s what they do; he was mentally unstable and this news drove him over the edge. Gauguin just happened to be there. See, the argument goes, Van Gogh had a reason to cut off his ear, but another part of that reason was that he was beyond reason. See, it doesn’t make sense.

The myth is sticky because it’s based to some extent on truth. Theo was Vincent’s patron, so Theo getting married, meant there was a potential threat to his patronage. But here’s where the art history psychology turns to crap. At the same time Theo was Vincent’s patron, he was also sponsoring Gauguin. If Theo was struggling to pay anyone’s bills, he wouldn’t have consented to pay Gauguin’s way as well as his brother’s – board, lodgings, paint supplies.


If there was a reason to cut off his ear, it would be a letter from Theo saying, Hey bud, sorry, no more money. Please get a real job. In the hundreds of letters they exchanged, that never happened. Theo kept the faith in his brother until the very end. Theo didn’t waver when the older Van Gogh admitted himself to an asylum, nor when Theo actually married, nor even when the couple had their first child.

A better signal for Van Gogh that finances were being stretched, would have been a letter to Gauguin, from Theo, saying, Hey bud, sorry, no more money. Please wrap up at the Yellow House and good luck. 

In The Murder of Vincent van Gogh, I make the case that by cutting off his own ear, Van Gogh actually incurred massive expenditures for Theo – medical, the exorbitant cost of sending a telegram, and the expense of Theo having to travel down from Paris to Arles [from the north of France to the south] to come to the aid of his brother.

In his letters, after the ear incident, to Theo and Gauguin, Van Gogh was extremely anxious about these “unnecessary” expenses, and accusatory to Gauguin, telling him he should never have sent a letter to Theo, let alone summoned him all the way to Arles [Theo only stayed a day or two before returning to Paris].

If the older brother was worried his brother might shortchange him, then cutting off his own ear, and ratcheting up the financial damage certainly wasn’t helping that cause. So why do it?

Because he was mad?


If he was mad why was he so conscious of the debits and credits in the Van Gogh Bros bank account? If he was so irresponsible to cut off his ear, would he really care about the cost of a telegram? Do mad people routinely sit down and churn out meticulous, handwritten letters, day after day, with carefully executed sketches alongside?

I don’t want to cover too much of that territory here. The museum is correct in that every painting does reveal the psychology of the artist. Where they’re mistaken, I believe, is firstly in selecting Still Life with a Plate of Onions as the best painting to analyze his psychology, and secondly, in their subjective interpretation of  the painting itself.

In my view, there couldn’t be more direct on-the-chin insights than in the two bandaged-ear self-portraits. These should be the first and second priorities to figuring what the artist is saying about his psychology as it was in Arles, in early January, 1889.

It’s not that Still Life with a Plate of Onions isn’t symbolic. The real issue is what do the symbols mean?

Sometimes we don’t see the symbols for what they are, we see what the symbols mean through our own filters. And so whatever narrative you’re fed, that’s going to fuel your bias when viewing his art.

The better way to interpreting the art is to know the narrative of the artist inside out, and also to contextualise his use of symbols in other paintings. It sounds complicated, but yellow, for example, is an identifying symbol. Size suggests importance and priority. Lights, like the sun, stars or a candle, indicate revelation or truth, or the Life Force.

With that in mind, let’s re-examine Still Life with a Plate of Onions.


I appreciate the Kröller-Müller Museum interpreting this to mean Van Gogh returned from hospital, and set out the simple things on a table, in order to order his mind, settle himself, anchor his identity in simplicity. The perception is skewed, contaminated with the idea that Van Gogh was mad, and that his minded needed ordering.

I have another theory. Just as the self-portraits with the bandaged ears aren’t about a madman settling himself, neither is this still life. What’s being communicated isn’t an artist painting something in order to calm himself down, what he’s doing is painting a not-so-sublte accusation. He’s pointing the finger at the person who sliced off his ear, and his none to happy about it.


Paul Gauguin’s self-portrait is titled Les Miserables. He has himself ensconced in Van Gogh’s Yellow House, with flowers buzzing irritatingly, mockingly around him. Meanwhile his friend, Émile Bernard, looks on, perhaps green with envy, or like a stamp sitting on the edge of an envelope. Gauguin looks bitter and moody in this portrait. Gauguin dedicated this self-portrait to Vincent van Gogh, apparently identifying with Victor Hugo’s anti-hero, a man who remains true to his personal morality despite being vilified by society. Bernard would later accuse Gauguin of stealing his ideas, and later returned the favor, painting a self-portrait of himself, with Gauguin watching him from a picture on a wall.

On one side of the table is an empty bottle of wine, on the other, a large green jug. Right in front of the bottle, is Van Gogh’s pipe. Van Gogh was rather attached to his pipe, he insisted on smoking it even after he’d been shot – that happened eighteen months after this painting.

On the other side of the table, beside the green jug, is a candle. Now, if you look at the chairs painted by Van Gogh in December 1888, just a month earlier, and a few days before he lost his ear, those paintings are also highly symbolic.

Van Gogh portrays Gauguin through rich tones of green and brown. On the cushion of the chair that symbolises Gauguin is an erect candle – the same blue candleholder is depicted in both executions. On Van Gogh’s chair, his pipe. The pipe and tobacco is right in front of the empty bottle of wine, representing Van Gogh.

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In the still life, what I see, is the empty bottle of wine, and that side of the table, representing Van Gogh. The other side, represented by the green and brown jug, and the candle, is Gauguin. Make sense? So far so, good, now – what about the rest?

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In the center of the table is a plate with four onions. Two artists, two smelly onions. Two onions are in the plate, and two, outside of it, one on the one side, the other on the other.

The onions inside the plate sort of have their heads leaning in opposite directions, an indication that the artists’ temperaments – towards life and art – were diametrically opposite. I may be reading in too much, but the two onions in the plate and the two onions outside, going their separate ways, seems to be symbolic of the artists being on the same plate, so to speak, and then, having too much on their plates, causing them to depart. And yet, in a sense, they’re apart while still on the same plate…

There’s a lot more to say about that, and the pact of silence the two reached after the incident, but let’s deal with the onion laying on the book, Annuaire de la santé, which the museum says is about good nutrition and hygiene.

The onion on the side of the plate is almost like an ear on the side of the head. The significance, in my view, of the book, echoes the significance of Van Gogh painting books in other works, including the painting he executed after his father’s sudden death.

This one:


The bible in that painting, is a tribute to his father, a respected Protestant minister. The little, scrabby book in the corner, is a little dig at dad’s legacy. We can see, even in the trauma of his father’s death, Van Gogh’s not above adding his two cents. This is Van Gogh placing himself in proportion to his father, even in death.  His father’s book is enormous, dour and authoritative, Van Gogh’s is small, but an enervated yellow. Van Gogh’s father disapproved of him, and so the little book by Emile Zola, is like a modest rebuttal. A little like getting in the last word.

Van Gogh also painted books in his famous Portrait of Dr. Gachet, though curiously, the painting believed to be a fake, excludes them. Once again, everything is there for a reason, including the toxic digitalis plants, their significance explained in detail in The Murder of Vincent van Gogh.


Through these analogous works, I’m simply trying to emphasise that Van Gogh inserting a book, or books into his paintings, isn’t for fun. The books say something about his philosophy about life, and in this instance, completely missed by the historians, museum and art experts is a book about health and hygiene. What is the father of expressionism, a guy flowing with words and expressing himself in symbols and colors, what’s he saying through this book?

Van Gogh places his modest little onion on that voluminous book, while Gauguin’s enormous onion with a huge plume, hugs the edge of the plate while a few black roots worm out of its rear.

Van Gogh seems to be saying: I’m basically a healthy guy, mentally and physically, empty bottles of wine notwithstanding. And since the huge health book casts a blue shadow, and even nudges directly against Theo’s letter [which is also in opposition to the direction of the book, like the onions in the plate], he seems to be suggesting conflict regarding his health. The letter is moving away from Van Gogh’s version of himself, and yet moving in his direction, like an arrow.

What? Suggesting conflicted versions about his mental health? That may seem an obvious contention, obviously there was controversy around Van Gogh’s health at the time of the ear incident. Well, it’a a lot more obvious than it seems. Van Gogh’s reinforcing the idea that he was healthy – mentally and physically – while Gauguin was calling him a lunatic. Van Gogh was healthy – he was taking long walks daily into the countryside. Was he a lunatic? Well, he wasn’t always easy to get along with, and he wasn’t always sober.

Let’s examine the painting one last time. Is there anything else that stands out?2637

Perhaps the most obvious message is the size of the kettle. It’s the biggest object in the painting, although there’s some subtlety in it. The pot seems smaller because it’s right at the back, the furthest away from the viewer, but it’s because it’s far away that one must intuit it’s actual size compared to everything else.

Most of the green pot is hidden under the rim of the table, and for that matter, so is most of what’s inside it.  It’s really the only object, besides one edge of the bottle of wine, that’s so completely obscured.

Is there any significance to the handle of the candleholder, and the handle of the pot, facing the same way, with the front pointing towards the same side of  the plate as the large, extravagant onion? Away from the book? Away from Theo and for that matter, Van Gogh himself? I think there is.

Last by not least is the stick of sealing wax. Sealing wax – used to seal letters. Why is it on the far side of the table, not beside the letter? Notice the matches, the sealing wax, and the light of illumination are all on Gauguin’s side of the table.

For those uncertain of the history between Van Gogh and Gauguin, Gauguin got the last word [and then some] on the whole ear incident. He got the last word with Theo, and because he headed to the art capital [Paris], he also got the last word with the art establishment.

When Van Gogh died, Gauguin didn’t pitch up either, but once again, he got the last word, reiterating that Van Gogh was a madman whom he didn’t wish to associate himself with. Gauguin maintained this narrative throughout his own life, while also crediting himself as a seminal influence on Van Gogh.

The sealing wax is emblematic of sealing someone’s fate. Gauguin’s departure from Arles sealed the fate of Van Gogh’s dream to start a Southern Studio. But even Van Gogh had no idea to what extent his fate had already been sealed when he executed this painting.


Within days he was kicked out of the Yellow House, and banished from the town of Arles. After all the bad press regarding his ear, the entire town became agitated and riled up. Gossip and rumor took over.

The folks residing near the Yellow House in Place Lamartine gathered a bunch of signatures, which they handed to the mayor. They succeeded in having Van Gogh booted out of town for being a clear and present danger to society.


With nowhere else to go, Van Gogh  admitted himself to an asylum. How many mad people do you know of, who’ve done that? To understand how this happened, one must be aware of Van Gogh’s options: they were very limited. But you didn’t get rid of Vincent van Gogh that easily. He’d figured out that it made economic sense to be a patient, since patients could hang around for free while they were receiving treatment.

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Van Gogh was treated as a patient in that he could stay there, but wasn’t regarded as a regular nutter. As such, he could come and go, and paint pretty much when it suited him, which was a fairly good result given the precarious circumstances he found himself in.

Eighteen months later, however, he was dead, and with him, the true story about what happened to his ear, and why, disappeared into thin air.



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Starry Night Over the Rhône was painted in Arles, a 1-2 minute walk from Van Gogh’s Yellow House studio. Van Gogh executed this picture in September 1888, before Gauguin arrived.

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Maddening Money Matters – Excerpt from The Murder of Vincent van Gogh

“[Gauguin] created a life for public consumption as part of his campaign to make his exhibitions – and therefore his future – a success.” ― Nancy Mowll Mathews

There was one thing, and only one, besides them both being artists, that Vincent and Gauguin had in common. They both had money difficulties. In a way, Vincent had an easier career, given the almost uninterrupted patronage of his brother. For Gauguin it was much tougher, especially since he came from privilege, even worked as stockbroker, and then suddenly had to deal with the effacement of poverty.

Gauguin did sell some of his works, including three pictures in 1888, but overall, he only became popular and successful after his death. I have already mentioned Gauguin was bitter, suffering with advanced syphilis and penniless at the time of his death, so much so he was driven to attempt suicide. The question is, was Vincent similarly twisted and tortured by the rigours of failure and moneylessness?

Although Vincent didn’t have it easy, the main difference with Gauguin was that Vincent had been struggling for far longer. He was used to it. He was a self-effacing kind of guy. One might even go so far as to say martyrdom was a default setting for Vincent. Is there any artist who worked as hard, or as long, for his art as this one?

In a December 2014 article published in Vanity Fair, the word “martyr” is mentioned four times. These instances are worth close and careful study:

…The chief purveyor of the suicide narrative was Van Gogh’s fellow artist Émile Bernard, who wrote the earliest version of artistic self-martyrdom in a letter to a critic whose favor he was currying… Boosted by the gripping tale of his final act of martyrdom, Van Gogh’s celebrity took off like a rocket…[Ultimately]Vincent chose to protect them as a final act of martyrdom.

The article ends with a quote from the curator of the Van Gogh Museum no less, saying that what happened to Van Gogh is “self-evident”:

“Vincent’s suicide has become the grand finale of the story of the martyr for art, it’s his crown of thorns.”

One could also argue that Vincent chose struggle and hardship [in the same way that he volunteered for treatment at Saint-Rémy], while Gauguin did his best [or is it worst] to avoid these hardships. One artist avoids effacement like the plague, the other is self-effacing to the point of martyrdom.  But if this is true, then Vincent was a lot more resilient in life than he’s given credit for. Well, resilient people don’t kill themselves.

Money forms an important backdrop to the ear incident, the shooting in Auvers and our new theory of resilience. We know how fraught the financial situation was leading up to that fateful Christmas in 1888. We’re less clear on how money played into the dynamics eighteen months later, or indeed, for the decades following his death.

Since we are dealing with the world’s most valuable artist, with canvases that today are worth tens of millions, it’s vital we investigate both ends of this spectrum – how Vincent dealt with having no money, and how and why the world decided he should be worth more than any other artist. Was he really a martyr, in the absolute sense, he’s been made out to be?


There seems to me to be the same inversion at work here, where the madder and more troubled the artist, the more valuable his work [as it applies to Vincent van Gogh]. The mirror provided by interminable financial struggle reflects his obsessive commitment and mad frustration. The poorer he was, the greater the struggle, the more valuable, and valiant, his efforts. Conversely, if Vincent was less mad, less of a martyr, and not quite as deprived as he’s depicted, then his story is less inspiring and his art “self-evidently” less impressive, and less valuable.

Now let’s test the authenticity, and the portent, of the money narrative.

A Peek inside the Purse

More than half of Vincent’s correspondence to Theo contains references to the word “money”. A handy tool in the webexhibits archive, allows one to track the instances money comes up in their correspondence. It comes up in 372 letters. At a glance one can see that…

The Murder of Vincent van Gogh is available for purchase here.

How and Why I chose Van Gogh as a True Crime Investigation

I didn’t plan on writing a book about Vincent van Gogh, in fact, if anything, I planned not to. I was on holiday after writing Slaughter, a 522 page behemoth of a book, and an incredibly draining book that squeezed a lot out of me. A lot of emotion, a lot of psychological focus, it basically hollowed me out to write it. So, when I took time off after Slaughter, I meant it.

Part of the holiday from writing involved re-balancing, especially fitness. I gained a huge amount of weight while nailing Slaughter down,  and the alarm bells rang when I went over 100 kilograms – the first time ever. So I used my time off by day, to hit the gym, squash courts, tennis courts and getting back into regular Park Runs. By night, I ended up watching some of the documentaries I’d put on the back burner. One of them was Loving Vincent.

I’d seen the previews, and read some of the reviews, so I expected to be impressed by this film, the first fully oil-painted animation motion picture. What I didn’t expect, was the plot of the film. It was a true crime investigation set in the France of Van Gogh’s day, occupied by the same characters, a year after his death. It was the last thing I expected, but it certainly piqued my interest.

After the film raised a number of serious problems with the mainstream narrative [all rooted in historical fact], I trusted Loving Vincent to resolve the various riddles it had presented along the investigative/speculative journey. When it didn’t, I felt cheated, and I wasn’t the only one, but I felt something else. I saw there was clearly the machinations for a true crime case here, only, I wasn’t sure if I pursued them, what they would point to, if anything.

And so, simply being curious, I started watching more documentaries, just for fun, and reading what I could find online. The more I watched, the more it became a kind of addiction. It was very compelling. I was very surprised how much uncertainty and controversy there was around the major milestones in Van Gogh’s life history: the murkiness around the ear slicing, the mystery surrounding his madness, and best [or worst of all], the strange intrigue surrounding his death.

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In this extract from Lust for Life, published in 1934, and itself a derivative from another book on Van Gogh’s letters, the author claims that apart from a few exceptions, his narrative “is entirely true”. It wasn’t even close. The film version, which appeared in 1956, perpetuated and reinforced Stone’s mistakes.

It was laughable just how wrong early authors like Irving Stone got the story, but it made sense that someone very early on screwed up, and that the world ran with the screwed up version of events. It really surprised me that Van Gogh’s art never became what it is today because it – the art – was able to stand on its own. Instead, it was the stories – especially his letters – surrounding the art, that seemed to give it added value. So how much were these stories true, and particularly the film Lust for Life, which set Van Gogh up in the American market? How true were they?

Lust for Life depicted Van Gogh as a suitably miserable, suicidal wretch. What the author and filmmakers were doing, though, was reverse engineering the end [the suicide] to fit the narrative. So they cherry-picked quotes and incidents that matched the suicide narrative. Van Gogh being Van Gogh, that wasn’t hard to do.  And so, this was how Kirk Douglas portrayed Van Gogh – as so lonely, so much of an outcast, he’d sit alone while the town partied, tear his hair and burst into tears…

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Lust for Life, the almost “entirely accurate” early version, also depicted crows flying into Van Gogh’s alleged last painting, literally colliding with the artist and the canvas, leading Van Gogh to change it from a wheatfield, to Wheat field with Crows. Then, immediately after that horrible experience, Van Gogh scribbles a suicide note [which the wind blows away one imagines], and shoots himself.

There’s a serious problem with this incredibly dimwitted portrayal – it’s the question of how Wheat field with Crows magically made its way back to the artist’s room after he shot himself? Did he paint it, shoot himself, then carry the art work back to his room, careful not to get any blood on it?

See, if Irving Stone was any kind of decent true crime writer, he’d have thought these things through. Nevertheless, the mythology stuck, and so today, the mainstream seem to think Wheat field with Crows [also titled Wheatfield with Crows] is the last painting Van Gogh painted [it’s not], and so it’s heavily symbolic – those crows meant he was telling the world what he meant to do.

In reality, Van Gogh’s art equipment disappeared at the same time the gun did, which is why mystery surrounds where the shooting happened. Why would that be a mystery, unless someone else was hiding something…

Also, the Lust for Life scenario depicting a suicide note is false. Yes, we’d expect an expressive letter-writing machine like Van Gogh to write a suicide note, only, there isn’t one. Why not?

No suicide note. The weapon – gone. The painting equipment he’d taken with him that day – also gone. And then the forensic evidence. Why would someone who wanted to kill himself, prolong his agony by shooting himself in stomach, and from a really weird angle? If he’d made a mess of the first shot, why not shoot himself again, properly?

Fullscreen capture 20180430 224506Fullscreen capture 20180430 224509Fullscreen capture 20180430 224627Fullscreen capture 20180430 224610Okay, so things were a bit dodgy, and didn’t quite add up, but Van Gogh said he cut off his ear, and said he’d shot himself. Why would say that if he hadn’t? That was the pertinent question that deserved an authentic answer. To get to it would require a deep dive, and that would take time and effort.

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And so I dug some more. There were plenty of resources that simply recycled what other  resources said, just as Lust for Life [the film] recycled the dodgy narrative of the book. As I unearthed more and more dramatisations, and older narratives, I realised just how unsettled and uncertain the Van Gogh narrative was.  It had been evolving, swinging like a pendulum from one narrative to the next, one scientific discovery, one witness version to the next. What was needed was to integrate all of this information, and filter through it in search of something that held together, something that made sense.

Since I’m no art historian, I didn’t think that was something I particularly felt like doing. And if this wasn’t true crime, what was the point in establishing exactly what happened on the night he cut off his ear?

As I absorbed more and more information, again, just because I found it interesting, I began to see – intuitively at least – the possibility that if Van Gogh didn’t cut off his ear, then the madness and suicide narrative might be bogus too. All three narratives sort of reinforce one another. If you remove any of one of them, the others become quite shaky. And so, I wondered if – theoretically – it was possible to disprove any of them and thus all of them…

There was something else about Loving Vincent…a particular character that had given me an uneasy feeling. And it turned out, this sinister aspect to the narrative wasn’t cinematic license by the filmmakers, many other authors and eyewitnesses mentioned the same thing.  So there was this mismatching behavior at the scene of the suicide/murder…what did it mean?

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I started researching the ear narrative. This was easy to do, because Bernadette Murphy had written a book, which also had a companion documentary explicating her findings.

Murphy basically showed how the ear narrative evolved, from Van Gogh slicing off the whole thing, to a large piece, to a small piece…  So what had actually happened? It seemed a pointless investigation, because Van Gogh had said he’d cut off his ear – did it really matter how much ear? Well of course it did – the more ear he cut off, the more mad he had to be, right?

As I followed the various rabbitholes I realised how much research material there was on this case. I’d expected pretty much everything to be very general hearsay, but since this is the world’s most expensive artist, I was happy to be proved wrong. And so, this was the game changer for me. The archive of evidence, versions, testimonies, was like Mount Everest. For the kind of true crime interrogation I like to do, you need a mountain to mine through, to strip down to the precious, essential ores, to expose those hidden veins of glittering gold.

I was surprised to find forensic reports and police statements. But more than anything, more precious than anything, was the virtually daily archive from the artist himself – through his letters, and through his paintings.

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Since I’d written a long-form series of magazine articles profiling more than a dozen South African masters, including my great grandfather, I knew I was up to the task of analysing Van Gogh’s art. I had no idea where such an analysis would take me, but the psychological train had left the station, and I was very curious where it was heading…

Remember the sinister fellow I referred to above? He sketched this picture [below left], of Van Gogh dead, on his deathbed. In this sketch you can see the side of his face missing the ear [his left ear]. The artist was a shitty artist, which is why you tend to see what you want to see.  Some people see the ruined flesh where there’d been an ear, others see the curve of the pinna. Thanks to Bernadette Murphy’s research [published in 2016] she unearthed a sketch laying this matter to rest. Sort of. The physician who treated Van Gogh produced this sketch [below on the right], clearly showing that pretty much all of the ear was sliced off.

Murphy didn’t seem particularly interested in who sliced the ear off, and even less interested in the suicide versus murder narrative. But she’d done enough for me to have a few vital pieces to set up the framework of a psychological puzzle. In another narrative, Van Gogh: The Life, [published in October 2011], more psychological puzzle pieces were proffered.  The prize-winning investigative journos cunningly and compellingly disproved the suicide narrative, thus opening the door to an alternative. Again, I don’t think their version works, but their theory disproving the suicide narrative indicated I wasn’t alone in making an educated guess that that narrative was bogus.

Incidentally, even Wikipedia won’t commit itself to suicide these days, as an explanation for Van Gogh’s death.

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But why be so vague about it? Either he killed himself or “others” killed him? That’s quite a big “or” for one of the world’s most famous, beloved and most valuable artists?

Again, the hurdles remained: why would Van Gogh lie about his ear, and why would he lie about killing himself…

The fact that these questions could be juxtaposed side-by-side were a vital psychological clue, the significance of which only became explicit later. Forensic evidence proved to be extremely compelling against the suicide scenario – not only had Van Gogh been shot in the stomach, but downward, away from the heart… Why would anyone do that? Because they were mad?

The more I read, the more shaky the whole narrative was becoming. I was sure I could disprove the suicide narrative, and confident there was a case that Van Gogh hadn’t cut off his own ear. I’m not going to go into that here, because the whole Gauguin scenario is a huge can of worms in and of itself. The stickier thing was the mad-tortured artist narrative. How did one deal with that, because, after all, Van Gogh’s life speaks for itself, and so does his art…  That, of course, was the solution.  In order to interrogate his madness, how crazy he might have been, or how sane, meant digging through those letters, examining those paintings chronologically, and working through the meat and potatoes of Van Gogh’s life.

I started The Murder of Vincent van Gogh suspecting I’d hit a dead-end that would send me back the way I’d come, with my author’s tail between my legs, and an apology. But the intuitions I set out with, bore unexpected fruit. I produced a compelling scenario that identifies a murderer, a motive and a context that resonates deeply with Van Gogh’s reality, and the contextual reality of his time. It makes sense psychologically, and explains the many odd things related to the artist’s final hours and death.

In the JonBenet Ramsey case, I suspected the problem wasn’t the caliber of research, but the lens that was shaping all of it. Was the same thing corrupting the truth here?

I considered the possibility that art historians and prize-winning researchers were simply too unfamiliar with true crime to be able to contribute meaningfully to it, which meant, maybe, I could. Many who are very close to true crime remain baffled by it, including lawyers, court reporters and some shitty true crime authors.  Was that the case here, or was being an arrogant shit?

The book has been edited by a Dutch-based editor familiar with Van Gogh’s story, but who was nevertheless blown away by the findings. So was I, and that’s not trying to blow a horn, I think anyone who approached this case through the lens of true crime, integrated the information and interpreted it, leaning on the shoulders of Naifeh-Smith and Murphy for some support [and knowing when not to], would have reached the same conclusion.

I do believe the evidence clearly supports the fact that Van Gogh didn’t kill himself, but was intentionally and deliberately murdered. The ear incident mirrors this; Van Gogh didn’t cut off his ear, someone else sliced it off. And finally, Van Gogh wasn’t mad. I’d hoped to disprove at least one of these three narratives, I didn’t expect to field a narrative smashing all three bogus skittles.

When the book was finished I couldn’t help feeling a hollow sense of why? Not why was he murdered, why lie about it? It occurred to me that the world 130 years ago, and across that span of time, hasn’t changed much when it comes to being economical with the truth. I use that word deliberately. How come the true story around the world’s most expensive artist has been hidden for so long? Who stood to gain from manipulating the masses into thinking Van Gogh was madder, more tortured and suicidal than he was, when he wasn’t? Well, can’t you guess?


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A Shakedown of The Scarlet Liar

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Due to a glitch with WordPress, the embed code for the original video [currently at almost 500 000 views] doesn’t work. This analysis should be viewed while watching the video, which you can do at this link.

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00:01 [Smiles]: I think a lot of people think I’m used to talking about this, and the fact that it’s still [gulps emotionally] bothers me…[looks at the ceiling for inspiration] is good because otherwise ummm…[looks blankly at the ground] I wouldn’t be able to convey it…honest-ly.

Shakedown: For her first question, Knox’s interviewer asks what she’s nervous about. It’s a good question. What does she have to be nervous about when it’s a show by Amanda Knox, starring Amanda Knox, about Amanda Knox?

Knox begins with what appears to be nervous giddiness, but she’s smiling.  There’s a nervous glee about it, delight, even. Knox kicks off by setting the record straight. She thinks that a lot of people think she’s used to talking about this…the anonymous this being the murder of her 21-year-old British housemate, Meredith Kercher. Kercher lived in the room right next door to Knox in a small villa in Perugia Italy.  They were both foreign students, both young women, both studying Italian, Kercher was further along the lines of her studies than Knox, had a better room with a better view, and had a proper boyfriend in Italy before Knox did.

But the bottomline was innocent or guilty, prime suspect or key witness, Knox was supposed to be the best witness to whatever happened to Kercher, not only because they lived together, but because the house had evacuated that holiday weekend, at the time of Kercher’s murder, meaning of the villa’s residents, only the two foreign girls were in town that weekend – Kercher and Knox. Since only Knox lived to tell the tale, and sell it for a record $4 million, and she’s been doing that ever since, it matters what her version of events it. The thing is, Knox has confused that with her mattering.

People, she says, think she’s used to talking about this…and the implication is, she isn’t. She looks suddenly, suitably emotional, after smiling openly just seconds earlier. She’s not used to talking about Meredith, you see…because she’s a sensitive person, and also a victim in the story. Her sensitivity speaks for itself. How could a a sweet, sensitive person murder someone else?  And if talking about it bothers her, how could she be capable of murder? [On the other hand, if talking about it, writing about it, making a living from telling the story of how she didn’t murder Kercher doesn’t bother her, then would murdering her really bother her?]

The fact is, Knox has been talking about the Kercher murder ever since it happened. In the days following the murder she sent a group email to everyone she could think of, she wrote a series of contradictory confessions, she made several long phone calls and was wire-tapped talking at length to folks she hadn’t spoken to in weeks, rationalizing her behaviour. She kept the Ialian police busy for hours, as they tried to untangle actionable information from the endless verbal diarrhea and bullshit.

While awaiting trial, Knox received a diary, which she filled up with self-indulgent versions of herself, including the Damascus moment when she suddenly remembered everything for the umpteenth time. So this newfound sensitivity to discussing this case eleven years later is bogus.

What’s a lot clearer, is the enormous amount of PR that was generated in this case, by the Knox camp, and in which Knox herself and her family were vital participants. Media shy people don’t hire powerful PR people to tell them how to dance in front of the cameras. People who wish to court and manipulate and profit from the attention, however, do exactly that.

How they dressed mattered, and repeating the same aphorisms over and over again, until they became post-truth, vital. The whole outside-court narrative was an important strategy, because in Italy, juries aren’t sequestrated from hearing the news. And so, if the public and the media narrative can be altered, so can the minds of juries.  It took a while, and a lot of dosh, but that’s what ultimately happened in this case. The influence campaign worked.

Far from Knox not talking about this, whenever she takes to the public stage, this is what she wants to talk about.

As for not being used to it, Knox studied drama in high-school, and her memoir is replete with examples, from Knox herself, who wished [craved actually] to be the center of attention. It annoyed Meredith and her two Italian flatmates, Laura and Filomena, it made Meredith’s British friends feel uncomfortable, and even her one-time lover, Sollecito, found her loud spontaneity at times, insufferable – including when it happened in his own home.

When Knox was in court, she was strong enough to stand up, and address her Italian judges in Italian, telling them her version of events in a slew of spontaneous declarations.

When Knox was in prison, her prisonmates didn’t get along with her either. Knox also accused the dude running the prison of sexual abuse, and the police interrogating her of being abusive. She accused her own boss of committing the murder she’d been implicated in.

All of this was true in Perugia in 2007, and it’s still true today.  With Amanda Knox, someone else is invariably to blame, and right now, it’s the media.

A final point on this first comment. Someone very close to me died when I was a teenager. The thought would never occur to me to say I’m glad her death still bothers me, because that allows me to be honest about my feelings about it. Why wouldn’t I be honest? Why wouldn’t I be able to say what I felt and still feel about it?

The next clip in the video jumps to a voiceover from a 2007 news bulletin.

No one could explain the exact sequence of events…

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00:51: I think people forget that I was having the time of my life in Italy. [Glances up] Wandering the city when the flea market came to town, eating roasted chestnuts…

Shakedown: Once again, Knox admits to thinking about what people think of her, a lot. In her first two sentences she mentions the same thing twice, what people are thinking. About her. She’s here to “set the record straight” on the same thing, for the umpteenth time. There are books films, four separate trials, and hundreds of articles, but Knox is here to change reality, change how people think about her. That’s what’s important.

And, so, here it is…

Knox was having the time of her life, but not “wandering the city” in search of “flea markets” and not “eating roasted chestnuts” either.  So what was she doing? Knox was from a very strict Jesuit-type school in Seattle, and in America, drinking laws meant she was too young at age 20, to drink alcohol. Not so in Perugia. Marijuana was “as common as pasta”, as she put it in her memoir, and she peppers her account of Kercher’s murder with smoking or rolling the odd joint, whether with Sollecito, or other boys.

Also, Knox worked at the time as a waitress in a bar. Her boss wanted to fire her because she flirted more than she worked. Nothing is wrong with any of these behaviors, the only thing that’s off is Knox not being honest about them. Isn’t she here to reclaim her story, and set the record straight? Then why not do that? Why this banter about flea markets and roasted chestnuts, in the context of an infamous and brutal murder? Why this rainbow filled fairy tale and not the truth?

So we see how immediately Knox can’t be truthful about who she was in Italy, or what she was doing. Was she going to flea markets and eating chestnuts [which anyone can theoretically do, anywhere in the world], or was she fucking as many Italians as she could, getting drunk, getting high, basically doing what expat students are known to do, and why they decide to leave home and study abroad in the first place?

Now, what’s the deal with Knox looking up and to her right during these interviews? She does this twice in the first minute of the Scarlet Letter.

This pattern of staring straight up to the ceiling while being interviewed on camera is nothing new for her. Knox did it most memorably when Chris Cuomo asked Knox if she’d murdered Kercher. Knox looked right up, this time to the left [into memories] then looked down and couldn’t hold back a huge grin.

Did you murder Meredith Kercher?


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Typically when people look up and to the right they are lying or tapping into their imagination. 

According to the Independent:

…when right-handed people look up to their right they are likely to be visualising a “constructed”, or imagined, event. In contrast when they look to their left they are likely to be visualising a what is known as a “remembered” memory. For this reason, when liars are constructing their own version of the truth, they tend to look to the right.

The same article refers to verbal hesitations [honest-ly] and excessive hand gestures, as symptoms of deceit.

Fullscreen capture 20180506 203328

Notice the mismatch between smiley glee talking about how much it bothers her referring to the thing [Kercher’s murder] and the straight-faced, stern, hands handcuffed to her waist description of how I was having the time of my life in Italy.  Yes, someone got in the way of that time of your life, not so?

1:10: I was 20, Meredith [oh, you can say her name?] was 21 [slight wink or wince as she says it]…I was the one who barely spoke Italian, I was the one who was overly enthusiastic about everything and Meredith was like [blurts out laughing]…okay, let’s have pizza [throws her arms into air, laughing open-mouthed].

Shakedown: Again, is there any sense of authentic discomfort talking about Meredith? When she does she can’t stop laughing. And what she says about Meredith couldn’t be less meaningless. She’s 21 years old, Knox is 20, and Meredith suggests…they get pizza.

Notice Knox’s use of semantics [she’s a journalist, so it’s not an accidental choice of words either]:

I was the one…

I was the one…

This suggests Knox as the one who is the odd one out, the outsider, the one always in trouble, but also Knox the way she sees herself in her world.  I was the one…I am the one…this is about me…

Knox’s emotional range in 2 minutes is extraordinary: from tearful contemplation, to imaginative rumination, to laughter – in seconds. If this is annoying to watch, how unbearable was it to live with?

1:15: And it was great [suddenly serious again], and I really appreciated her…[can’t find the right word]…just being there…and being…[has to look up again for inspiration, I appreciated her for being…?] uh…[looks up to the right]…this warm welcoming presence [as if Knox has remembered what to say on the subject of Meredith, not remembering Meredith as a real human being that once lived.]

1:34: [Upbeat again] I was into this classical Italian music, and so, when this- um, I saw this flyer for a classical music concert, that was going to be at my university. I was like – Yes! I invited Meredith to come along with me. And…we went to the music concert, sat next to each other…And I just made eye contact with…this…Italian guy…who…was…a nerdy…Italian guy [grins].

Shakedown: And so that concludes information about Meredith. Now, back to me. I was interested in I got the flyer…I invited Meredith…Actually, Meredith was probably more interested in music, especially classical music than Knox, and since Meredith had invited Knox everywhere up to that point, [Knox invited Meredith to the bar where she worked, that was pretty much it] Meredith probably invited Knox to the concert, not the other way round.

It’s interesting how Knox feels she has to say that she and Kercher sat next to each other. Also noteworthy that the first thing Knox does at the concert isn’t listening to the music, or share anything with Kercher [Kercher’s already gone in her mind], she makes eye contact with an Italian dude. Fullscreen capture 20180506 210800

It’s likely both Sollecito and Kercher knew a bit about classical music. Sollicito because he was Italian, and the son of an affluent doctor, Kercher because her taste in music was more eclectic than Knox’s. Her favorite song at the time of her death was U2’s With or Without You. Kercher was also more interested in classical subjects like history, than Knox.

Besides this, we have Knox’s playlists from the time of the murder, and there’s just regular pop-music on it, the kind of Nirvana type stuff students listen to when they’re high.


Knox’s MySpace page, in which she refers to herself as Foxy Knoxy, hardly even refers to music amongst her interests.

Picture 35

In a real sense, Meredith was more accomplished in the musical genre than Knox. Meredith had been invited to appear in a well-known music video in Britain.

Also, I doubt Knox found a flyer at her university and gave it to Kercher. More likely it was the other way round. Knox’s job at the bar was to hand out flyers, something she admits in her memoir was a real drag. Also, Knox attended a language school, whereas Kercher was at the far more prestigious and much bigger University of Perugia. The latter had about 20 000 students, while Knox’s school had less than 2000 students enrolled. So it was far more likely that Kercher found a flyer about an Italian classical music show, than that Knox found one in the small confines of a language school where there were mostly foreign kids.

Knox goes all wishy washy and regurgitates the same crap about her blissful romance. What this has to do with Kercher or anything else is anyone’s guess, but it does reinforce this core sense that when it comes to Knox, everything must be about her, and her having what she wants, including how reality must appear when it comes to her story. She must look right, in a story where she’s implicated in someone’s murder. This may seem logical, but it’s not simply someone who wishes to simply clear their name, this is someone who wants to luxuriate in the attention, in the wash and rinse, of the media, speculating about her role in a murder. You’d imagine an innocent person wanting to dispassionately and soberly go through evidence and perhaps make helpful suggestions for the investigators or prosecutors. Instead, she gravitates endlessly into the fickle and fake details of her own narcissism. She tells a fairy tale about herself at the expense of a murdered young woman who she clearly doesn’t give a fuck about.  And that’s the point. It’s narcissism that takes no prisoners. It’s me-me-me at the expense of you.

This level of inadequacy and insecurity, so many years later, versus Meredith’s mature, socialized and more successful integration into the expat life reveals why there might be a motive for murder. Jealousy. Envy. It’s you at my expense and I’m going to reset the scales, and turn the tables.

Knox spends a lot of time describing her puppy-love with Sollecito. Going into detail about smiles and looks, and looking emotionally happy as she goes through it. Oh yeah, meanwhile Kercher left the concert to join her friends. Kercher’s seat is taken by Sollecito, and ten days later, Sollecito’s DNA would be left on Kercher’s bra strap, which was deposited under her bloodied corpse in her bedroom, under a duvet. There’s also some evidence pointing towards the possibility of Knox’s DNA found on the same bra hook.

2:32: I was in puppy love, and we did everything together.

Shakedown: Not quite. They didn’t spend Halloween together; in fact Knox didn’t seem to spend it with anyone. Not with Kercher or her friends, and not with her boyfriend, who was working on his thesis. During the ten days of their romance, Knox also spent at least one day completely apart from Sollecito. Other witnesses, like Filomena, reported that Knox was having second-thoughts about Sollecito, feeling guilty about cheating on her American boyfriend… As for Sollecito, in his memoir he describes being irritated and unable to sleep, because Knox tended to wake up early and play music.

Fullscreen capture 20180506 214913

2:40: Knox is asked: At this time, did you have any inkling, that your life would never be the same? Knox looks down, her one hand wringing in the grasp of the other. Then she slowly says: No.

Shakedown: Still careful, still counting her words on the simplest of questions.

2:45: I felt like I was alone in the world…

Shakedown: Not quite. Knox lived with Sollecito for the next few days after Kercher’s murder. They went out to dinner with friends. When the police called saying they wanted to see Sollecito, he irritably told them when they were done with dinner. Knox and Sollicto were famously caught going lingerie shopping during this same period. While all of Kercher’s friends fled Perugia, Knox wanted to stay on, even completing her homework and handing it in. Handwritten, there wasn’t a single crossed-out word. Knox’s family and friends were calling her constantly, advising her to go to the embassy, while Knox said everything was fine.

I felt like I was alone in the world…

I’m sure that’s how Kercher felt while she was being murdered in her own bedroom.

3:17: I was in a jail cell [leaning forward, looking down], and I did not have access to international news…[blinks, then looks up, to her right]…what I didn’t understand, for a very long time…was that…the courtroom…and the media…were feeding each other. 

Then the interview reveals how the media unfairly stereoptyped Knox as a sexual deviant. The media made-up the fact that Knox was a sexualised nymphet.

3:55: They came up with this whole theory, with a sex game, that I orchestrated, that ended [Knox flicks her head angrily] in Meredith’s murder.

Shakedown: When Knox refers to they, she means the prosecutors. The prosecutors, following the evidence, felt that this wasn’t just a murder, but torture with a sexual dimension to it. Did the prosecutors also pluck this idea out of thin air? Like the staged-burglary, the staged sexual assault had a lot pointing towards it. If the staged-burglary had a broken window [but nothing stolen], the staged-sexual assault had Kercher naked post mortem [her clothes and bra were removed after her throat was cut], her body moved and her legs pulled open. Now, if you wanted police to think someone else killed your roommate, one way was to associate the crime with an intruder breaking in from the outside [as opposed to someone on the inside, committing murder]. Incidentally, the JonBenet Ramsey case, Oscar Pistorius case and the Madeleine McCann case all invoke the idea of windows ushering in phantom intruders who leave no traces of themselves.

The reason the cops suspected a sexual dimension was because the victim was found naked, her thighs propped on a pillow, and covered in blood. Her body was positioned in a way to suggest sexual violation. The only “problem”, if that is the right word, is that like the staged burglary, there was no evidence of an actual sexual attack. No sperm or body fluids. No bruising on the inner thighs. No severe trauma to Meredith’s genitals, no sign of rape.


So the court was quite right to look into this aspect, and to investigate it. Obviously, the idea of a sexual attack on Kercher was intended to draw the narrative away from a female attacker, because how many murder-rapists of women are other women? Of course, only the most deceitful, despicable, misleading, manipulative and mendacious scum-of-the-earth criminal would do something like this, to cover their tracks. Only the world’s biggest shitbag would come up with something like this to cover up a crime. Most other criminals would remove the body from the scene and dump it somewhere else. Whoever did this was a brazen liar, someone capable of appearing on camera with the world watching, and lying [almost] straight-faced.

4:15: It didn’t…really…hit me…though…how big…and all-encompassing…the media was [shrugs] until I finally got out.

Shakedown: That’s strange that she didn’t know, because the court room was chock-full of reporters and cameramen each day of the trial. That’s unusual. Most trials don’t have a lot of reporters sitting in on them, let alone a full-house sitting in on everything. There were so many reporters covering Knox’s case, some had to sit in the metal jail cells reserved for especially dangerous criminals standing trial.

The other thing is Knox had a television in her prison cell, and her mother frequently visited her to tell her about the news, what the lawyers were advising, and what the media were saying.

Below is an excerpt from a prison intercept dated November 10th, 2007, just 9 days after Kercher’s murder. Knox is being visited by her mother Edda, in prison.

KNOX: Does he know what’s going on…?

EDDA: Well, the world…the world is making you out to be this…massive killer…monster.

KNOX: Are you serious?

EDDA: Oh yeah, oh yeah. And I have had…our house, everyone in the family, in the German family, have been assaulted by the media. It’s gone CRAZY!

Later in the same intercept from November 2007:

EDDA: …they are bombarded by the media, and they say: hold on! You know, the your friends, and Madison was … they were very warying and she …

KNOX: Why? They talked with Madison?

EDDA: Yes, and she said: “Amanda I know wouldn’t do such a thing”, your friends have said “Impossible 100%”.

KNOX: They talked with my friends?

EDDA: With everyone, Amanda.

KNOX: How did they find my friends?

EDDA:They [the media] traced my cell number, I don’t know how, and “NBC News Twenty Twenty “caught me as I was leaving today from the apartment, the secret apartment that I occupy in Perugia.

KNOX: What?

EDDA: Uh-uh … The lawyers have said something interesting, they said: Amanda found herself involved in something much bigger than her because…This is all a huge crap on an international level.

KNOX: I didn’t do anything…I can speak Italian.

EDDA: My God! What?

KNOX: I speak Italian.

EDDA: Do they know?

Later in the same excerpt, Knox’s mother conveys more speculation in the media, directly to Knox.

KNOX: My fingerprints on her face? I sure hope it isn’t true, because how can it be true? I didn’t do anything.

EDDA: Yes.

KNOX: It’s serious evidence, my prints on her face.

EDDA: I know.

KNOX: How can this be true?

EDDA: I just … I mean, there’s a lot of crap in the papers.

KNOX: This is in the papers; if they tell me that the police have evidence that there are…my fingerprints on your face, I don’t know what to say.

What the police found were at least fifteen bruises in the shape of fingers, all over Kercher’s face. The point of these bruises were to prevent Kercher from being heard while she was restrained, and to keep her mouth closed while her throat was slit. Investigators determined these bruises matched the size of a woman’s fingers; they were too narrow to be that of a man.

We’re around the halfway mark of the video clip; that’s a few minutes, enough of a sample to ask: how much of that looks like honesty?

If this blog garners enough attention and commentary, I’ll do a Part 2.


If Vincent van Gogh didn’t cut off his ear, who did?

24sun3web-master768Some people reckon Vincent van Gogh was the original king of selfies. In Paris, in 1886 he did around eleven self-portraits, the following year [still in Paris], he churned out another seventeen. In Arles, in 1888 and early 1889, he produced just five, two of them with the famous bandage around his severed left ear.

Over the next year, while in the asylum at Saint-Rémy, his selfie output dropped even further, to just three. This is strange, because if there was a time for introspection, it was during those interminable months alone in the madhouse. But unhappy people, like unhappy artists, tend to be camera shy, not so? In the final two months of Vincent’s life, in Arles, he didn’t paint a single self-portrait either. But what does all this have to do with severed ears?

500x0Given the controversy surrounding “the ear incident”, Van Gogh’s 35-or-so self portraits are a valuable archive. Does he paint the side of his face missing the ear after December 1888? Does he see himself as mad? What is he saying?

When we examine the two self-portraits painted within days of losing his ear, we notice a few things different about them. For one, he’s wearing strange headgear – a blue beret – in both post severed ear selfies. In all his self-portraits, there are about eleven where he depicts himself wearing a hat of some kind, in other words, a hat features in a third of of his self-portraits. The hats are invariably yellow straw hats, used by the artist when he was outdoors as a sun shield.

All the Arles selfies are drawn showing Van Gogh’s left side, while all of those painted afterwards [just three], in Saint-Rémy, are painted from the right.

In The Murder of Vincent van Gogh I go into a lot more detail about the circumstances and psychology of Van Gogh leading to the ear incident at Arles, and the aftermath. I won’t be doing much of that here. What I want to highlight here is one fairly obvious fact, and it has to do with Vincent’s housemate in the Yellow House, for just on two months in Arles – Paul Gauguin.


The whole scenario of the two artists who don’t know each other, suddenly living with one another cheek by jowl in a foreign city, reminds me of Meredith Kercher and Amanda Knox in Perugia. And look how that ended. Kercher was stabbed to death in the throat of her own room, and Knox emerged as a suspect, but ultimately dodged being found guilty of Kercher’s murder.

The time scale is also similiar;  just as Kercher had spent several weeks in Perugia settling down and getting orientated before Knox pitched up, Van Gogh did the same in Arles. Then Knox arrived and within about six weeks Kercher was dead, and the entire villa [a bloodbath] had to be abandoned by everyone. The same happened to the Yellow House. The main difference is Knox wasn’t allowed to leave, while Paul Gauguin did, two days after the ear incident.

The mainstream narrative holds that Van Gogh cut off his own ear. There’s been some uncertainty about how much ear – the whole ear [meaning he was very mad], a piece of ear [meaning he wasn’t so mad], or someone else carved off the ear with a rapier [meaning he wasn’t mad at all, just horrible to live with].

How mad was #VincentvanGogh?

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The best source for what really happened to Van Gogh’s ear, however, is Van Gogh himself. He does write about it, but once again, I dealt with that in detail in The Murder of Vincent van Gogh, including the latest historical evidence related to the ear narrative.

What I will say is there’s a strange arrangement between Gauguin and Van Gogh after the incident, where both artists sort of agree not to talk about it [Gauguin doesn’t honor the agreement and goes behind Van Gogh’s back, telling everyone who will listen what a lunatic his former housemate is…]

There’s also the issue where Gauguin exits the Yellow House and bugs out to Paris taking two of Van Gogh’s most prized paintings – his depictions of sunflowers. [One would later be auctioned for tens of millions of dollars, a new world record in its time, eclipsing the previous record by a factor of 4]. Van Gogh was clearly pissed off by this, which is why he wrote to Gauguin asking for them back, and bitching to Theo about the whole deal. So there’s lots of intrigue, but for the purposes of this post, I want to focus on those self-portraits painted just after the ear incident. It couldn’t have been fun; it was mid-winter and the wound under those bandages was probably still throbbing and oozing blood. An artery had been severed near the top of the pinna, which almost caused the artist to bleed to death.

It all seems to be in the eyes, doesn’t it? In the left image, notice how the horizon between red and orange actually directs the viewer to the line of Van Gogh’s eyes, as does the smoke from his pipe. The smoke over the crimson background also seems to be suggesting “things aren’t always what they seem.”

A quote from my latest book The Murder of Vincent van Gogh.

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But look closer at the other portrait, and there’s a suggestion in the Japanense picture at the rear, that she is pointing towards the eyes.


At this scale it’s clear it’s not the hand or fingers of the Japanese lady at all, but the open beak of bird, perhaps a stalk, crying out in the direction of Van Gogh’s blazing green eyeball. And that’s the other thing – the green.

Going through Van Gogh’s self-portraits, these two have an abundance of green, don’t they. Van Gogh’s actually clothed in it, even the wall behind him and his face, in the second image, is green.


Could all that green, even the green in the eye of the beholder, have anything to do with that expression: being green with envy? And yes, the English idiom translates to Dutch.*

Er zit iets zwarts in het groen van je oog.///There’s something black in the green part of your eye

Remember, these were two artists living side by side and clearly, not getting along. Van Gogh said as much in his letters to Theo, and Gauguin made no bones about it either.

Did Gauguin and #VincentvanGogh get along in the Yellow House?

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So the two artists didn’t get along because Vincent was mad, or was Gauguin mad [angry] because of…well, envy? I’m not the only one casting these aspersions, though…

What pray tell did Gauguin have to be envious about? Well, Van Gogh’s motivation for one. He felt it was becoming a competition, and certainly outputwise, and on the spectrum of inspiration, Van Gogh was streets ahead. Van Gogh also had a patron, in his brother, who basically paid his brother’s way so he could paint to his heart’s content. Interestingly, Gauguin arrived in Arles as another sponsored artist, sponsored by Theo, but falling short perhaps in their eyes, and who knows, perhaps his own too.

Much of this has a mirror dimension in the Meredith Kercher/Amanda Knox case. There has been speculation that Knox was jealous of Kercher, who was a more likable and attractive girl, more settled, more socialized, and had the lion’s share of friends and if she wanted, boyfriends. Knox was later the prime suspect in Kercher’s murder, but was at pains to argue that she and Meredith had been friends to the end. Like Gauguin, Knox wasn’t at home but sleeping somewhere else when the incident in question happened, and both were the “last to know” something had happened.

Here’s the mainstream depiction of Van Gogh cutting off his own ear. It’s preceded, of course, with a row with Gauguin. In Gauguin’s version of events Vincent actually approached him with a razor. Gauguin merely turned around, looked at Vincent, prompting Van Gogh to turn tail, run home and cut off his ear. But does that really ring true?

While researching The Murder of Vincent van Gogh it was easy to get caught up and distracted in the various versions of Van Gogh. In the above depiction the filmmakers seem to have forgotten the events took place just before Christmas in 1888; midwinter in Arles, and a miserable period otherwise, when the Mistral blows through the twisting streets like nobody’s business. So there is no way Van Gogh would be walking around without a shirt on.

Over the past 130 years, there have been countless versions of the ear incident; from art historians, biographers and documentary filmmakers to journalists and authors – everyone has a theory. None of these folks are true crime aficionados though, and none of them are approaching these incidents [the gouged ear and the his death] as criminal incidents. Why not? The French police arrived on the scene on both occasions precisely because a man’s blood was spilled. And even in suicide, it’s important to establish a motive for murder; the murder of the self is still murder, there’s still a motive.

Turning to those self-portraits, what does Van Gogh say about the whole deal? What does he say beyond a look in the eye?

Incredibly, earlier that same month, December 1888, the month of the ear incident, Van Gogh painted two chairs; one symbolizing himself, the other symbolizing Gauguin. This is not in dispute. Van Gogh’s chair is modest, simple and plain [like the man], Gauguin’s is sort of lavish, earthy and has an exotic feel about it. Van Gogh’s chair feels like yellow straw, much of it has a golden vibe about it, Gauguin’s chair [and the wall behind it] is a rich green. It’s important to see the original colors of these art works, because after more than a century, the colors have faded, concealing the original intent, the original code, embedded in the paintings.

Now it’s important to note, the chairs were painted in December before the ear incident, and both chairs were emblematic of the artists. Look at how green Gauguin’s chair is. The seat is a puffy cushion in rich green and gold lint. Behind the chair is a forest green wall.

When Van Gogh painted a portrait of Gauguin, he also used green [on his coat, and the wall] to personify Gauguin. He also has Gauguin turned away from him, preoccupied with his own thoughts, his own world…


Now look at the self-portraits after the ear incident. For the first time in any of his portraits, Van Gogh is clothed in a really thick, green coat. Look closer and the green coat has specks of gold in it. Van Gogh may have agreed with Gauguin, in their letters, not to talk of the incident, but the self-portraits, when the emotions were still running high, speak volumes. The injured Van Gogh looks out, but how much of his green eyes are Van Gogh’s eyes, and how much are they a reflected green [off the room, and his coat]. In other words, he’s not only clothed in Gauguin’s envy, but how the world sees him, is through Gauguin’s disparaging [and envious] eyes…

If these contentions are true, if Van Gogh didn’t cut off his own ear, if Gauguin sliced it off with one of his swords, then we have to ask: was Van Gogh as mad as he’s been made out to be? Was he even mad to begin with? And if he wasn’t mad, was he suicidal?


Unfortunately the clip above cuts off before Van Gogh [played by Andy Serkis] refers to being driven to the heights of his art, by his illness. What did he mean by “illness”? Madness, or something else?

The Murder of Vincent van Gogh is available on Amazon and Kindle Unlimited at this link.

Van Gogh Murder Final

*Van Gogh was a bookworm, and wrote to Theo about enjoying Shakespeare. The “green with envy” idiom originates from Shakespeare’s Othello, a work Van Gogh was undoubtedly familiar with.

 “Beware, my lord, of jealousy; it is the green-eyed monster which doth mock the meat it feeds on.”