1. Theo had sent the etching by Courtry after The archangel Raphael [344] (then attributed to Rembrandt); see letter 781, n. 4.
2. For Carel Fabritius’s Self-portrait [1885], see letter 155, n. 18, first paragraph.
3. For the portrait Young man with a walking stick [2159] (no longer attributed to Rembrandt), see letter 536, n. 9.
4. The letter sketch Field with a ploughman (F - / JH 1769) was made after the painting of the same name F 625 / JH 1768 [2825].
a. Read: ‘possiblement’.
5. Gauguin and De Haan were staying in Brittany; see letter 774, nn. 15 and 16.
6. Van Gogh’s lack of faith in the asylum was undoubtedly connected with his disappointment at the recurrence of his illness. In letter 787 he wrote very optimistically about Peyron’s offer to store his furniture in the asylum.
7. Theo paid 100 francs a month for board and lodging for Vincent (FR b1059). With regard to the other patients in the asylum, see letter 776, nn. 21 and 22 and letter 777, n. 2.
8. The Alpilles with a hut (F 622 / JH 1766 [2823]).
9. Regarding Rod’s Le sens de la vie, see letter 797, n. 13.
10. Van Gogh intended seven canvases for his mother and Willemien; see letter 803, n. 4. Lies van Gogh had long had in her possession the small Nuenen painting The old tower in the snow (F 87 / JH 600), and after Vincent’s death received a number of Paris works as well (FR b2002). As far as we know, she received no works from Saint-Rémy.
11. Mrs van Gogh and Willemien moved on 2 November 1889 from Breda to Herengracht 100 in Leiden. Van Gogh’s sister Anna, her husband Joan van Houten and their daughters, Sara and Annie, also lived in Leiden.
12. ‘La Campine’ (de Kempen) is a region in the north of Belgium.
13. Van Gogh’s description of the little house does not come from Le conscrit, which he refers to in letter 800, but was probably inspired by the little blue house in Borgerhout (Antwerp), as described in the novel La maison bleue by Henri Conscience: ‘From either side of its door climbed a vine whose intertwined branches surrounded the windows with festoons, and covered the blue-painted façade and the red roof tiles so completely that one would think one was looking at a cradle of greenery.
When, in late autumn, the two vines showed their white and blue grapes through the bright green foliage, we would stop, every child, on the road to school, in front of the pretty little house’ (De chaque côté de sa porte grimpait une vigne dont les rameaux entrelacés entouraient les fenêtres de festons, et couvraient si complétement la façade peinte en bleu et les tuiles rouges du toit, qu’on eût cru voir un berceau de verdure.
Lorsque, dans l’arrière-saison, les deux vignes montraient leurs raisins blancs et bleus à travers le feuillage d’un vert éclatant, nous nous arrêtions, tout enfant, sur le chemin de l’école, devant la jolie maisonnette) (ed. Paris 1882, pp. 1-2). The description of the surroundings is something that Van Gogh himself might have penned.
14. The French landscape painter Jean-Charles Cazin began his career as a realistic painter, but later came under the influence of Impressionism. In the 1880s and ’90s, he was seen as Monet’s rival. See Thomson, ‘Theo van Gogh’ 1999, p. 203, n. 144.
15. Theo had sent Vincent the catalogue of the exhibition of works by Monet and Rodin held at Georges Petit’s (see letter 797, n. 10). Vincent discusses the following passage in Octave Mirbeau’s article ‘Claude Monet’: ‘M. Meissonier, in his garden at Poissy, scattering flour in order to represent the snow in which the French soliders died during the retreat from Russia, and painting this flour with the conscientiousness we know, plies a trade of some sort, inferior to that of the cabinet-maker who fits a drawer precisely onto its runners ... Théodore Rousseau, to mention but him, does not stand up to even superficial study. The air that he paints is unbreathable, his sweet chestnuts and oaks may well have solid forks, his depictions of the ground a weighty and robust structure, but they are devoid of life; his foliage shines, but the air does not circulate through this crude, coarse masonry; no sap runs beneath this inert and desiccated vegetation, with its concistency of metal’ (M. Meissonier, semant, dans son jardin de Poissy, de la farine pour figurer la neige où moururent les soldats français, pendant la retraite de Russie, et peignant cette farine avec la conscience que l’on sait, fait un métier quelconque, inférieur à celui du menuisier qui emboîte exactement un tiroir sur ses coulisses ... Théodore Rousseau, pour ne parler que de lui, ne résiste pas à une analyse, même superficielle. L’atmosphère qu’il peint est irrespirable; ses châtaigniers et ses chênes ont beau avoir de solides embranchements, ses terrains une lourde et robuste ossature, ils ne vivent point; ses feuillages luisent, mais l’air ne circule pas à travers ce maçonnage grossier et canaille; aucune sève ne court sous ces végétations inertes et desséchées, aux consistences de métal’. See exhib. cat. Paris 1889-6, p. 13.
16. Ernest Meissonier, Pierre-Jules Hetzel, 1879 (Meudon, Musée d’Art et d’Histoire de la Ville de Meudon). Ill. 1136 [1136].
17. Albert Besnard, Modern man, c. 1884-1886 (Beauvais, Musée départemental de l’Oise) and Prehistoric man, c. 1887 (private collection). Ill. 578 [578]- 471 [471]. The works are on canvas, not on panel; they are preparatory studies for decorative paintings in the Ecole de Pharmacie in Paris. Van Gogh saw them in 1887 at the exhibition held at Georges Petit’s. Cf. Exposition internationale de peinture et de sculpture. Sixième année. Paris (Galerie Georges Petit), 8 May - 8 June 1887, p. 3, cat. nos. 1-2.
[578] [471]
18. Van Gogh was possibly mistaken about the title The engagement meal and actually meant The wedding dinner (engraving by Joel Ballin), at which the wedding guests arrive in an upstairs room to be seated at table (Bordeaux, Musée Goupil). Ill. 650 [650]. Cf. René Ménard, L’art en Alsace-Lorraine. Paris 1876, pp. 126, 132. Ménard speaks of the intimate emotions of the ‘fiançailles’ (betrothal), portrayed so well by Brion. The print was also available as a ‘Carte-Album’. See Cat. Goupil 1877, pp. 11, 75, no. 774.
The Protestant marriage (1869) by Brion was shown at the 1869 Salon. It was known through its reproduction in the following publications: Album Boetzel. Le Salon 1869; at Paul Mantz, ‘Salon de 1869 (2me et dernier article)’, Gazette des Beaux-Arts 11 (1869), 2nd series, vol. 2, pp. 5-23, ill. between pp. 6-7, engraved by Paul Adolphe Rajon, Ill. 648 [648]; in Musée Universel 6 (17 November 1877), 1e semestre, vol. 11, no. 268, p. 100; and in The Graphic 6 (10 October 1872), p. 361. The painting was sold on 13 October 1994 at Christie’s in New York.
[650] [648]
19. Regarding Brion’s illustrations to Victor Hugo’s Les misérables, see letter 333, n. 14.
20. For the Maecenas Bruyas and his collection in the Musée Fabre at Montpellier, see letter 726, n. 1.
21. For Delacroix’s Alfred Bruyas [76], see letter 726, n. 2.
22. For Ricard’s Alfred Bruyas [1272], see letter 726, n. 3.
23. For Cabanel’s Alfred Bruyas [666], see letter 726, n. 5.
24. Regarding the origin of this expression deriving from the book Petites misères de la vie humaine by Old Nick and Grandville, see letter 178, n. 6.
25. Van Gogh had written in his previous letter that he had a sore throat. It had probably been caused by the filth he had eaten during his attack, as well as by the paint and turpentine with which he had attempted to poison himself (see letter 797, n. 6). This behaviour was no doubt connected with the ‘ideas of suicide’ mentioned by Dr Peyron (see Documentation, On or about 2 September 1889).