Paris. 12 Sept. 1875.

My dear Theo,

Wings, wings above life!
Wings over the grave and death!1

That’s what we need, and I’m beginning to see that we can acquire them. Doesn’t Pa have them, for instance? And you know how he got them, through prayer and the fruits thereof: patience and faith,2 and through the Bible, which was a light unto his path and a lamp unto his feet.3
This afternoon I heard a beautiful sermon on ‘forget that which is behind you’;4 part of which was: ‘Have more hope than remembrances; what there was of seriousness and blessings in your past life is not lost; do not reflect on it any longer, you will find it elsewhere, but keep moving forward. All things are become new in Jesus Christ’.5
Keep your chin up, and believe me

Your loving brother

If it’s indeed true that childhood and youth are vanity6 (always bearing in mind what’s written above, and remembering that although one has to start anew later, a well-spent youth is worth a fortune), shouldn’t it then be our ambition and hope to become men like Pa and others? Let us both hope and pray for this. My regards to everyone who asks after me.

You know the etching by Rembrandt, Burgomaster Six standing in front of the window, reading.7 I know that Uncle Vincent and Cor like it very much, and I sometimes think that they must have looked like that when they were younger. You also know the portrait of Six when he was older,8 I believe there’s an engraving of it in your shop.9 That life of his must have been a fine and serious life.


Br. 1990: 046 | CL: 37
From: Vincent van Gogh
To: Theo van Gogh
Date: Paris, Sunday, 12 September 1875

1. Close of the second stanza of Friedrich Rückert’s poem ‘Flügel! Flügel um zu fliegen’ from the volume Liebesfrühling (1844). The word ‘Flügel’ (wings) in the second line of the quotation does not occur in the original text. See Rückert 1868-1869, vol. 1, p. 494.
7. The etching Jan Six reading in front of the window, 1647 (B285). A later impression by Amand-Durand is to be found in the Van Gogh family estate. Ill. 1736 [1736]. (t*1460).
8. Rembrandt, Jan Six, 1654 (Amsterdam, Six Collection). Ill. 1737 [1737].
9. This probably refers to the engraving after Rembrandt’s Portrait of Jan Six which Johann Wilhelm Kaiser made for the Galerie Six (1874-1878) (Amsterdam, Rijksprentenkabinet). Ill. 1738 [1738].