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105 To Theo van Gogh. Dordrecht, on or about Tuesday, 6 March 1877.

No. 105 (Brieven 1990 105, Complete Letters -)
From: Vincent van Gogh
To: Theo van Gogh
Date: Dordrecht, on or about Tuesday, 6 March 1877

Source status
Original manuscript

Amsterdam, Van Gogh Museum, inv. no. b1466 V/1962

At its first publication (in De brieven 1990), this short letter, which was accompanied by a piece of rye bread and a print titled Ecce Homo, was roughly dated to ‘winter 1877 (?)’. However, a more precise dating is possible.
In letter 108 of 16 March 1877, Vincent reported that a print sent by Theo – ‘Mater Dolorosa’ – was now hanging on his wall. This is the print requested in the present letter (l. 9), which means that it cannot have been written very long before 16 March. It is unlikely to have been enclosed with the letter of 8 March (letter 106), because in that letter Vincent writes mainly about himself, whereas in this letter he expressly addresses Theo.
Moreover, it is unlikely that this note was a postscript to letter 103 or 104, since both of these letters already had texts appended to them. The mention of ‘our Father’s house’ (l. 4) in this letter, however, is in keeping with the subject matter of letter 104, which was written on 28 February, and that in itself suggests that the present letter was written some time between 28 February and 8 March.
At all events, Van Gogh also enclosed an Ecce Homo and a palm branch in a letter written to his mother on 6 March 1877. She wrote to Theo about it: ‘Sweet of Vincent, thinking I was alone, he wrote to me very affectionately yesterday evening, and sent an ‘Ecce Homo’ and a palm branch from his roof terrace’ (FR b2511, 7 March 1877). We think it conceivable that Van Gogh made a similar gesture around the same time, also sending his brother a note with an ‘Ecce Homo’ and an extra present. This theory seems to be confirmed by the somewhat sentimental mood Vincent appeared to be in at the time: not only had he written ‘very affectionately’ to his mother, but, exceptionally, he also signed the present letter to Theo ‘your most loving and affectionate brother’ (l. 6).

The text could have been a separate letter, though it could also have been appended to another, unspecified letter.

original text
Als er weer Avondmaal hier zal zijn ga ik er heen,1 doe Gij dat te s’Hage ook, laat ons gaan als ware Avondmaalgangers.
En neem ook dit stuk roggebrood en eet het even als ik dat doe met de gedachte aan ons Vaderhuis2 en aan de dingen die wij daar gehoord en gezien hebben.
En geloof mij

Uw zoo innig liefh. broeder

En bid: Heere zegen deze spijze!3
Hierbij Ecce Homo,4 zend Gij mij Mater dolorosa.5 à Dieu jongen, een handdruk in gedachten.

When the Lord’s Supper is next celebrated here I’ll attend it,1 you should do the same in The Hague, let us go as true participants in the Lord’s Supper.
And take this piece of rye bread too, and eat it, as I do, with our thoughts turned toward our Father’s house2 and to the things we heard and saw there.
And believe me

Your most loving and affectionate brother

And pray: Lord, bless this food!3
Herewith Ecce Homo,4 send me Mater Dolorosa.5 Adieu, old boy, a handshake in thought.
1. On 21 January, Van Gogh had attended The Lord’s Supper (see letter 101).
2. The parental home, but at the same time alluding to the heavenly Father’s house: cf. hymn 207:5, hymn 249:6 and hymn 260:2.
3. From the prayer said at the beginning of a meal.
4. By Ecce Homo Van Gogh was probably referring to a reproduction after a work by Guido Reni (Paris, Musée du Louvre), which in any case was published by Goupil (Cat. Goupil 1877, p. 17); a burin engraving of this work had also been made by A. Delaforge (Chalcographie 1954, p. 119, no. 5940). There was also a reproduction of Reni’s Ecce Homo in circulation, the verso of which displayed a ‘poetical inscription by J.J.L. ten Kate’. On one such print Van Gogh wrote, inspired by Rom. 8:35 and 8:39: ‘Nothing shall separate us from the love of Christ nor things present nor things to come’ (FR b1454). Ill. 1798 . Van Gogh also quoted Rom. 8:38-39 in letters 102 and 130. Cf. exhib. cat. London 1992, p. 143, cat. no. 104.
Görlitz recollected the following from this period. In early 1877, Van Gogh had asked permission ‘to affix some biblical prints to the wallpaper ... After half an hour the whole room was decorated with scenes from the Bible and with Ecce Homos, and below every head of Christ, Van Gogh had written: “steeds droevig, maar altijd blijde” [ever sorrowful, yet alway rejoicing]’. See Verzamelde brieven 1973, vol. 4, pp. 327-334 (quotation on p. 330).
5. To be sure, Guido Reni had also made a Mater Dolorosa, but Van Gogh was probably asking here for a Mater Dolorosa by Paul Delaroche. Ary Scheffer’s Mater Dolorosa was also published in the Goupil series ‘Cartes de visite’ (Bordeaux, Musée Goupil). Ill. 1799 . See letter 54, n. 14 and Ewals 1990, p. 64 (n. 4).