1. Demolition work on the tower had begun on 11 May. The spire (with the cross) must have been dismantled some days earlier, and the tower had probably been totally demolished by the end of June. See De Brouwer 2000, p. 75.
2. Sale of building scrap (F 1230 / JH 770 [2511]), which measures 37.5 x 55 cm; the earlier watercolour is Timber sale (F 1113 / JH 438 [2450]) of December 1883.
[2511] [2450]
3. This planned third watercolour is not known.
4. The cottage (F 83 / JH 777 [2513]), which measures 64 x 78 cm.
5. It is difficult to tell which six heads these are. They probably included Head of a man (F 163 / JH 687 [2495]) and – possibly – Head of a woman (F 388r / JH 782 [2514]). The paintings F 141 / JH 783 [2515] and F 86 / JH 785 [2516] are not mentioned until letters 505 and 506 respectively.
[2495] [2514] [2515] [2516]
6. The World Exhibition of Art was staged in Antwerp from 2 May to 2 November 1885. This friend was Anton Kerssemakers. In his published memoirs he recalls a visit to Antwerp with Van Gogh, that must have taken place in October. See Verzamelde brieven 1973, vol. 3, pp. 92 ff. and letter 527, n. 5.
7. The potato eaters (F 82 / JH 764 [2510]).
8. A reference to the furniture in twelve popular restaurants in Paris known as the Bouillons Duval. Pierre Louis Duval had had department stores converted into restaurants. See Dictionnaire de biographie française. Paris 1970. Vincent knew that Theo would understand exactly what he meant: they are referred to more than once in the letters from Andries Bonger to his parents, and in the correspondence between Theo and Jo. On 9 July 1881, for instance, Andries wrote: ‘On Sundays I put my legs under the mahogany at Duval’s’, and Jo van Gogh-Bonger told her parents on 9 November 1889: ‘We dined in one of the Duvals’ (FR b1665 and b4295). See also letter 666, n. 5.
9. Study for ‘The potato eaters’ (F 77r / JH 686 [2494]); the kneeling woman is the figure in the foreground. ‘First’ here does not mean the first one he sent, but the one that was done first.
10. Paul Mantz, ‘Le Salon i’, published as ‘Feuilleton du Temps’ in Le Temps of 10 May 1885.
11. The painting Lapons saluant le soleil, revenant après la longue nuit d’hiver (Lapps greet the return of the sun after the long winter night) by the Norwegian Otto Sinding, described by Mantz: ‘The delighted and grateful air given to his Laplanders by the Norwegian artist is the same as that which would be taken by the group of salon visitors smitten with light if the sky in art which had became so dreary with the disappearance of the great stars were suddenly to be lit up with golden crimsons’ (L’attitude enchantée et reconnaissante que l’artiste norvégien a donnée a ses Lapons, c’est celle-là même que prendrait le groupe des salonniers épris de lumière si le ciel de l’art si morne depuis l’effacement des grandes étoiles, s’illuminait soudain de pourpres dorées) (p. 1).
12. Mantz writes: ‘Millet has entered into history, and there he will remain’ (Millet est entré dans l’histoire, et il y restera) (p. 1).
13. Among other things Mantz writes of Lhermitte: ‘Despite the differences, easily visible, which separate him from his predecessors, he belongs to the same intellectual movement’ (Malgré les différences, aisément appréciables, qui le séparent de ses prédécesseurs, il appartient au même mouvement intellectuel) (p. 1).
14. Mantz observed: ‘Mr Roll is a great beginner’ (M. Roll est un grand commenceur) (p. 2).
15. See for Roll’s A miner’s strike [1950]: letters 272, n. 3 and 263, n. 5.
16. Mantz wrote: ‘painting is not just inspired by dreams’ (la peinture ne se nourrit pas seulement de rêve) (p. 1).
17. According to the catalogue, Anthon van Rappard was represented at the World Exhibition of 1885 in Antwerp by the painting Na de koffie, oudevrouwenhuis (After coffee, old women’s home) (see exhib. cat. Antwerp 1885, p. 21, cat. no. 110). Old women in the West-Terschelling home [329] (The Hague, Kunstmuseum), which has a similar subject, was probably a preliminary study for it (see letter 416).
18. In Germinal (1885) Emile Zola describes the misery of the miner’s life, the brutal struggle for survival that robbed the workers of their human dignity. Etienne Lantier, an outsider who comes to work in the Montsou mines, tries to mobilize the workers to bring about a change in their conditions. Eventually there is a strike, but the mine owners take drastic action and enlist the help of the army to break it. Although the miners’ living conditions have not improved by the time that Lantier leaves the area, he detects a change in their attitude that could be the germ of a radical revolution.
19. Léon Augustin Lhermitte drew Le mois de Marie à Chartèves (The month of May at Chartèves) (present whereabouts unknown) as the month of May in the series ‘Les mois rustiques’, but it was never published because several issues were devoted in their entirety to the death of Victor Hugo. Van Gogh went on to ask in vain for this unpublished engraving several times. Les amoureux (‘Idylle’) (The lovers (‘Idyll’)), engraved by Clément Edouard Bellenger, appeared in the month of June; Lhermitte changed the title from ‘June’ to ‘May’. The print appeared in Le Monde Illustré 29 (27 June 1885), Supplement to no. 1474. Ill. 213 [213]. See Le Pelley Fonteny 1991, pp. 402, 452-453, cat. nos. 437, 737.
20. Mantz wrote: ‘He always drew on those ash blues that we love, but today he goes further’ (Il y puisait déjà des bleus cendrés que nous aimons, mais aujourd’hui il va plus loin) (p. 1).
21. Mantz actually wrote: ‘The animal is a russet brown, the woman is a pinkish blonde, the grass of the meadow is very green: one sees here the harmony of the three notes and the beauty of the spectacle’ (L’animal est d’un brun roux, la femme est d’un blond rosé, les herbes de la prairie sont très vertes: on voit d’ici l’accord des trois notes et la jolie du spectacle) (p. 2). A ‘girl’ and ‘the bull’ are mentioned several lines earlier.
22. Mantz was talking about Alfred Roll in this context, not Lhermitte.
23. See for the two works by Besnard, Paris and Portrait de Mme G.[eorges Duruy] at the Salon: letter 500, n. 23.
24. From what follows it appears that Theo had responded to Vincent’s instructive comment that he should devote more time to studying colour theory: see letter 495.
25. Jean Gigoux, Causeries sur les artistes de mon temps (1885).
26. We cannot say for certain which drawings these are. There are several sheets on which Van Gogh drew hands, and one with Two hands and two arms (F 1155 / JH 744), which could be what he has in mind here.
27. See for this expression, derived from Gigoux’s Causeries sur les artistes de mon temps: letter 494, n. 2.