1. Patience Escalier has not been identified. Perhaps ‘Patience’ was a nickname; in that case a man called François Casimir Escalier (1816-1889) from the nearby village of Eyragues may have been Van Gogh’s model (Murphy 2016, p. 98). Van Gogh compares the gardener with the man portrayed in Jean-François Millet, Man with a hoe, 1860-1862 (Los Angeles, The J. Paul Getty Museum). Ill. 2218 [2218]. Van Gogh saw the work at the Millet exhibition in Paris in 1887. There were also various reproductions at the time, in Sensier 1881, p. 237, and elsewhere. The painting had attracted a lot of attention when it was sold for the record price of 125,000 francs shortly before Van Gogh left for the south. See Dorn 1990, p. 302 (n. 440).
2. The drawing Patience Escalier (‘The peasant’) (F 1460 / JH 1549 [2695]) after the painting of the same name F 443 / JH 1548. The criticism of Portier must have been prompted in part by his cool attitude towards Van Gogh’s work in the past; see letter 548.
3. The drawing Joseph Roulin (F 1459 / JH 1547 [2693]), after the painting of the same name F 432 / JH 1522 [2672]. This is the first time the postman’s name is mentioned; Van Gogh had evidently misheard it, for he wrote ‘Rollin’.
[2693] [2672]
4. The potato eaters (F 82 / JH 764 [2510]).
5. See letter 493, n. 8, for the expression ‘en sabots’ (in clogs), taken from Millet.
6. Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, Young woman at a table, ‘Poudre de riz’, 1887 (Amsterdam, Van Gogh Museum). Ill. 432 [432]. Theo had bought this painting from the artist for 150 francs on 12 January 1888 (FR b1156).
7. Barbotine is a sort of slip or liquid clay that had been used since time immemorial for joining together parts of statues and pottery. Ernest Chaplet used the technique in the early 1870s for underglaze painting in coloured slips on pottery, and went on to develop it further for the Haviland porcelain factory. The German chemist Herman Seger described the process as follows in 1878: ‘Barbotine means engobe or paste, and barbotine painting stands for a method of decoration which is essentially plastic in character, bringing out the colors by means of paste... The decoration consists usually of flowers and animal pieces, preferably birds, which are in a manner painted plastically, so to speak.’ Quoted in Gray 1963, p. 10 (n. 32). Gauguin had made a series of pots and vases together with Chaplet in the winter of 1886-1887, some of which were displayed in Theo’s gallery in December 1887. Van Gogh is referring here to his own deliberate use of heavy impasto; in letter 693 he also described the two views of the park as ‘impasted like barbotine’ and in letter 694 his decoration was ‘almost barbotine’.
8. In his plan for the portrait of an artist friend Van Gogh was thinking of Gauguin, with whom he hoped to share his studio in Arles. He painted the portrait, with Eugène Boch as his model, at the beginning of September (F 462 / JH 1574 [2710]). See exhib. cat. Amsterdam 1990, p. 147.
9. See letters 657, n. 18, and 502, n. 18, respectively for Zola’s novels La terre and Germinal.
10. This idea of the need for an artist to subordinate his food to his work is something Van Gogh also got from Corot and Delacroix; see letters 396 and 765 respectively.