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Genetically engineered replica of Van Gogh's ear now on display

Van Gogh painted this self portrait of himself with Straw Hat in 1887.
Public domain (due to age) via Wikicommons

A replica of a genetic copy of Vincent Van Gogh’s infamous ear (which he cut off in 1888 during a psychotic episode) has been placed on display at the Center for Art and Media in Karlsruhe, Germany. The “new” ear was created by artist Diemut Strebe who used a 3D printer to “shape” living cells donated by Lieuwe Van Gogh, the great-great grandson of Vincent’s brother Theo. The project was done at Boston’s Brigham and Women’s Hospital, where the ear is being preserved in “nourishing liquid.”

“I use science basically like a type of brush, like Vincent used paint,” Strebe told the Associated Press.
Lieuwe Van Gogh and his famous uncle are said to share approximately 1/16 of the same genes, including the Y-chromosome passed down among males of the same lineage. Work is now underway to use additional DNA passed down through a female descendant on Vincent’s mother’s side as well.

The exhibit at Karlsruhe also features a microphone through which visitors can speak directly into the ear. Strebe also stated that she hopes to bring the ear to New York sometime next year.

Note: Vincent Willem van Gogh was born March 30, 1853 and died at the age of 37 on July 29, 1890 from a self-inflicted gunshot wound after suffering for years from severe anxiety and frequent bouts of mental illness. Although he is now considered to be one of the world’s preeminent impressionists, with his paintings selling for millions of dollars, his work was relatively unknown and little appreciated during his lifetime.

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