From: Vincent van Gogh
To: Theo van Gogh
Date: Dordrecht, on or about Tuesday, 6 March 1877
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.