My dear Theo,
Here are a couple of scratches of the heads I’m working on — which I do in haste and from memory.1
I wrote to tell you how little I had left this month2 — you know how it was much the same last month.
My position is — and now more than ever before — that I keep on painting just as long as I have money for the models. I can’t tell you how impatient and how distressed I become about these last days of the month, when I sometimes have to leave things that actually demand that I go on with them.
I have to make 50 of these heads — while I’m still here and can get models of all types relatively easily during the winter months. Now the winter months are passing, though, without my making as many as I want and as are necessary if I don’t continue getting on with it.  1v:2
That’s why I continue getting on with it — and must urge most strongly, if it’s even only half possible for you, that you try to cover me for the end of this month.
I don’t need much, 20 francs or 30 francs will go a long way towards covering it.
But that’s worth more to me at this moment than an extra 50 francs later. With hard work, these 50 heads will be finished this coming winter. But they involve so much work and toil that I need every day.
And it will, I hope, be the means of making an arrangement between you and me that is better for both sides than the present one. With which, it seems to me, we should make haste — precisely to prevent  1v:3 our quarrelling.
Regards — if you have borrowed or can borrow, help me with this.
Since I didn’t want my entire paint bill at the end of the year, I’ve already paid part of it off this month, as I said.
But that the work should be delayed by it is something I can’t tolerate.
I’ve had a series of drawings by Renouard from Rappard, ‘The legal world’, figures of lawyers — criminals &c. — I don’t know if you’ve noticed them — I think they’re very fine.3 And in my view he’s someone of the true race of the Daumiers and Gavarnis.

Yours truly,


Br. 1990: 477 | CL: 389
From: Vincent van Gogh
To: Theo van Gogh
Date: Nuenen, on or about Sunday, 14 December 1884

1. It is impossible to say for sure which scratches of heads Van Gogh is referring to here, how many there were or which paintings they were of. He did numerous heads of men and women in the winter of 1884-1885. In view of their small size and their present location – the Van Gogh Museum – eleven pen-and-ink drawings qualify in any event. However, Van Gogh mentioned enclosing scratches of heads in subsequent letters too. See letters 476, 477, 479, and cat. Amsterdam 1997, pp. 124-133, cat. nos. 108-118, which also lists several other surviving drawings (15 in total) which could have been sent to Theo during this period.
2. Van Gogh had written about this in letter 473.
3. In the monthly magazine Paris Illustré (which started publication on 1 May 1883) there was always a central theme, for example ‘Au Salon de 1883’, ‘Carnival’ etc. Aside from articles and literature, the magazine primarily contained prints, often in colour. It cost 1 franc.
The theme issue of Paris Illustré – Le monde judicaire (The legal world) published in November 1884 – contained various illustrations by Charles Paul Renouard, among them Une consultation (A consultation) (on the title page) and the double-page spread Après l’aquittement (After the acquittal) (pp. 184-185). Ill. 394 [394] and Ill. 2131 [2131]. This issue also contained Albert Bataille’s article ‘La police correctionelle’, with heads of convicted criminals (pp. 182-183). Ill. 2132 [2132].
[394] [2131] [2132]