Return to the main Vincent van Gogh Gallery page

The Arles Petition

Petition, report and inquest

February - March 1889


Monsieur Mayor,

We the undersigned, residing in the city of Arles, Place Lamartine, have the honour to inform you that the man called vood (vincent), landscape painter, a Dutch subject, living in the aforementioned place, has for some time in various ways shown that he does not enjoy his full mental abilities, and that he is given to an excess of drink, after which he is found in a state of overexcitement such that he is no longer aware, neither in fact, nor in speech, and is very worrying for all residents of the quarter, and mainly for the women and children.

In consequence, the undersigned have the honour to ask, in the name of the public security, that the so-called Vood be sent back to his family; or that the necessary formalities are completed in order to admit him into an asylum, so as to avoid the misfortune that will certainly come one day soon if we do not take active measures in his regard. We dare to hope, Monsieur Mayor, that taking into consideration the serious concern that we have in this case, you will have the extreme kindness to give our inquiry the consideration that it deserves.

We have the honour, with the deepest respect, Monsieur Mayor, to be your devoted servants.


The year one thousand eight hundred eighty nine and the twenty-seventh of February; I, Central Police Commissioner of the city of Arles, officer of the judicial police, assistant of M. the Prosecutor of the République; have seen the enclosed petition of the residents of Place Lamartine, relative to acts of the person called Vincent van Goghe, Dutch subject, affected with lunacy; seen the attached report of Monsieur Doctor Delon dated the 7th of this month and the orders of Monsieur the Mayor of Arles, asking to establish the degree of madness of Van Goghe; and have proceeded with an inquiry and heard the hereafter named.


  1. Monsieur A, 63 years old, Proprietor residing at 53 Avenue Montmajour, who has made us the following  declaration: In my capacity of manager of the house resided in by the said Vincent Van Goghe, I had occasion yesterday to talk with him and to observe that he has become insane, because his conversation is incoherent and his reason wandering. Further, I have heard that this man is given to touching the women who live in the neighbourhood; he has similarly assured that they no longer are even safe in their homes, because he enters their houses. Finally, it is urgent that this lunatic is incarcerated in a special  asylum; especially given that the presence of Van Goghe in our quarter compromises the public security. Statement checked, confirmed and signed The Central Commissioner (the signatures of the latter and the witness in question follow).

  2. Person named B, 32 years old, Food Merchant, residing in Place Lamartine, who has told us the following: I live in the same house as the man called Vincent Van Goghe, who is really insane. This individual came into my shop and he imposed himself on me. He insulted my clients and is given to touching the women of the neighbourhood, whom he follows right into their homes. Finally everyone is frightened in the quarter because of the presence of the aforementioned Van Goghe, he will certainly become a danger to the public security. Statement checked, confirmed and signed with us The Central Commissioner (the signatures follow of the latter and that of the woman in question).

  3. Person named C. 40 years old, retailer of tobacco residing in Place Lamartine who has confirmed the declaration of the preceding witness. Statement checked, confirmed and signed The Central Commissioner (the signatures follow of the latter and that of the witness).

  4. Person named D., 42 years old, seamstress, residing at 24 Place Lamartine who has made the following declaration: The said Van Goghe, who lives in the same quarter as me has for some time  become increasingly mad; also everyone is frightened in the neighbourhood. Women especially no longer feel safe because he is given to touching them and makes obscene remarks in their presence. In my case, I was seized by the waist in front of Madame B.'s shop by this individual the day before yesterday, Monday, and lifted in the air. Finally this lunatic has become a danger to the public security and everyone requests his incarceration in a special establishment. Statement checked, confirmed and signed The Central Commissioner (the signatures follow of this last and that of this witness).

  5. Person named F., 45 years old, Café-keeper, residing in Place Lamartine who has confirmed that the statements made by the preceding witness are true and sincere and declares that he has nothing to add to his deposition. Statement checked, confirmed and signed The Central Commissioner (signatures follow of the latter and the witness in question).


The person called Vincent Van Goghe is truly mentally deranged; although we have observed at various times that this lunatic has moments of lucidity. Van Goghe is not now a danger to the public security, but we are concerned that he does not become one. All his neighbors are frightened, with just cause, because a few weeks ago the lunatic was disturbed enough to cut his ear in a fit of madness; a crisis that could happen again and could be disastrous to some person in his vicinity. The Central Commissioner (his signature follows).


Considering the inquest preceding and our personal verifications, it follows that the named Vincent Van Goghe has become mentally unstable and that he could become harmful to the public  security; we so advise that steps are taken to incarcerate this lunatic in an asylum. The Central Commissioner (signature follows).

All that has been presented in this report is pursuant to the right of law, and I have signed;

In Arles the third of March One thousand eight hundred eighty nine. The Central Commissioner (signature follows).

Return to main Van Gogh Gallery page