Vincent van Gogh is remembered as the tortured artistic genius who cut off his own ear and then killed himself two years later. But a new study finds that van Gogh only pretended to cut off his ear to protect close friend and fellow painter Paul Gauguin, who sliced it off with a sword during an argument. Historians Hans Kaufmann and Rita Wildegans point to a few references by van Gogh of a “pact of silence” with Gauguin to back up their claims. Van Gogh also drew a picture of his ear with the word “ictus” next to it—the Latin term in fencing to mean a hit. Van Gogh was “hopelessly infatuated” with Gauguin, and their fight—not his own madness—is what led him to commit suicide, the historians claim.