In an absinthe fueled state of instability and believing that Gauguin is deserting him and his studio of the south, Vincent uses a straight razor to slice off the lobe and part of the cartilage of his ear.  He has martyred himself like a bull in arena at Arles and then taken the ear, wrapped in a handkerchief to where he hoped to find Gauguin, a local brothel where Gauguin favored one of the ladies of the evening.  He is later found passed out, probably due to the volume of blood loss, and admitted unconscious to the hospital in Arles.  Another potential contributing factor to Vincent’s break was his receipt of a letter from his brother this day in which Theo announces his proposal of marriage to Johanna Bonger, two large and isolating pieces of news on the same day may have pushed Vincent from reality.