On May 8, 1889, exhausted, ill, and out of control, the Dutch painter Vincent Van Gogh committed himself to St. Paul’s psychiatric asylum in Saint-Rémy-de-Provence, a small hamlet in the south of France. A former monastery, the sanitarium was located in an area of cornfields, vineyards and olive trees. There Van Gogh was allowed two small adjoining cells with barred windows. One room he used as his bedroom, and the other was his tiny studio. While there, Van Gogh not only painted the surrounding area and the interior of the asylum, he also copied paintings and drawings by other artists, making those paintings his own through modifications he made to the painting’s composition, the colors and, of course, the brush strokes.
One of the artists whose work Van Gogh copied and modified was the French romantic painter Eugene Delacroix. Two works by Delacroix drew Van Gogh’s attention: Delacroix’s painting of the Pieta, the tender moment in which Mary shows the body of her crucified son and Delacroix’s painting of The Good Samaritan in which a Samaritan man hoists a wounded man with a bandaged head onto a horse to be taken to an inn for recovery.
25 Just then a lawyer stood up to test Jesus. ‘Teacher,’ he said, ‘what must I do to inherit eternal life?’ 26 He said to him, ‘What is written in the law? What do you read there?’ 27 He answered, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.’ 28 And he said to him, ‘You have given the right answer; do this, and you will live.’
29 But wanting to justify himself, he asked Jesus, ‘And who is my neighbor?’ 30 Jesus replied, ‘A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell into the hands of robbers, who stripped him, beat him, and went away, leaving him half dead. 31 Now by chance a priest was going down that road; and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. 32 So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33 But a Samaritan while travelling came near him; and when he saw him, he was moved with pity. 34 He went to him and bandaged his wounds, having poured oil and wine on them. Then he put him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him. 35 The next day he took out two denarii, gave them to the innkeeper, and said, “Take care of him; and when I come back, I will repay you whatever more you spend.” 36 Which of these three, do you think, was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers?’ 37 He said, ‘The one who showed him mercy.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Go and do likewise.’