Print me your ear: Team 3D print Van Gogh’s infamous ear

4 Jun 2014

An artist and a team of scientists have transcended the worlds of art and science after they managed to 3D print a copy of Vincent Van Gogh’s infamous ear that he cut off prior to his death.

The American-based artist Diemut Strebe and his team were able to produce the ear using living tissue obtained from the great, great grandson of the legendary Dutch artist who reportedly shares one-sixteenth of his distant relative’s DNA.

Amazingly, they had originally planned to use Van Gogh’s original DNA from saliva on an envelope that was supposedly used by the artist, however this was later found out to have originated from someone else.

The story of Van Gogh amputating his own ear in 1888 – two years prior to his death – is well known, even outside the art world but Strebe and the team using an advanced 3D bioprinter and computer software was able to print the basic cells of a shape that would resemble the artist’s ear.

As it is biological material, the ear required time to grow to the full-size ear that is now being displayed in the ZKM | Media Museum in Germany.

Incredibly, the ear is also capable of ‘hearing’ what is spoken into it using a microphone and using computer software converts it to simulate nerve impulses in real time and produces a crackling sound in a nearby speaker.

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic