Allgemeine Homöopathische Zeitung 2005; 250 - 87
DOI: 10.1055/s-2005-868695

Dr. Paul Ferdinand Gachet, van Goghs late physician, a disciple of Hahnemann?

Dr. Paul Ferdinand Gachet, van Goghs Arzt, ein Schüler Hahnemanns?A Sparenborg-Nolte 1, SH Nolte 1
  • 1Marburg, Germany

Gachet's portrait by van Gogh is famous not only as one of the most important impressionistic portraits, but also because it was at the time the most expensive piece of art when it was sold in New York 1990 for 82.5 million Dollar. Paul Ferdinand Gachet (1828-1909) who worked in Paris for 50 years specialized in mental diseases of women and children, was art amateur and friend of many impressionists among them Pissaro who recommended van Gogh to him. While Gachet followed a diverse range of medical pathways, such as electrotheraphy, phytotherapy and many others he obviously possessed a distinct knowledge of homeopathy, even though homeopathy did not figure on his cards, letters and advertisements.

On December 6th and 7th, 2004, we were able to analyze the two pharmacies owned by Gachet and housed since 1990 in the museum for history of medicine in Paris, René Descartes University. Both carry his name on it: one is a small travel kit containing 12 remedies, the other a larger box containing 98 remedies in glass tubes sealed with cork. The potency and the name of the drug are handwritten or printed on top of the corks. Only few were unreadable. The remedies of the small travel kit were acon, ars, arn, bell, carb-v, ipecac, merc-sol, nux-v, phos, puls, and an unidentified tube, mostly in C3 potency. The larger pharmacy contained remedies from led to stann, with some unidentified and some rare remedies, such as merc-cyan, mur-ac, rizin, sabin among others. Most were in C6, but some also in C12, C18, C24 up to C30 potency. Curiously there were often several drugs of the same potency as opium, phos, samb, staph.

The discovery of Gachet's homeopathic pharmacies, which certainly are only a part of the homeopathic remedies he used, because it only runs from „L“ to „S“, gives insight in the way how a physician who at least sympathized with homeopathic treatment worked at the end of the 19th century. We suggest that his original pharmacy must have contained 400-500 tubes in 4-5 boxes. From the variety of drugs, the obvious use of the pharmacies with different filling levels, different tubes and different fonts on the cork we conclude that the user must have had a good knowledge and a broad and subtle use of homeopathic drugs.

All sorts of mercury salts may suggest the treatment of syphilis, while remedies known to be used against cholera as well as „hysterical women's“ remedies indicate Gachet's intentions to cure homeopathically in his main subjects. It is reported that Gachet treated many impressionists, such as Pissaro, Manet, Cezanne and Renoir, but only Pissaro gives direct testimony of homeopathic treatment and we can by no means be sure of such a treatment in van Gogh's case. His unfortunate death cannot be brought in direct relation to a homeopathic treatment but rather to the fact that Gachet refused him his daughter Marguerite he fell in love with. Nevertheless our results invite to journey to the past, back to 19th century homeopathy in France and thus near to the spread of the homeopathic idea after Hahnemanns Organon had appeared.


Van Gogh, Dr. Gachet, homeopathic pharmacies, Impressionists.


Van Gogh, Gachet, homöopathische Apotheke, Impressionisten.

Korrespondierender Autor: Dr. Anne Sparenborg-Nolte, Dr. Stephan Heinrich Nolte, Alter Kirchhainer Weg 5, D-35039 Marburg, Germany