A new book is challenging the long-held belief that Dutch artist Vincent van Gogh cut off his own ear, postulating instead that the famed injury was actually the result of a scuffle with fellow painter Paul Gauguin.

Van Gogh's Ear: Paul Gauguin and the Pact of Silence is the product of 10 years research by German art historians Hans Kaufmann and Rita Wildegans.

In their book, the duo claim that there are too many inconsistencies in the officially held version of the event, which has long been that the mentally ill van Gogh cut off part of his ear in December 1888 in a fit of madness after fighting with his friend, Gauguin. The two artists had been sharing a house in the southern French city of Arles.

Van Gogh later wrapped the ear in cloth and gave it to a prostitute at a local brothel.

However, after reviewing the police investigation, witness accounts and the correspondence of the two artists, Kaufmann and Wildegans claim that it was Gauguin who lopped off van Gogh's ear during a drunken row between the two friends in the street, outside a brothel.

The duo allege that the artists covered up the truth behind the incident so as to protect Gauguin, who left for Paris and, eventually, moved to Tahiti. He largely remained in the French Polynesian islands until his death in 1903. Van Gogh died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound in 1890.

Several researchers and van Gogh scholars, however, have said they remain unconvinced of Kaufmann and Wildegans' theory.