About this artwork
Paul Gauguin traveled to rural France and then abroad in search of inspiration for his art. His quest took the former stockbroker to the French regions of Brittany and Provence, to Panama and Martinique, and finally to Tahiti and the Marquesas in the South Pacific. This stately portrait of Gauguin’s young Tahitian vahine (lover), Tehamana, is perhaps a farewell, since it was painted shortly before the artist left the island, returning to France for two years. Elaborately dressed, her hair decorated with ﬂowers, Tehamana is seated in front of a mysterious painted background reminiscent of a frieze on the wall of an ancient palace or temple. Two ripe mangoes—perhaps an offering or symbol of fertility—rest beside her hip. She points a fan, an emblem of beauty, toward the similarly frontal figure of a goddess, who also wears a red ﬂower in her hair. The fan, ﬂowers, fruit, and even Tehamana’s glance suggest not only the strong, enigmatic bond between these two figures but also the connections between the present and the past, the corporeal and the spiritual, and the living and the dead.
- Paul Gauguin
- Merahi metua no Tehamana (Tehamana Has Many Parents or The Ancestors of Tehamana)
- Oil on jute canvas
- Signed lower center: P. Gauguin. / 93 Inscribed lower left: MERAHI METUA NO / TEHAMANA
- 75 × 53 cm (29 1/2 × 20 7/8 in.)
- Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Charles Deering McCormick