Woman with a Fan, 1902

Once again we meet Tohotaua, the red-haired beauty who also posed for Gauguin in other paintings, including Primitive Tales. In the sunlight, the reddish gold of her hair is reflected on her bare skin and suffuses the entire space with a radiant warmth. Tohotaua gazes into the distance, lost in thought. Several details of the painting, which is based on a photograph, are highly symbolic. The fan, for example, was an accessory reserved in Polynesian society for the upper classes, while the color white stands for power and death in the culture of the Marquesas Islands, where Gauguin spent the last two years of his life. By contrast, the cockade in blue, white and red adorning the fan refers to the French national colors and thus to the colonization of the Marquesas. This painting is more than the portrait of a specific individual: Tohotaua represents the ancient culture of the Maohi, which at the start of the 20th century was already in decline.


Oil on canvas, 91,9 x 72,9 cm, Museum Folkwang, Essen; Photo: © Museum Folkwang, Essen


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