Gauguin was fascinated by the myths and legends of the South Sea peoples. The tale of the beautiful Vairaumati, a mortal who became the wife of a powerful Maohi god called Oro, was one of many stories he heard from his Tahitian mistress, Teha’amana, and from other island residents, recounted as part of their oral tradition. Against the backdrop of a verdant Tahitian landscape with a stone statue dedicated to the moon goddess Hina at its center, Vairaumati is seated on a rock draped with a magnificent cloth, a low table bearing fruit and flowers at her feet. The man standing behind is probably her lover Oro, who according to legend descended to her from heaven along a rainbow. Rather than having a Tahitian air, however, the profile view of Vairaumati and her regal pose come closer to the representational canon of
Ancient Egyptian reliefs. Gauguin was convinced that the monuments created by ancient cultures for religious purposes and as works of art were inseparably linked with nature. He owned a collection of photographs and illustrations of such monuments, which served as a source of inspiration for his
figures and motifs.
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