Jug in Form of a Head, Self-Portrait, 1889

At the end of the 1880s Paul Gauguin made several clay sculptures under the guidance of a ceramicist friend. He thereby drew inspiration from pots in the shape of heads that he had seen as a child in Peru. In this striking selfportrait in the form of a jug, Gauguin shows himself with long tresses of hair on either side of his face, which cover his ears like a bandage and join behind his head into a handle. Streaks of red on the forehead, cheeks, beard and neck testify to a wound that is still fresh—perhaps an allusion to his friend Vincent van Gogh and the latter’s mutilation of his left ear. In Gauguin’s sculpture, however, this “injury” assumes drastically greater proportions. Through the severed head, closed eyes and introspective facial expression, Gauguin portrays himself as the epitome of the suffering artist. In the unusual fusion of face and jug, he presents himself as a silent martyr who endures misery and pain with stoic calm
and subordinates his life to his passions and convictions.


Earthenware, height 19,5 cm, Designmuseum Danmark, Kopenhagen, Inv.Nr. MIN 1828; Photo: Pernille Klemp


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