Oviri, 1894

Oviri, the Tahitian goddess of death and mourning, features in several of Gauguin’s works and held a deep personal significance for the artist. In this glazed stoneware sculpture, he has carefully reproduced the different textures of flesh, hair and fur. Oviri means “savage” in the Maohi language and was a name by which Gauguin spoke of himself, too. He sometimes referred to the sculpture by the title of La Tueuse
(the murderess), since the terrifying Oviri with her flowing hair stands in a pool of blood spilling from the wolf she has killed and which lies dead at her feet. At the same time she presses a wolf cub tightly against her twisting body.

In Oviri Gauguin unifies the opposites of life and death, and he even wished that the powerful goddess should adorn his own grave: “Speaking of the sculpture, as there is very little of this work, I don’t want it to be scattered, or to go into the possession of people who would not care for it. [...] The large ceramic figure that did not find a purchaser [...] I should like to have it here for the decoration of my garden
and to put upon my tomb in Tahiti.”


Earthenware, 75 x 19 x 27 cm, Musée d’Orsay, Paris; Photo: © Musée d’Orsay, Dist. RMN-Grand Palais/Patrice Schmidt


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