Ia Orana Maria (Hail Mary)

Artist: Paul Gauguin (French, Paris 1848–1903 Atuona, Hiva Oa, Marquesas Islands)

Date: 1891

Medium: Oil on canvas

Dimensions: 44 3/4 x 34 1/2 in. (113.7 x 87.6 cm)

Classification: Paintings

Credit Line: Bequest of Sam A. Lewisohn, 1951

Accession Number: 51.112.2

Description

Before embarking on a series of pictures inspired by Polynesian religious beliefs, Gauguin devoted this, his first major Tahitian canvas, to a Christian theme, describing it in a letter of March 1892: "An angel with yellow wings reveals Mary and Jesus, both Tahitians, to two Tahitian women, nudes dressed in pareus, a sort of cotton cloth printed with flowers that can be draped from the waist. Very somber, mountainous background and flowering trees . . . a dark violet path and an emerald green foreground, with bananas on the left. I'm rather happy with it." Gauguin based much of the composition on a photograph he owned of a bas-relief in the Javanese temple of Borobudur.

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