Merahi metua no Tehamana: Paul Gauguin

Paul Gauguin: Merahi metua no Tehamana

Merahi metua no Tehamana (Tehamana has many parents in English) is an 1893 painting in the Post-Impressionist style by the leading French artist Paul Gauguin.

Gauguin painted this portrait of his thirteen-year-old companion and later wife during his first trip to Tahiti, from 1891-1893.

Thought to be an 1893 farewell portrait painted before his departure, this painting is a composite of the exotic Polynesian culture that Gauguin had hoped to find during his journey and the already Westernized people that he found there.

Teha’amana, who was Catholic, is shown in fine church clothes with a red flower behind her ear to symbolize her marriage. In the background are multiple references to her cultural tradition. On the left of Merahi metua no Tehamana (English translation: The Ancestors of Tehamana), the Polynesian creation goddess Hina stands over an inscription which translates to “Teha’amana has many parents,” referring to the local tradition of sharing child-raising between parents and foster-parents. The symbols behind Teha’amana’s head are inspired by glyphs from Easter Island but are of Gauguin’s invention.

Paul Gauguin’s Merahi metua no Tehamana can be found in the Art Institute of Chicago in Chicago, Illinois

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