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Breton girl spinning

Paul Gauguin1889

Van Gogh Museum

Van Gogh Museum

The work Breton girl spinning was originally painted on a wall in the dining room of the inn La Buvette de la Plage, in Le Pouldu in Brittany, France, where Gauguin stayed. Here Gauguin, together with his pupil Meijer de Haan, decorated the walls of the dining room.

The scene is painted in oil on plaster. For Gauguin this was not a familiar technique, but it is characteristic of his desire to experiment with materials. In a letter to Vincent van Gogh, he wrote that the experiment had been very instructive and that he was pleased with the result. Breton girl spinning was discovered in 1924 under several layers of wallpaper, along with two other murals (one of which was by Meijer de Haan).

The mural shows a Breton girl in traditional costume standing in front of a slender tree on the headland. The cow depicted in the distant background suggests the girl is a cowherdess; in the meantime she spins wool by hand. An angel with sword hovers above. Gauguin has intentionally left the meaning vague. She might be the cowherdess Joan of Arc, but the painting might also allude to Eve after the Fall.

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