Vahine no te miti (1892) by Gauguin PaulMuseo Nacional de Bellas Artes de Argentina
This work is mentioned as a ‘Study of a Bared Back' in a list of paintings Gauguin made during his first stay in Tahiti, which he wrote down around April 1892 in his Carnet de Tahiti. Painted in Mataiea, it is based on a color drawing we find in that same sketchbook.
When it was exhibited in Paris in 1893, Thadée Natanson concisely described its theme: "sitting on the sand, "the only part of her we see is the tanned back amidst the almost symmetrical flowers, which the sea foam embroiders on the waves."
The “foamy” flowers of the sea are echoed in the shape and color of the shell lying on the sand
and with white patterned flowers of the pareo draped across the woman’s right knee.
The pareo is neither thick or shows any creases, it is painted on the leg following the Mannerist style of painting clothing or as if it were a tattoo, a real “pattern” on the skin, an original tradition that many inhabitants of the region followed.
The flower-like crest of the waves had already been used by Gauguin in Brittany and it was borrowed from the Japanese artist Hiroshige’s prints.
The large leaf, which spells the title of the piece, is shaped like a hand, with its edges resembling fingers that point to the woman.
The woman in Vahine no te miti directs her gaze and ear towards the ocean, more specifically, towards the open sea that is framed between two rocks or islands.
Like David Friedrich's figures, which are seen from behind, she acts as a mediator between nature and the viewer. She truly appears to be “from the sea,” embodying Tahitian Venus, Anadyomenem and Callipyge at the same time.
full text by Dario Gamboni available in Spanish here