(b. 1848, Paris, d. 1903, Atuona, Hiva Oa, French Polynesia)

Nafea Faa Ipoipo? (When Will You Marry?)

Oil on canvas, 102 x 78 cm
Öffentliche Kunstsammlung, Basel

When Gauguin included this painting in the exhibition he mounted at Durand-Ruel's gallery back in Paris in 1893, its price of 1500 francs was higher than that of any other work included in the show, demonstrating the importance he attached to it. Because of its exoticism it was a work that was guaranteed to appeal to a Parisian audience, and Gauguin's careful inscription of the title onto the painting points to his control of his audience. The question seems to be posed by the woman in the background, of her companion whose desire to find a husband is suggested by the flower she is wearing behind her ear. That it should deal with the ritual surrounding Tahitian marriage was a clear attempt to appeal to an audience who would have recognized the subject of the eminently popular Marriage of Loti, which Gauguin had read and which helped shape contemporary Western perceptions about the languorous Tahitian women.

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