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

Aita tamari vahine Judith te parari (Annah, the Javanese Woman)

Oil on canvas, 116 x 81 cm
Private collection

When Gauguin returned to France in August 1893, penniless and sick, he settled in a studio in Paris with Annah the Javanese, a mulatto whom he had found wandering in the street and who soothed his nostalgia for faraway lands and races. He decorated his new abode with chrome yellow walls, hung with his paintings and those remaining works from his collection by other artists, including Cézanne and Van Gogh. The decoration also included numerous Polynesian works, which he had brought back, especially idols carved in unknown red, orange, or black woods.

Despite her exotic name, the 13-year-old Annah was in fact Singalese. It is generally assumed that this work represents Annah with her pet monkey Taoa. The Tahitian inscription on the painting, which may be translated as 'the child-woman Judith is not yet breached', seems at first to have little relevance to the subject. It has been suggested that this refers to Judith Molard, the daughter of his friend William Molard, who was also 13 years old. Perhaps by depicting Annah with all the sangfroid of Manet's Olympia and referring to the sexually naive Judith in the title, he is poking fun at the constraints imposed by her bourgeois parents. They, of course, would not have understood the title.

© Web Gallery of Art, created by Emil Krén and Daniel Marx.