Ia Orana Maria (Hail Mary)

1891, Signed, dated, and inscribed: (lower right) P Gauguin 91
Oil on canvas, 35 x 45 3/4 in. (88.9 x 116.2 cm)
Bequest of Sam A. Lewisohn, 1951
Met museum 51.112.2

(From info card)
"Before embarking on a series of pictures inspired by Polynesian religious beliefs, Gauguin devoted this, his first major Tahitian canvas, to a Christian theme, describing it in a letter of March 1892: "An angel with yellow wings reveals Mary and Jesus, both Tahitians, to two Tahitian women, nudes dressed in pareus, a sort of cotton cloth printed with flowers that can be draped from the waist. Very somber, mountainous background and flowering trees . . . a dark violet path and an emerald green foreground, with bananas on the left. I'm rather happy with it." Gauguin based much of the composition on a photograph he owned of a bas-relief in the Javanese temple of Borobudur."

(From _Gauguin_, by Belinda Thomson, pages 146-147)
"The meaning of Ia Orana Maria is still a puzzle in view of Gauguin's known opposition to the work of the Christian missionaries. Was he making an ironic comment on the way in which Catholicism had been altered and mollified in the process of being assimilated into the lives of the Tahitians, its message understood only in terms of simple, positive images that were in any case part of their daily experience - motherhood and childbirth, for instance?"