This work dates from Gauguins first Tahitian period when the artist fell under the spell of old Maori legends. He relates the legend of the God Horo and the beautiful Vairaumati in his 1924 book, Goa Goa. VcTiile providing an illustration for this legend, the artist fills the picture with new meaning.
Vairaumati is sitting on a couch before a table laden with fruit. Beside her, enchanted bv her beautv, stands Horo, who has descended from heaven. This scene is presented against a Tahitian landscape with an ancient stone sculpture in the background. While the ancient artist recreated an episode from the same legend of Horo and Vairaumati. which figures in the picture twice, the scene in the foreground appears to be a modern interpretation of this myth. Gauguin has depicted Vairaumati in the guise of a contemporary Tahitian girl, as evidenced by the smoking cigarette she holds in her hand. In his preface to Noa Noa, Charles Morice noted Gauguins tendency to endow Tahitian people with divine qualities. To make his model look like a goddess, Gauguin depicted her in the pose of a priestess from an Egyptian frieze found in the British Museum, a photograph of which he had brought with him to Tahiti. In the same year, that frieze inspired him to paint Te Matete. in which several female figures are shown in the pose of Vairaumati.
Another version of the Moscow canvas exists that shows Vairaumati, but without Horo or the Tahitian idol in the background, titled Te As No Arsols (The Origin of Arsois), in which the woman holds a budding flower in her left hand, a symbol of the clans origin. According to Rewald, the model for this version was Tehura, Gauguins first Tahitian wife, who is the same model apparently depicted in the Moscow picture.
Signed and dated, bottom left: Paul Gauguin 92 Tahiti
Inscribed, bottom center: Ya'iraumati tei oa
Pushkin Museum, inv. no. 3266
1895. sale of Gauguin's pictures before his second trip to Tahiti,no. 15 I bought by the painter himself: Shchukin collection. Moscow:
1918. First Museum of Modern Western Painting. Moscow;
1923. Museum of Modem Western Art. Moscow:
since 1948. Pushkin Museum. Moscow.