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Sacred Spring: Sweet Dreams (Nave nave moe), 1894

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Artist Gauguin, Eugène Henri Paul

Eau delicieuse is the traditional name for this painting in the Hermitage collection and was derived from the 1895 catalogue of Gauguin's works compiled most likely by the painter himself for his exhibition and sale. The Tahitian name painted on the canvas is translated in various ways. Wildenstein translates it as "joie de se reposer." Bouge and Danielsson suggest more accurate alternatives: "Doux reves," and "Delightful drowsiness" (reverie delicieuse).

The painting belongs to the period between the painter's two visits to Tahiti. It was painted at the beginning of 1894, following the stained-glass panels Nave Nave and Tahitian Woman in a Landscape (D'Orsay Museum, Paris) from the end of the previous year for the painter's studio in Paris. In these panels the painter depicted a lily, which was later repeated on the right side of Reveries. The picture was executed in Paris as a memory of Oceania and is full of images characteristic of the first Tahitian period. Gauguin's Paris studio was filled with canvases brought with him from the tropics. The figures shown in the foreground of Reveries are also present in Maori House of 1891 ( Wildenstein, no. 436). The seated nude in the center is also seen in Are You Jealous?, 1892 (Pushkin Museum, Wildenstein, no. 461), and the Tahitian woman standing nearby had already been shown before in three canvases from 1892 (Wildenstein, nos. 472, 473, and 474). The Tahitian "Twin God" in the upper right corner of the picture had also been shown in Her Name is Vairaumati, 1892 (Wildenstein, no. 450). One can find analogous images for other details as well. In 1898 in Tahiti, Gauguin returned to the composition of Reveries while painting Women on a Riverbank (Wildenstein, no. 574).

While depicting the world of non-European beliefs, Gauguin at the same time filled his composition with Christian art symbols: An exotic lily embodies the essence of tropical nature and simultaneously symbolizes purity; the halo, unknown to the Tahitians, is a sign of virginity. The spring itself has for various peoples and at various times served as a symbol of purity. The spring and the space between the sacred stones depicted here—where ritual dances were performed in front of an idol—were integral parts of an outdoor Tahitian temple.


Inscribed, signed, and dated, bottom left: NAVE NAVE MOE R Gauguin 94

Hermitage Museum, inv. no. 6510



February 18, 1895, Vente Gauguin, Paris, Hotel Drouot, no. 23, bought by A. Schuffenecker for 430 francs at the show-sale of Gauguin's works;

November 10, 1897,Dosbourg sale, Paris, lot 16 (sold for 160 francs); Prince de Wagram collection, Paris;

1907, Vollard Gallery, Paris;

1908, I. Morozov collection, Moscow (bought for 8,000 francs);

1918, Second Museum of Modern Western Painting, Moscow;

1923, Museum of Modern Western Art, Moscow;

since 1931, Hermitage, Leningrad.




Institution Hermitage Museum
Medium Oil on canvas
Dimensions 74 x 100 cm













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