Te Fare Amu, 1895 or 1897
When Paul Gauguin returned to Tahiti for his second stay, in 1895, he initially lived in a native dwelling; two years later, he had a Tahitian-style house built. He sculpted panels for both residences, and this panel was likely carved for one of them. While its original placement is not clear, the arrangement was probably something akin to the one in his later residence in the Marquesas. There, similar carved panels framed the entrance, in a design indebted to the carved lintels of local Maori houses. By designing and hand-making decorative works for his homes, Gauguin sought to realize his dream of integrating art into the fabric of daily life.
In his memoirs, Henry Pearlman described his acquisition of this panel, which he feared would be too sensual in its original form for American audiences. An early black-and-white photograph of the work and x-radiography reveal that the pudenda of the serpentine figure on the left were originally painted another color, probably the same red as the nipple and the row of vertebrae on the spine. Pearlman explained:
Although my panel had been exhibited in two museums and an important art gallery in Paris, I decided to have the exposed genitals . . . covered over with tempera (which can readily be removed . . . ) to make it palatable to the American public.