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Parahi te Marae (There Lie the Temple Grounds)
oil on canvas
Philadelphia Museum of Art, Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Rodolphe Meyer de Schauensee, 1980

Gauguin's efforts to conjure lost Polynesian religious practices sprang largely from his imagination. The dark and imposing sculpture before the mountain, for instance, did not exist in Tahiti, and instead resembles statues found on Easter Island, which Gauguin knew from illustrations. The ornamental fence was inspired by the design of a small Marquesan ear ornament, which the artist then enlarged and embellished with grim skulls hinting at the ritual human sacrifices that took place at the temple grounds — a tradition that had died out as a result of missionary and colonial influence.

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