© President and Fellows of Harvard College
Gallery Text

This sensuous watercolor depicts an imaginary marae, a sacred enclosure intended for ritual sacrifice, of an ancient religion in the Marquesas Islands. The work was executed during Gauguin’s first trip to Tahiti and the South Seas, when the artist fled from Western civilization in search of primitive art and religion. The exotic subject is rendered with opulent colors—dominated by yellows—and flat, schematized forms that call to mind Gauguin’s earlier quest for naive and honest scenery around the village of Pont-Aven in Brittany. As the artist implored his friend Claude Émile Schuffenecker, “[T]hink more about the act of creation than about the rest; it is the only way to ascend to God while imitating our divine master in the process of creation.”

Identification and Creation
Object Number
Paul Gauguin, French (Paris 1848 - 1903 Fatu-Iwa [Marquesas Islands])
Parahi te marae (There Is the Temple)
Other Titles
Alternate Title: La Montagne Sacrée; The Sacred Mountain
Work Type
c. 1892
Physical Descriptions
Watercolor over graphite on Japanese paper
18.5 x 22.9 cm (7 5/16 x 9 in.)
Acquisition and Rights
Credit Line
Harvard Art Museums/Fogg Museum, Bequest of Marian H. Phinney
Accession Year
Object Number
European and American Art
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Publication History

John Rewald, Gauguin Drawings, Thomas Yoseloff, Inc. (New York/London, 1958), plate 64, repr. p. 32

Gauguin: paintings, drawings, prints, sculpture, exh. cat., The Art Institute of Chicago (Chicago, IL, 1959), p. 48, cat. no. 44 [reference citation]

Jean Leymarie, Paul Gauguin: Water-Colors, Pastels and Drawings in Color, Faber & Faber Limited (London, 1961), p. 23, repr. (color)

Ronald Pickvance, The Drawings of Gauguin, Hamlyn Publishing Group (London/New York, 1970), plate XIV, p. 17, repr. p. 36 (color)

Rolf Wedewer and Herbert Schneidler, Aquarelle und Zeichnungen des 20. Jahrhunderts, DuMont Buchverlag (Köln, 1981), plate 5, p. 73, repr. p. 158 (color)

Belinda Thomson, Gauguin, Thames & Hudson (New York, NY, 1987), p. 160, repr. p. 144, fig. 126 (color)

Michael Hoog, Paul Gauguin: Life and Work, Rizzoli (New York, NY, 1987), p. 184, fig. 127 (color)

Jean Leymarie, Gauguin: Aquarelles, pastels et dessins, Editions d'Art Albert Skira (Genève, 1988), p. 62, repr. (color)

George T.M. Shackelford and Claire Frèches-Thory, Gauguin Tahiti, exh. cat., MFA Publications (Boston, Mass., 2004), cat. no. 86, p. 43, repr. p. 44 (color)

Heather Lemonedes, Belinda Thomson, and Agnieszka Juszczak, Paul Gauguin: Paris, 1889, exh. cat., Hatje Cantz Verlag (Ostfildern, 2009), p. 177, cat. no. 101, repr.

Carey Dunne, Flowers of Evil and the Macabre Literary Imagination of Symbolism, Hyperalleric (July 4, 2016), [e-journal], http://hyperallergic.com/305877/flowers-of-evil-and-the-macabre-literary-imagination-of-symbolism/, accessed January 9, 2017

Exhibition History

Gauguin: Paintings, Drawings, Prints, Sculpture, The Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, 02/12/1959 - 03/29/1959; The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 04/23/1959 - 05/31/1959

Paul Gauguin: In Search of Paradise, National Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo, Tokyo, 03/06/1987 - 05/17/1987; Aichi Prefectural Museum of Art, Nagoya, 06/12/1987 - 06/28/1987

Gauguin Tahiti, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Boston, 02/29/2004 - 06/20/2004

Paul Gauguin: Paris, 1889, Cleveland Museum of Art, Cleveland, 10/04/2009 - 01/18/2010; Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam, 02/19/2010 - 06/06/2010

Flowers of Evil: Symbolist Drawings, 1870–1910, Harvard Art Museums, Cambridge, 05/21/2016 - 08/14/2016

This record has been reviewed by the curatorial staff but may be incomplete. Our records are frequently revised and enhanced. For more information please contact the Division of European and American Art at am_europeanamerican@harvard.edu