• gerard van weyenbergh

The Getty paid $ 3.3 M a Gauguin that is not made by him

The sandalwood sculpture of a horned devil, wrongly attributed to Paul Gauguin, was removed from the Los Angeles Museum's permanent exhibit after ten years of examination. The museum bought the work in 2002 for 3 million euros from the New York gallery Wildenstein & Co, which itself obtained it from a private collection in Switzerland.

The piece, considered as a symbolic self-portrait of the painter, had been labeled "Marquise Island idol" by French engineer and photographer Jules Agostini. It appeared in several drawings and engravings by the artist, notably the Tahitian Woman and the demonic spirit , which has a horned face similar to that of the sculpture.

Two photographs of the sculpture in Gauguin's Noa Noa, illustrated by him in the late 1890s, had convinced him of the attribution to Gauguin.

Head with horns, circa 1894, sandalwood with polychrome remains.

At the time of the play's acquisition, Getty director at the time, Deborah Gribbon, said: "Gauguin's sculptures are extremely rare, and this fascinating work is a superb example. " The subject, who traveled around the world, was presented as a major work of the artist, including the Tate Modern in London, the Museo delle Culture of Milan and New York modern art museum.

But in 2008, the director of the sculpture and decorative arts department, Lise Desmas, had decided to investigate. After comparing it to other Gauguin sculptures, she could see that the devil did not present the signature that usually appears on Gauguin's works, and that the pedestal was very atypical.

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Even if it is not a masterpiece, the horned head remains a very intriguing object, said Lise Desmas. Polynesian art specialists agree that it is not a traditional sculpture, both for stylistic reasons and for its iconography (the "devil as such, does not exist in the seas of South).

Leader of the Pont-Aven School and inspirer of the nabis, Paul Gauguin is considered one of the major French painters of the 19th century and one of the most important precursors of modern art. In 1887, he traveled to Martinique, then settled in 1891 in Tahiti, where he hoped to be able to flee Western civilization. He would spend the rest of his life in these tropical regions, first in Tahiti, then on the island of Hiva Oa in the Marquesas archipelago. Le Journal des Arts.

Gauguin sculpture , photo Getty Museum