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Big Girls in Art: Woman with Mango | Manolo for the Big Girl

Big Girls in Art: Woman with Mango

Woman with Mango by Paul Gaugin. Poster print of this paintingavailable here.

Last week, several readers of Manolo for the Big Girl commented on the art, and we discovered that different readers had vastly different interpretations of the painting (but of course!)

So, Francesca asks: In your opinion, what is the Woman with the Mango looking at? Where is she? How old is she? Why is she holding a mango? Why do we not see the fingers of her left hand? Francesca says: discuss!

14 Responses to “Big Girls in Art: Woman with Mango”

  1. B.S.A.G. December 5, 2007 at 7:52 pm #

    All I can see is that she’s dressed way too warmly for tropical weather.

  2. meimei December 5, 2007 at 9:25 pm #

    Actually, considering that Gauguin’s time in Tahiti (around the 1880s) and the Marquesas also coincides with the growing colonial presence throughout Polynesia – and especially the influence of Christian missionaries in places such as Samoa and Hawaii (see also: the history of the mu`umu`u) – I’m not surprised that she’s covered up that way.

  3. Nariya December 5, 2007 at 9:41 pm #

    To me, it looks like she has just picked up the mango and is turning to her left (our right) to… I don’t know, get a kitchen knife to cut it with or something. Her dress catches great movement this way, and the turn of the head almost makes it feel like she is dancing. Perhaps her hand is out of the frame to hint at motion–she just happened to be caught at this instant, moving through the frame as she turned. The mango could symbolize life, her womb, health… or it could just be a mango.

  4. Toby Wollin December 5, 2007 at 10:06 pm #

    And maybe Gauguin started drawing her too far into the frame of the canvas and ran out of room for her left hand? (hey, happens to me ALL. THE. TIME. )
    As for what she is wearing – poor girl is another Polynesian victim of Christian missionaries – they are the ones who brought in the muu-muu to Hawaii et al, to the great disaster of the native island women, who ended up catching cold, developing horrific diseases and dying when they’d wear the dress, get drenched in bad weather and not having changes of clothing and also having the memory of not having to do anything after getting wet, ended up sick from the chill of walking around in soaked cotton clothing after storms. Another “benefit” of being converted. If they’d been in their habitual dress, which was actually undress, they’d have dried quickly and not had the issue, but…

  5. dangermouse December 5, 2007 at 10:53 pm #

    I think he’s trying to express her – and every woman’s – mysteriousness. She’s turned away; she’s doing something or reaching for something outside of our view. If she thinks of him at all, it is only peripherally. Yet he finds her inviting. The fabric folds evince her complex richness and pillowing welcomness. The mango almost begs to be eaten, but the seeds remind us that, in addition to pleasure & sustenance, this beauty also creates life.

  6. Jennie December 6, 2007 at 12:38 am #

    She’s getting ready to hurle the mango at the missionaries that made her wear that dress. Her hidden hand is signaling the other heat stroke victims to time the attack together to take the self righteous prigs by surprise….

  7. gemdiva December 6, 2007 at 11:42 am #

    I think she is asking Gaugin “does this dress make me look fat?” She is preparing to hit him with the mango if he says “yes”. I think her left hand is getting a manicure. (The other evil missionary, dying of pneumonia scenarios are too true, but also too depressing).

  8. amy December 6, 2007 at 9:14 pm #

    i actually saw a blurb at an exhibit that said this was his commonlaw wife…

  9. Eilish December 7, 2007 at 2:19 am #

    Her left hand is being kissed by the hot chef in the kitchen as her eyes turn to the handsome cabana boy outside. I’m sure of it.

  10. De December 7, 2007 at 11:36 am #

    Ok, so here comes my art degree, attacking…

    By having her chin lower than her shoulder, and her eyes looking still steadily upwards, with a bit of a curve to her mouth, Gaugin has given her a flirtacious and coquette-ish feeling. She seems to be asking a question, in a friendly way.

    Because she is displaying the fruit, and not covering it, while reaching towards the left, where more fruit is indicated by the colors in the upper left, to me she is asking Gaugin if he wants a mango too.

    Gaugin also hints at a sexual or sensual relationship with this woman, by having more detail in the folds of her clothing at her breasts and near her hips, he is calling attention/showing his prefernce and attention to them…upping their importance.

    Also, by reflecting the color of the mango in her face, giving her dark skin an oddly ‘mango’ colored blush, he is saying that she is like the mango – and fruit often indicates youth, freshness, and sexuality.

    By combining the attention to detail in her ‘womanly’ parts and by giving her the flush of fruit AND by giving her a flirtacious air, I think Gaugin has painted her as his lover and someone he admires as a woman.

    And there you go.

  11. Jezebella December 7, 2007 at 11:57 am #

    Alas, Gauguin was a pedophile. When he lived in Tahiti, he hired a series of underage girls to model, clean, and sleep with him. When he knocked one up, he’d trade her in for a new live-in “wife.” Let us not forget that he had a French wife and children back home, whom he had abandoned for his time in Tahiti. Let us not forget that he never bothered to learn the local language or adopt the local cuisine. He continued to speak French and live on imports, as Tahiti was quite colonized by the time of his arrival.

    So, sorry to say, our lovely tropical maiden is probably 14 or 15 years old and has been turned out by her family to serve Gauguin’s dudely needs.

  12. Stacy December 7, 2007 at 7:52 pm #

    I think she is turning away from the food, denying herself from eating. The mango is symbolic of anything indulgent and she is therefore stronger/better/more in control than if she were to eat and actually enjoy it. Sadly this is still a strong sentiment in today’s anti-fat culture, which equates fat with greed and likewise self denial as a strength. Warped thinking will keep the hungriest person denying themselves food, as if eating were a luxury and not a sin.

  13. El Rey de 7 July 9, 2008 at 6:27 pm #

    De, thank you for the observation that her chin is lower than her shoulder. I am painting her in oils as a 14 x 18 study before i attempt an ambitious 30 x 40. At least one significant correction is in order thanks to you.

  14. Dana October 17, 2008 at 8:05 pm #

    The cropping of the painting is certainly intentional and not an accident as suggested earlier. Most likely influenced by the advent of photography.