LabelThis painting, a complete invention of a mythic place of ancient sacrifice to a lost god, borrows an idol from Easter Island, thousands of miles to the east, and death’s-heads from Maori body decorations, thousands of miles to the west.
Sale, Gauguin, Hôtel de Ventes, Paris, February 18, 1895, lot 26, bought in by Gauguin . Sale, Paris, Hôtel Drouot, June 16, 1908, lot 28; purchased by Ambroise Vollard (1867-1939), Paris, until at least 1936 ; sold to Étienne Bignou and owned jointly by Bignou Gallery, Paris and New York, and Lefevre Galleries, London, by January 1939 to 1940 ; Étienne Bignou, Paris; sold by Bignou Gallery, New York, to Rodolphe Meyer de Schauensee, Devon, PA, January 27, 1940; gift to PMA, 1980.
1. Of the 47 paintings in the sale, all but 9 failed to sell and were bought in by Gauguin. J. de Rotonchamp, Paul Gauguin (Paris, 1925, p. 155) and the Wildenstein catalogue raisonné (Paris, 1964, no. 483) state that the painting was purchased by Gauguin's friend Émile Schuffenecker; however, the procès-verbal of the sale records that the painting was bought back by Gauguin (see Gauguin: Exposition du Centenaire, Paris, Orangerie des Tuileries, 1949, catalogue by Jean Leymarie, app. II, p. 97); Gauguin used various friends as figurehead buyers at the sale. Moreover, Leymarie (app. III) reprints a letter written by Gauguin shortly after the auction to an unknown recipient, offering several paintings including "The Sacred Mountain" at the catalogue prices.
2. Vollard exhibited the painting in 1910-11 at the Grafton Galleries, London and in 1936 at an exhibition organized by the Gazette des Beaux Arts, Paris.
3. Exhibited New York, Bignou Gallery, "Gauguin, First Trip to Tahiti," January 3-14, 1939, no. 2, and London, Lefevre Galleries, "Milestones of French Painting," June 1939, no. 14. According to letters from Alex Reid & Lefevre and Lefevre Fine Art dated 10 May 1965 and 26 Feb. 2004 (curatorial file), the painting was purchased by Bignou directly from Vollard, was then owned jointly with Reid & Lefevre, and sold by Bignou.
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