Gauguin arrived in Tahiti in June 1891. In his book Noah Noah, he described the events that preceded the painting. The woman depicted in the picture was Gauguin's neighbor. Once she dared to enter Gauguin's hut to look at paintings pinned to the walls - reproductions from paintings by Eduard Manet, Italian primitivists and Japanese artists. He took advantage of this visit to sketch the portrait of a Tahitian woman, but she protested and ran away. An hour later, the woman returned dressed in an elegant dress and with a flower in her hair. She was not attractive by European standards, but nonetheless beautiful. In its outline, Gauguin saw truly Raphael harmony, the melancholy of bitterness, mixed with the joy and fear of the unknown.
When looking at her face, the phrase is recalled: "There is no perfect beauty without some weird proportions." The Tahitians were converted to Christianity by French missionaries, with which the European style of clothing was imposed on them. Therefore, the woman changed into European formal attire before allowing the artist to paint her portrait.
The yellow and red background of the portrait is decorated with stylized flowers, which are found in other earlier portraits of Gauguin. In addition to the decorative effect, they create a balance in the composition. The flower in the woman’s hair is the Tahitian gardenia (Gardenia taitiensis), typical in Tahiti. This flower is also used for making perfumes.
The composition is built around the aroma of a tiara flower, considered the queen of flowers in Polynesia. It is sweet, tropical, unique, soft and polyphonic:
the top notes are sweet, spicy, similar to a honey note of absolute rose, and at the same time, fragrant overtones of the cool-resinous neroli aroma, more smoothed and playful, are distinctly manifested
middle note - grassy, fragrant, similar to bells and violets, stupefying and luxuriously golden
base note - tart hot, balsamic, vanilla, warm like a sunflower
Top notes: blackberry, mandarin leaf, orange blossom, cactus flower
Heart notes: melon, chamomile, tiare, gardenia, Tahitian rose, lily of the valley, jasmine