Jeanne d’Arc, or Breton girl spinning (1889; France) by Paul Gauguin

Jeanne d'Arc, or Breton girl spinning - Paul Gauguin - 1889; France

Artwork Information

TitleJeanne d'Arc, or Breton girl spinning
ArtistPaul Gauguin
Date1889; France
Mediumfresco,wood
Dimensions134 x 62.9 cm
Art MovementCloisonnism
Current LocationVan Gogh Museum, Amsterdam, Netherlands

About Jeanne d'Arc, or Breton girl spinning

The artwork titled “Jeanne d’Arc, or Breton girl spinning” is an allegorical painting by French artist Paul Gauguin, crafted in 1889 during his time in France. Executed with a fresco technique on wood, the piece measures 134 by 62.9 centimeters and exemplifies the Cloisonnism art movement. It is currently housed in the Van Gogh Museum located in Amsterdam, Netherlands.

In the artwork, the viewer encounters a young woman, traditionally dressed, standing against a seascape and pastoral background. Her attire is indicative of the Breton region, including a distinct headpiece and a long, solid-colored skirt contrasted by a dark upper garment. The girl’s posture suggests engaged activity; she is likely spinning, as the title indicates, an everyday rural task that historically bears significance in the iconography of female labor. The background features muted tones and simplistic forms that hint at the flatness often associated with cloisonnĂ© enamels, a trait distinct to Cloisonnism.

To her left, a prominent wooden pole bisects the composition, lending a sense of division and structure to the scene. Notably, an ethereal figure hovers in the luminous, moon-like space above the pole, possibly symbolizing a celestial or spiritual presence. The seascape, serene and expansive, is populated by distant sailing ships, further accentuating the coastal setting. In the foreground, animals reminiscent of oxen and possibly a dog, occupy the lower right, rooted in the earthly realm as opposed to the aerial figure above. The presence of these creatures contributes to the pastoral narrative and provides a sense of daily life and coexistence with nature, common themes in Gauguin’s work. The bold outlines and juxtaposition of colors are characteristic of the Cloisonnism style, emphasizing the decorative quality and symbolic content of the artwork.

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