Arii Matamoe, also known as The Royal End, is a painting created by French artist Paul Gauguin during his first visit to Tahiti in 1892. The painting portrays a severed head of a man resting on a pillow and displayed before mourners. This gruesome depiction may have been influenced by the death of Pōmare V in 1891.
Gauguin’s painting contradicts the idyllic portrayal of Tahiti by other artists of the time and instead presents a disturbing nature morte. The rough, burlap-like canvas texture of the painting hints at an exotic “primitivism” that Gauguin often romanticized in his work. Arii Matamoe is a significant piece in Gauguin’s first Tahiti period, during which he created other notable works such as Landscape with Peacocks.
Through the use of bold colors and striking imagery, Gauguin’s Arii Matamoe offers a unique perspective on Tahitian culture and life. The painting’s subject matter may be unsettling, but it is a fascinating piece in the history of modern art. Gauguin’s time in Tahiti, including his experiences and interactions with the local people, heavily influenced his work and helped establish him as a pioneering artist of his time.