Human Miseries, 1889
zincograph in brown on yellow wove paper
44.9 x 30.3 cm; image: 28.3 x 22.6 cm
National Gallery of Canada (no. 18429)
The pose of the woman seen here first appeared in a painting called "Grape Harvest" or "Human Misery" (Ordrupgaard, Copenhagen), made in November 1888 while the artist was working with Vincent van Gogh in Arles. The subject recalls the classic image of depression seen in Albrecht Dürer's famous engraving "Melancholia I" (1514). In 1889 Gauguin produced a variation of the pose in which the woman's mouth is open and her head is bent to one side, said to have been inspired by an ancient Peruvian mummy, one of the highlights of the Musée d'Ethnographie, recently installed in the Palais de Trocadéro. The print is from the "Volpini Suite".